Saturday, September 17, 2005

Where Anna Goes Socialist

Personally, I find it a little troubling that EGA chapters have focused on teaching cross-stitch to girls who are home-schooled or “independently schooled.” While the authors of these articles bemoan, “many art programs in schools are being reduced or eliminated,” they are ignoring that this is mainly a problem with the public schools. Are the public schools so very hard to work with that EGA teachers can't get in? My public school career, now this was aeons ago, had after-school programs, and that’s where I learned to decorate cakes. I don’t see any reason why public school children cannot benefit from these programs. (Oh, but public schools are so dangerous! and scary!) Set it up in your public library! Advertise it to public school parents! But maybe I am relying on too small a sample; I've only read reports from two local chapters that are teaching stitching.

I think the class element is also confirmed by EGA’s insistence on using Roberts Rules of Order. On the face of it, RRO seems to “protect the minority”—ideas and agendas have to be filtered through the rules and approved by a certain percentage of members. But I’ve always been put off by RRO. It’s like you need to know the secret handshake to get anywhere. And although the rules are available to all, they seem so archaic.

There is also a sexist element to the description of the youth outreach programs. Now before you tell me that boys are not interested in handicrafts, I point you to the Waldorf Schools that require all students to learn to knit as it teaches dexterity. I’ve watched my friend’s son knit up a storm while he waited for his mother—clearly he has been taught what we all know, handwork makes the waiting easier. At a certain points in their lives, children with healthy upbringings are interested in opposite-gender activities--or they would be if we didn't have dumbass governors calling their opposition "girly men." I have this feeling that these women are finding that their beliefs about gender are confirmed: boys don’t want to stitch because they’re advertising to girls or some such thing. It’s hard to know you have ideology when you’re living in it.

You might suppose that, as a feminist, I should be happy that the EGA is an “old girls’ network.” But no, this network isn’t challenging the old boys’ network, in which case, I’d be all for it. I suspect many of the old boys see needlework as a way of shunting us off to the side to occupy us with trivial matters. (A place I am perfectly happy to occupy for short periods of time, mind you.) I’m just saying that not all old girls’ networks are feminist. In fact, old boys’ and girls’ networks go against my more anti-elitist nature—they serve to keep others out: in this case, the working woman, notably. Now, I’m not saying that the EGA needs to appeal to people who aren’t stitchers, but surely there is a way to be more attractive to stitchers. You certainly don’t appeal to others by writing about topics in ways that are indecipherable to outsiders (Fiber Forum) or using methods to set up privilege (RRO). Who the fuck cares if continued agenda items are called committee reports or unfinished business? (See September's "Tips from Robert's Rules".) Go ahead, make me understand.

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