Slate Ladyblog Slaps The "Feminist Fantasy" Of Etsy

Sara Mosle doesn't like Etsy, or the fantasy it apparently peddles to women that they can make any money off their dreams. Sadie and I disagree with Mosle's conclusions after the jump, as Slate writers thought only they could.

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Dear Sadie,

Having read Sara Mosle's takedown of Etsy.com on Slate's "double x,", I have to profess myself quite surprised with the specious conclusions drawn by the author. [Megan translation: For fuck's sake, Sadie, did you read this shit on double x about Esty?] It seems that Mosle has decided that since the people that use Etsy to sell their handmade products are prominently women, but the founders are men, that the men in charge are peddling a "feminist fantasy" of making a living through doing what one loves to a bunch of irrational women who don't know any better. I am forced to wonder when it was that engaging in artistic endeavors in the hopes that some day enough people will find value in your art became a predominately feminist fantasy, and that men became too rational to ever attempt to start down such a path. [Megan translation: Seriously, what the fuck?]

Yours,
Megan

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Dear Megan,

I have to agree. But what I also found problematic was the implicit condescension of the argument; there's a definite sense that these educated women of means are wasting their time, and that the work they do, if not renumerative, can't possibly be fulfilling in any other sense. [Sadie translation: I got this awesome spyglass necklace at an Etsy craft fair over the weekend.] Then too, Megan, doesn't it seem like she ignores the fact that Etsy functions as a community as well as a selling site? If one reads the boards, it's clear that Etsy is a real support network and intellectual forum for any number of like-minded people. [Sadie translation: also, these really neat magnets covered in calico.] And in any case, the question comes down to, does DIY have value? It's easy to dismiss - part of what rankles is that Etsy seems like low-hanging fruit, and an unfair target - but its larger cultural import is of a piece with a lot of progressive movements which Mosle would be hard-pressed to dismiss. [Sadie translation: Ooh, and some notecards!] The bottom line, Megan, for me is that unless we're defining "harm" in the most paternalistic of ways, Etsy harms no one - and brings a great many people a lot of pleasure. Indeed, because the satisfaction of such enterprises cannot be quantified does nothing to invalidate them. [Sadie translation: *goes to start Etsy page.*]

Yours,
Sadie

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Dear Sadie

I absolutely agree [Megan translation: My roommate has an Etsy store and takes a great deal of pleasure and pride in creating and selling her hairpieces as a creative outlet that is somewhat financially remunerative. Upon hearing my description of this article, she said, "What the fuck?"] I think what I found problematic with the analysis is the idea that a site to which women of their own accord flocked in order to start engaging in entrepreneurship with their artistic endeavors is referred to by Mosle as "a female ghetto" — but without the corresponding male-dominated alternative environment from which women are isolated. One assumes that Mosle wanted to contrast it to eBay or another marketplace, but somehow failed to look for or find comparative statistics. Furthermore, I think it problematic because at no point does Mosle touch on the buyers on Etsy, which might well track with the gendered selling against which Mosle inveighs — or not, in which case, it turns the entire concept of Etsy being a ghetto-izing influence on its head. [Megan translation: Did she look up the meaning of the word "ghetto?" Do any other research?]

Further to that, I feel that Mosle's entire piece rests on the basis of gender stereotypes: men acting "rationally" by not participating; knitting being something at which only women can or do excel; women being "preyed on" by Etsy's male founders. Even the "siren call" that Etsy holds for her is a sexist trope about women's supposed ability to prey upon men sexually.

But what I feel is most problematic is the idea inherent in the work that women should, in some sense, face the reality that their dreams of successful entrepreneurship will never be realized. In truth, most small businesses fail. Many people — men and women — engage in the marketplace with a unique product, idea or service and fail to amass enough profit to stay afloat. The difference between men and women is that men are more often encouraged to do so then women, and encouraged to try again. Mosle's piece attempts to convince women not to take a relatively risk-free wade into the entrepreneurial waters of the American marketplace because they'll "fail," as though economic failure is something with which women cannot or should not be expected to cope.

I guess I should also add that I find it a little ironic that Mosle's worries about women artisans being ghettoized on Etsy is printed on double x, where Slate has collected its women writers and separated them and their stories from their site at large. [Megan translation: There are plenty of things I find ironic about double x deciding who is a good fucking feminist]

Yours,
Megan

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Dear Megan,

As ever , a well-reasoned argument. May I add that the notion of feminism (that which is "undercut" by the gullibility of the deluded sellers) on which this argument is predicated is a dated and simplistic one: the "having it all" ethos of 20 years ago, which most of us would agree has evolved. And Megan, you bring up the economics of small business, and rightly so: I'd add to this that the current economic situation adds another dimension to the discussion. Not only does Mosle fail to address the sizable population for whom Etsy is a sideline rather than a get-rich-quick fantasy, but fails to acknowledge that it might be, not just a source of modest income for those affected by the recession, but a means of empowerment in a demoralizing market. In this sense, the modesty and unique handmade nature of the typical crafts (and price-points) on Etsy are uniquely well-suited to this economy. If one were so disposed, one could certainly choose to regard the site's popularity as empowering, and such objections as manufactured. [Sadie translation: Megan's roommate's hair-pieces are amazing.]

Sincerely,
Sadie

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Etsy.com Peddles a False Feminist Fantasy [double x]

Related: The State of the Cookie [Slate]

Earlier: Who You Calling A Bad Feminist?

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