grab some coffee – it’s gonna be a long one! (rantrantrant)

I was going to post about the wonky cross quilt today, but then I came across this article and felt the need to comment on it. Normally, I resist commenting on such things on the blog because I don’t particularly want to court controversy, and let’s face it, anytime someone expresses a strong opinion on a knitterly/crafty blog, people freak out. Being as it is craft-related, however, I’m just going to go for it and say this:
While I sympathize with some of the sentiments expressed in the article, I don’t understand why so many commenters feel the need to ridicule the people behind the blogs and dismiss them as “losers” who are “not actually living life.” I, too, look at some blogs and wish that I was as productive as some people or took photographs that are as beautiful as others or that I was as ambitious or accomplished as others, but I don’t hate myself for not being any of those things. And I certainly don’t resent or begrudge anyone else their talents or abilities. If anything, I admire and respect them. It seems that a lot of people don’t “get it.” These blogs don’t exist for the purpose of making anyone feel bad about themselves or their lifestyle/choices. They exist because the people behind them want to celebrate beauty and share it with others. They exist to establish a sort of exchange and cultivate a community within that exchange. Since these people commenting over on Jezebel (a site that I normally enjoy, despite the occasional questionable article) don’t understand what compels these folks to blog in this way, they dismiss the blogs and the people behind them in a pretty derisive and nasty fashion. You don’t understand why someone chose to do something, so you call them names, make all sorts of assumptions about them, and reduce what they’re doing to something not worth doing? What sense does that make? Someone made something pretty and that makes you feel badly about yourself? Why?

Perhaps this strikes too close to home for me. It reminds me of a difficult choice I had to make a couple of years ago. I had a friend who didn’t understand why I chose to make softies. She thought it was silly, I guess, though she never came out and directly said so. She would occasionally read my blog, and when we would speak, she would say, “Oh, you’re making so many things. Should I be doing that? Should I be making things?” The question shocked me because I didn’t understand why she should feel that way, especially when she was so awesome and successful. She was getting her Masters in Language, working as a copy-editor, running the community garden, active in local politics, and about to embark on a trip to Italy and Germany. My response was, “If you feel like making stuff, do it. If you don’t, then don’t. Just do your thing. Do what makes you happy. Why compare yourself to anyone else?” She would then follow that up with, “Well, I am an intellectual, so making stuff is kinda beneath me. I have no desire to quilt, anyway.” Eventually, she started really imposing her opinion of crafting onto me and couldn’t accept that I felt differently about it. She felt it was a worthless endeavor, and that would have been fine had she been capable of realizing that her opinion was not law. It got to the point where I couldn’t take talking with her anymore because she would project her insecurities onto me and end up making me feel like crap after every conversation. That’s what a lot of the comments over on the article remind me of – they sound like they’re written by people who cannot accept a divergent opinion or lifestyle if it’s not what they would choose for themselves, and if something is not for them, then clearly, it must be wrong.

Here’s the thing that I wish I could have said to my former friend that applies to these people as well: it is not all about you. The world doesn’t revolve around you. The internet doesn’t revolve around you. It’s not all about your tastes and your preferences. It takes all types. Some people are going to think differently from you or do things differently. Deal with it. You feel passionately about your opinion/ your interests? Guess what? So does someone else with a different opinion and a different point of view. It doesn’t mean that anyone is right or wrong. It just means that you are different. Celebrate those differences. We all have something to offer. While you may not have any interest in restoring furniture you found in the trash, you have a PhD or a law degree or both. Celebrate that! Revel in it because you are damn successful. Should others resent you and think themselves inferior to you for that?

