though this piece is the one that started my recent spate of political pieces, and is one that i've been planning since at least january, and am very proud of, it's also the hardest one to blog about.
i love the craft and DIY movement/community. i really do. but that doesn't mean that i don't see problems in it, that i approve of everything that people do and say and make. people who prefer not to think about problems and unfairness and mistreatment and oppression accuse those of us who do, lefties, socialists, etc, of always picking things apart and complaining about minor issues. it's easier to label things minor than it is to admit how they relate to the bigger picture. and i think we DO pick things apart, and complain about smaller parts of the whole, but honestly, we do it out of love. we do it BECAUSE we care, because we can see how things can be improved, how the world that we love can be even better, how those small things are indicative of larger problems.
i have always believed that crafting is inherently political. that's the whole point of the DIY movement, isn't it? (at least, the original DIY movement, maybe not so much the new commercialized version!) crafting is about not being like everyone else, by creating one of a kind items, about creating with your own two hands, about opting out of the capitalist shopping malls, about valuing work that has traditionally been done by those whose labour hasn't been valued, about celebrating your vision, about getting your message out in a creative way.
as the crafting movement becomes bigger and more mainstream, we start to lose the politics of it, and that's disturbing. but what i find even more disturbing, when you take away the craft aspect of it, is the number of people who care so little about the world around them. even if you don't see crafting as political, what about your responsibility as a human being, a global citizen, whatever? what about being a decent person?
i really worried that people would feel that this piece was targeting them. while i can see how some people may feel that, it's really in response to a growing trend. i see the word pimp used entirely too often in our community. craftster.org members organize "pimp your ________" swaps all the time, etsy users "pimp" their shops, there's a craft business and blog with the word pimp in their name, major craft blogs use the term pimp, and when readers comment that it's not an appropriate word to use, they respond with the definition has changed, such a 'pimp my ride'. frankly, i'm not sure when we started looking to MTV as an ethical guide in our lives!
so as much as i was concerned about hurt feelings by posting this publicly, at the same time, i think the old slogan is pretty damn accurate -
if you feel attacked by feminism (or this embroidery piece), it's probably a counter attack!
now you're saying, but amy, what about reclaiming words? aren't you all about that? and I AM! i've posted about that before, with my queer cross stitch piece, and the fabulous fat bag.
while i'm all for reclaiming words that have historically been used in a negative way against you, the word pimp is NOT a word that has historically been used against an oppressed group.
words have power. words are SO freaking powerful. remember as kids "sticks and stones can break my bones, but names can never hurt me"? what about "sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can break my heart"? changing your language is an incredibly powerful political act. refusing to use or promote oppressive language, THINKING about what the words you say mean, those things lead to so much more. your language is something that YOU can control, regardless of what laws are passed, what funding is unavailable, what stupid thing a politician did, regardless of how much time or money you have available to volunteer and get involved. your language affects your thoughts, and those of the people around you. it's a small thing, but something that can have a huge impact throughout your life.
and that's why it disturbs me so much to see oppressive words celebrated in our community.
pimp is a word used to DESCRIBE the oppression and mistreatment of (mostly) female sex workers. it is a word that reeks of misogyny and hatred, that calls to mind physical, emotional and sexual abuse. it refers to a system of sex work in western culture that perpetrates abuse and murder of underprivileged people, that consistently devalues the labour of sex workers, that takes away the freedom and self worth of human beings, that traps people who are engaging in survival sex in endless loops, that encourages the control of "lower class" citizens.
and it has some seriously fucked up racial issues too. when you hear the word pimp, especially this time of year, what image comes to mind? if you google image search the word, what comes up? racialized stereotypical images of men of colour, dressed in fur coats with lots of "bling" and huge afros. or, white guys dressed up as black guys, with absolutely no thought to how gross it is to dress that way.
when people talk about advertising their etsy shops, about decorating their cubicles at work, about an embroidery pattern, about crafting in general, there's no place for the word pimp. really, there's not.
and i know there are going to be folks who say, oh, but the etymology! pimp is believed to have stemmed from the French infinitive pimper meaning to dress up elegantly and from the present participle pimpant meaning alluring in dress seductive.
there are, unfortunately, words and images which take on negative connotations that cannot be removed. the swastika was once used as a christian cross, but now has the connotation of Nazism.
we CANNOT decide to remove the hateful connotations from words and images simply because we don't like them. that's not how the world works.
and thus, this piece.
completely off the political topic, and onto the embroidery itself....
this piece uses stem stitch, back stitch, french knots, and chain stitch.
as i was doing the french knots, i was asking myself whatever possessed me to chose them... and thanking myself for choosing to use them on the shortest word!
i wrote out the phrase in a word file, choosing different fonts for each part.
the orange stem stitched words are "tall paul", pimp is "curlz mt", cool is arnprior, and ignorant is "goudy stout".