Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Things which annoy me in books, Part 1

This one, to me, is very basic.  It's a classic trope, and it annoys me every single time I run across it.

I truly loathe it when a writer shows that her character is an independent female by having her loudly and obviously eschew any sort of handwork.  "Oh, I don't do samplers, I don't do needlepoint, I hate embroidery." 

I get why it's such a nice and easy shorthand.  Fine needlework has been a woman's craft for centuries (and let's not get into when it was a guilded craft and the providence of men).  Doing it well takes time, which made it the province of upper class women and those who aspired to be like them.  And yes, in the past few decades there has been a cultural backlash against things that "women do", and especially things that "women do" that take a great deal of time.  I have no issue with that.  Not everyone needs to like to sew, or bake, or clean, or embroider.  Everyone should be free to do what pleases them.

But here's the thing.  I am an independent female.  And I love doing handwork.  I don't think that it's overly girly and shows my enslavement to the patriarchy. 

When reading a book it's a fine character trait if your lady likes to bake.  Robin McKinley's Sunshine has her main character be a baker, and it's awesome.  It's a fine character trait if your lady knits.  If she sews her own clothes (or her own design, natch), or if she gardens.  Gardening is a perfectly acceptable independent lady-trait.  But pick up a needle for anything more than sewing on a button?  Heavens, no!  Not our independent heroine!

I was reading the Soul Mirror by Carol Berg.  Let me preface this by saying that I adored this book.  I truly, truly did.  But it was so jarring to have our heroine (who is, perforce, not full of completely feminine or anti-feminine traits, but a nice mixture of being human) talk to the man she'll end up with about hobbies and such, and see the off-hand comment that she hates embroidery (of course) and that this validates her to him as something better than a normal silly woman.

Really?  Seriously?  If I wasn't enjoying the book so much, that right there would have been enough to have me put the book down and walked away. 

I enjoy embroidery.

I am not silly.

The two are not equivalent or equal, and I am TIRED of always seeing it so. 

P.S.  And this doesn't even touch on the fact that there are men who enjoy embroidery.  What does it say to their masculinity when an entire craft is the purview of "silly women"-ness?

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree! But, in real life, I find myself sometimes mentioning that I have a hobby that I'm passionate about, but feel kind of embarrassed saying that it is cross-stitching. I'm not sure why I feel that way, though.