If an innocuous blog about someone’s breezy life makes you feel so awful, then don’t read it, but to trash the blogger behind it or their endeavors just because you feel bad is simply ridiculous. We all have our insecurities; the way to get over them is to just say, “fuck it!” and be ourselves. The best way to shatter the mold is to realize that you can do your thing without conforming to a mold and to refuse to conform to it. Comparing yourself to everyone you meet does not help. Belittling others does not help. I don’t go to skateboarding blogs and then complain that they make me feel inadequate because I can’t ride. And I don’t go to shelter blogs and call people liars or frauds because they were able to score some sweet deal on craigslist or lucked out and found some amazing piece of Scandinavian furniture in someone’s trash when I never have that kind of luck. And I sure as shit don’t go to The Sartorialist then hide in shame because my style doesn’t hold a candle to the impeccably attired folks that grace his photos. Nor do I feel inferior when I read Rich’s blog because he’s so damn funny and witty and his cat Winston is a megastar. It is absurd (and selfish) to imagine that we should feel badly about ourselves just because someone else shines at something. No one is saying that you have to compete with anyone else, and if you really feel that way, then maybe you need to examine where this competitive impulse comes from and why it’s there. Also, I’m all for the debate of crafting and blogging and Feminism, but the article didn’t really so much discuss that. The comments allowed for much less as they were for the most part a gushing fountain of Haterade with only a handful of exceptions. I will say that some of the comments were spot-on about one thing: a lot of those pretty-pretty blogs are highly edited. The bloggers are extremely selective about their content and their photos, and they have every right to be. Aren’t all blogs carefully edited? Besides, who’s going to post a photo essay about the cat puke they had to deal with first thing in the morning? More importantly, who wants to see that? If people were interested in cat puke, dude, I’d have blog fodder every day.

On a highly personal note, you know what does make me feel worthless? Having the birth center tell me that because of my past history of depression I need clearance from a shrink before I can birth there. That makes me feel awful. Reading about someone’s gardening choices doesn’t fill me with self-loathing. Checking out someone’s softies and thinking that they are the most adorable things I have ever seen doesn’t make me feel like I’ve already failed as a mother. Looking at someone’s blog filled with exquisitely photographed cupcakes and fancy recipes doesn’t make me feel like less of a woman or like I’m failing at femininity. If anything, those pretty places take the edge off of coming home with that news and provide a welcome distraction from all sorts of ugly, painful feelings that come from someone actually telling me, or at the very least, strongly implying that for reasons beyond my control I am inadequate. And that’s not to piss all over the author’s feelings or those who feel the same way she does. It’s only to point out that there are more substantial ways in which people are made to feel worthless, ways that pack a harder punch than pretty pictures on a stranger’s blog or a supposedly sugar-coated version of femininity. Sometimes, it is really hard to say, “Fine, this is not for me,” and move on unscathed.

Can I just say one last thing? I found it a little amusing that several of the blogs they linked to don’t even feature photos by the blogger herself. All the photos that commenters were clutching their proverbial pearls over, disgustedly commenting on how much time these bloggers have on their hands and what decadent/spoiled/pampered & moneyed lifestyles they must lead to afford to take such pretty pictures? Just about all those photos were taken by professional photographers, i.e. people who shoot pretty pictures for a living, and were co-opted by those bloggers, which is one of my personal pet peeves. I generally avoid blogs that do that because it irks me so, but that’s just me. I can appreciate the eye candy because we all need some eye candy, be it for creative inspiration or as a form of escape. I would rather have my eye candy straight from the photographer’s blog, especially if that photoblogger’s tone is welcoming and they seem like the kind of person you would want to hang out with. Again, this is just me, and I don’t expect or need anyone else to agree with me in order to validate this sentiment. I just think it’s worth putting it out there, though.

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20 thoughts on “grab some coffee – it’s gonna be a long one! (rantrantrant)

  1. Thank you. I read that myself and got all worked up, but your eloquence was way better than my inner ranting. If someone is so influenced by reading a blog that they start to feel that inadequate, they have deeper issues going on. I love to look at blogs for inspiration, new ideas, techniques, and community (since hardly anyone my age/demographic here crafts at all).

  2. Well said. I'm with you on this one, M. I tend to find those blogs more inspiring than anything else. I also know first hand that there's usually a mess just out of sight when those photos are taken. Crunchy knows I've cleared piles of crap out of the way just to take a picture of the damn cat.

    Thanks for linking a whack of sites I didn't know about! I've added most of them to my feeds.

  3. that article and the comments pissed me off too. but i really did enjoy this comment:

    http://jezebel.com/comment/22127528/

    these blogs, to me, are inspiring. if they make you feel bad about yourself, then you probably have a lot of insecurity issues.

    also, i just want to add that i know you're going to be a fantastic mother. that little guy is going to be so well-loved.

