There’s a bit of a debate that’s popped up in the etsy craftivists team which is pretty interesting. There’s a summary and a nice long comment thread going on at Crafting a Green World. Please have a read of that first.
I’ve had my two cents on the email group which I thought I’d share with the world:
Just had a very good read of the conversation that we’ve all been having and thought I’d share my thoughts.
Firstly I want to acknowledge all the hard work thats gone into establishing and supporting this street team. I think the very fact that there’s a group of people able to have an active dialogue about political definitions is a healthy sign for this team! So respect y’all! especially to Stephanie!
The definition of craftivism is a really problematic one. I think the wikipedia definition is really helpful. Personally I’ve been involved in some long, public debates on this topic for over a year now (recommend checking out the Craft Cartel podcast if anyone is particularly interested in discussions on this topic http://craftcartel.com – in particular ep 8 where I interviewed Betsy Greer, who coined the term ‘craftivism’) and I have come to the conclusion that there is no concrete definition of craftivism as everyone has their own definition and these can be radically different. Personally, I believe the definition of craftivism to be radical craft action. In other words, the use of craft to communicate a radical idea or position. This can be through overt messages in a craft object, or through the use of craft materials in a public space as a form of activism. Some people would define craftivism to be the radical use of materials, ie only using recycled materials or using materials in purposes other than which they were originally intended. Some people would define craftivism as simply the very act of making something yourself as opposed to buying it from a chain store.
I believe all of these definitions to be valid to different people in different places. Most importantly I think it’s really pointless and unhealthy to get too wound up over definitions. So long as a person is making things for the purposes of making the world a better place, I don’t see what can be achieved by getting hung up on the details.
Let me start by being really clear, this is just my opinion. I don’t think everyone should have this opinion (boring!) but I want to add my perspective.
The key phrase (I think) in the group description is this “The Etsy Craftivism Team is a team of progressive Etsyans who believe that craft and art can change the world.” While I respect what Stephanie has said about believing she had a very clear ‘liberal’ definition when this was written. I do believe this sentence is open to a quite wide interpretation. I read it as people who want to make positive change in their communities and use art and craft as their main medium to do so. When I read this when I joined, I understood that there’s going to be people of different political persuasions, and knowing that this is an international group, even the spectrums of left and right will be different for different people, they may not even exist in some countries (and they don’t, I assure you).
Knowing that I’m going to encounter people of different political persuasions doesn’t put me off, rather it inspires me. I know that the majority of you are Americans so I think most of you are by default right-wing dictators. Just kidding, but my point is that there’s a different political discussion framework in America that normally drives me mental but I’m not going to join an Etsy Street Team to try and save the planet or convince all the members that my opinion on everything is the best, I’m joining to meet other politically minded creative people. Sure I’ll see stuff I don’t agree with, but as a progressive thinker, I can chose to acknowledge stuff for what it is.
Case in point, during the recent US election, there was a lot of discussion on this list about the election which was of absolutely no interest to me. So I deleted it. Wasn’t that hard really. Even when I posted an email about a new item I was selling to fundraise for an issue that was really important to me and the response from other members of the list was to crap on about the election again, which had absolutely no relevance to the original post. Accepting that we all have different interests, views and ideas is part of being progressive.
Most importantly, the last word of that sentence I copied from the group description is ‘world’. Etsy is a global community and this group is made up of people from all over the planet. As a global activist, I thrive off hearing stories from other places and collaborating on issues we have in common. What I don’t like is people from other parts of the world telling me what I should think/feel/believe without an understanding or consideration of my understandings. If there was a move towards enforcing an American political spectrum definition on this group, I would be quite unhappy with that. I am quite looking forward to the day that the American Empire crumbles and given the current state of the US economy it doesn’t look like it’s too far away. About fucking time if you ask me. But that’s not the point.
The biggest question I would ask to anyone wanting to enforce a definition on the word progressive would be ‘what are you seeking to achieve?’ I think what would be more useful would be to add a line to the description that acknowledges that we do all come from different backgrounds and beliefs and we seek to find common ground and support each other. Personally if a John McCain supporter joined this group and told me that my latest piece in support of indigenous sovereignty was a well-made piece that serves the purpose for which it was designed well, I’d think that was awesome and I’d have hope for the future of this world.
I think the purpose of this group is to provide a space where we can share our work – to support each other and to give feedback – and work together on common issues where they exist. In my mind, that means we don’t all have to vote for the same party – or vote for that matter.
With all my love and respect
I’d be interested in what other people think about these quite interesting group dynamics. It raises some really interesting issues about how groups evolve or not as their membership changes which I think is quite reflective of how wider culture evolves due to the influence of other cultures.
I’m quite intrigued to see how this plays out.