Harrogate Feminists

A Celebration of Women

A Celebration of Women, March 12, 2011

This year, Harrogate Feminists decided to mark the centenary of International Women’s Day with an event called A Celebration of Women, to celebrate women’s creativity. The focus was on art/craft and charity work, activities which have been under-valued purely because they have been done, unpaid, by women.

There were 18 exhibitors, with exhibits ranging from painting to poetry, sugarcraft to sewing, knitting, quilting, beading and jewellery. There were also women from local charity Acorn and from the Harrogate and Knaresborough branch of Amnesty International.

Many of these crafts, like quilting, re-use materials that would otherwise be discarded. In today’s mass-produced, throwaway culture, the value of this “upcycling” is now being rediscovered and craft has become trendy again.

There is controversy over whether the new trendiness of craft is a backwards step for the cause of women – about whether, in an age when women are still laughably under-represented in boardrooms and in Parliament, this simply promotes domesticity, sending the old message that “a woman’s place is in the home”. Prominent feminists such as Germaine Greer have called craft “heroic pointlessness”.

In today’s world, though, women might work in traditionally male-dominated fields, as unpaid carers or volunteers, or all three; creativity is important for all these activities, and marking out one’s own space and leisure time – “a room of one’s own” – is important for everyone, both men and women.

Today, the creative arts are not the gentle but ultimately pointless pursuit parodied by Lewis Carroll as “drawling, stretching and fainting in coils”. Many women today – as with many of the exhibitors in this event – eventually become their own bosses, growing their own businesses using a combination of local networks and global, online marketplaces such as Etsy and Folksy. Women are now also using their creative skills to subvert traditional ideas about gender roles – art with a message.

Harrogate Feminists plans to make this an annual event – and make it even bigger and better next year!


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