  4. @maitai – Thanks! And yes, I love that comment. It was very well-said. Of course, it got a snarky and dismissive reply from the author herself, but whatever.

  5. I'm actually really surprised at Jezebel for that article. I tend to think that the lovely crafty blogs can embody the opposite of the “Martha Stewart says your table should look like this or you fail” idea (though that's not what I get out of Martha at all.) They're inspirational and personal and have often made me open my eyes to the streets I walk down and think about how much beauty is in my life, even if I'm not blogging about it.

    I mean, I have also felt overwhelmed by life and let that feeling bleed over into feeling overwhelmed by wanting my life to be as awesome as the pages of pretty blogs, but then I stop reading them for a while until I feel better.

    I also think that it's weird to associate personal blogs with societal expectations. Negative body image due to the majority of women in TV and media being thin,etc. isn't really the same thing as feeling inadequate because some blogs make life seem like a vintage, craft party.

    Also, hi! I've been reading your blog for a while now, and I feel bad that I'm only commenting now, and not in response to any of your beautiful quilts or crochet blankets that totally have made me want to quilt and crochet!

  6. I am so glad you wrote this! I read that article this morning and it (and most of the comments) irritated the crap out of me! I have plenty of insecurities of my own, but my experience with reading craft blogs has been the complete opposite of the author. It's opened me up to a world in which I am accepted and possibly even liked for participating in these crafty endeavors, whereas before none of my “real-life” friends were crafty and didn't necessarily understand what I was doing with my time. I may not have a perfectly beautiful life and I may not be quite as talented as some of the many brilliant craft-bloggers out there, but I definitely feel like I am welcome in the community for what I do share. It's nice to feel like I fit in somewhere instead of being the weirdo who “does crafts.”

    I'm also really sorry to hear about your issue with the birth center, that's total bullshit.

  7. I think it's unrealistic to imagine that all the pretty blogs are not filled with broken needles, thread cuttings, and frogged projects in the background. I don't have the time to read both – pretty and disaster – so I appreciate the authors' filtering to deliver to me the pretty only :). And it in no way affects my self esteem to see only one side of the story.

  8. Wow, what the hell is up with that article?! I agree completely with your response and I'm really surprised at the original post. I just don't get the same vibe from craft blogs as that author does, at all. It's just people sharing what makes them happy, you know? Ugh.

  9. hooray, Maritza! thanks for saying all of this so well. i've found the online crafting community to be rather competitive. folks send me emails and make very rude flickr comments all the time and it just makes me sad. why can't we just support each other in the crafty endeavors that we are supposedly doing for fun? thanks again.

    also? my heart weeps for you. that birthing center needs to shove it.

  10. The thing I always find so upsetting is that no one stops to remember that people with “perfect” lives are editing those lives for our consumption. They are putting forth the face they want us to see. I'd look damn productive if I just told you about all the things I did today, as apposed to all the things I avoided doing. And my house would look immaculate if I carefully framed a few pictures. But as it's stands, its cluttered and messy and I don't care, because I'd rather read and enjoy my life than spend all my time cleaning. Some people want happy blogs and so they edit them as such. I share what I feel like sharing and so mine isn't as sparkly as some. But that doesn't make either one less and it doesn't make the owner of the “perfect life” any less of a real person.

    And on a personal note, I love you and if I had a birthing center, you could give birth there every day. I'm sorry they were mean to you. *hug* You are anything but worthless.

  11. I'm not a blogger, chef or photographer. I can't arrange flowers very well and my house is a mix of bland furniture from big box stores. That said, I am I knitter, and I love reading other peoples blogs about their crafy lifestyles and appreciate the time they take out of their busy lives to do so. Reading crafty blogs encourages me to reach beyond what I think I am capable of, and try (to like, knit my first sweater or tackle two color knitting). So thank you!!

  12. Hi there, complete stranger here, hope you don't mind me leaving a comment here. Feel free to delete!

    I truly didn't get the impression that this Jezebel person was 100% serious! I think it was a poke of fun at both the talented and not so talented bloggers out there. I doubt it highly that she's on the brink of depression over some artfully taken photographs.

    There are some blogs, and truly – not meaning yours at all – that do give the false sense of perfection to the point I've said to myself, there's no way with 4 kids that this blogger's house can be so picture perfect!! But I don't sit there envying her (ok, maybe just a little LOL!) but I do think that posting pics like that day after day after week after year silently says “My world is perfect!” There's nothing wrong with that but if it is coupled with touting things like homeschooling is the right choice for kids and carrying them around in swaths of cloth and nursing until 15 years old is the way to go, then coupled with the perfection being implied in the photos it gives a sense in some cases that the blogger wants you to think they have tapped into the elusive fountain of perfection and nanny-nanny-boo-boo to the rest of us.

    But that doesn't stop me from reading the “perfect” blogs. Rather, I get inspiration from them and those that turn me off, perfect or not, I just don't read.

    I think Jezebel's post should be taken with a grain of salt and with the humour intended. Heck, even Martha's daughter and her best friend poke public fun at her perfection almost every night on Fine Living ; )

    Now back to reading your blog and wishing I could do what you do! (see, just kidding!)

  13. Hey! Thanks, everyone, for your thoughts and comments.

    @Anonymous 7:40PM – It wasn't so much the article I had a problem with as I realize that the writer was being hyperbolic for the sake of humor (hey! I do that, too!). It was the ensuing commentary that irked the crap out of me, the 400 or so comments from people who were decidedly NOT being tongue-in-cheek when they were talking about how they find lifestyle/crafting blogs depressing and how the people behind them must have nothing better going on their lives and yadda yadda. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but it seems like a lot of people on Jezebel like to be outraged over every little thing. I couldn't believe how many people were actually upset over those “perfect blogs,” which it seems we all agree are highly edited and carefully crafted so as to convey perfection. Perhaps they misconstrued the author's tone or intention? Maybe some of them need to take a little more of life with a grain of salt? Because you know what? Some of those commenters are perpetually outraged. They break out the torches over the slightest offense. And everything offends them. Everything. And dude, they were plenty outraged in this case. Over fricking crafting blogs. For every funny or witty or thoughtful comment on that post, there were ten comments where people were being totally serious and totally nasty.

    Gah! Sorry to vent on you about how the commenting community over there grates on me. Perhaps that's my personal blogging pet-peeve. Anyway, I should have maybe specified that my response was aimed towards the commenters, not so much the writer. It's not to say that there aren't some hilariously witty people and insightful, interesting folks whose commentary I enjoy and appreciate on that site because there are plenty of those, too. It's just that sometimes, someone writes about a topic that incites so much unnecessary ire, and I don't even understand where it comes from or why it's even there.

  14. You know, I love craft blogs, but I think the unfocused anger you sometimes get from non-crafty types comes from a basic misunderstanding. Because there was a time when needle-crafts and homemaking were the primary categories upon which women were judged, and the main curriculum of “girls education,” some feel threatened when these activities are brought back up. While no one is judging women on these categories anymore, and the whole point is that they are voluntary and satisfying, some women assume that those celebrating them want them to be a value that all women embraced and a rubric against which all women are judged. You can explain to them that that is not the case, but they're vague unease is still tied to this history. I find its a hard bridge to communicate across. For me craft is anti-commercial and focuses me helpfully on the present. But for those to whom it seems threatening, as a marker of female domesticity and an idealization of women not having careers, it will always seem like that, no matter what you say. Besides, there is still a sentiment that arts associated with women are valueless, and thus if you took up painting or woodworking or even novel-writing (but not romance genre!) that would be interesting because those pursuits are historically unisex, whereas quilting, flower arranging, knitting, sewing, are historically (in the American context) female, and their feminine history makes them “silly” “waste of time” “value less.”

  15. I don't have a blog but had a “friend” like your former friend (she is also former in my life as well – AMEN!) who did not like that I didn't conform to her image (she wanted me to be a mini me of herself).

    This is not a FRIEND. Friends are joyous and ecastic when you do something you love. They accept you for who you are and don't try to change you. Keep doing what you are doing and ENJOY. Don't let negative comments about blogging or anything else in your life bring you down!

    Keep up the good work!

  16. One big giant high five to you!
    I have yet to come across a blogger that acts “100% perfect”.
    We may not share all the messes in our own lives-but of course everyone has them. Haters always gonna hate…and us-well, we'll all just keep on smiling, right?
    Great post!

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