Not long ago, this video caused quite a stir among my coworkers.
I like Make Magazine. I enjoy its offshoot Craft Magazine, and subscribed for a few years. I love seeing so many cool projects and being inspired by them. I enjoy learning new techniques and new ideas. However, they aren’t perfect, just as the culture of “making” isn’t perfect.
It has bothered me for quite a while that “making” has become synonymous with electronics. I enjoy making strange food. I stress-crochet. I have done woodworking and needlework, programming and electronics, papercraft and origami. I have attempted different coffee-making techniques and learned about the myriad of uses for vinegar in home cleaning. Each of these activities has elements of making, of creativity, of having a finished thing of some sort when finished. But crocheting, papercraft, and similar get relegated to “crafting” which brings to mind women (only women) knitting in a Hobby Lobby. Food-making, regardless of whether the result is tastiness, prettiness, or sheer “I made something weird because I felt like it,” becomes “cooking”, also a woman’s realm. “Craftsmanship”, different from “crafting” implies woodworking, tools, and other handmade “manly” things. “Making” becomes exclusively electronics, and an activity isn’t Making if it doesn’t have wires, blinking lights, and an Arduino involved somehow.
This makes me angry. While I cannot speak to the challenges individuals of color face, I can speak to those I face. The skills I have that do not fit the mold are undervalued, relegated to a lesser status. The fact that I am female means I need to be five times more awesome, because otherwise the angry trolls will believe that I am a “fake maker girl” or similar. That I am only there as an Affirmative Action positive placement. I have turned down opportunities because it was made clear that I was only going to get a job because I could fulfill a quota, and I promised myself many years ago that I would only take jobs that I had earned fair and square. This means, again, that I need to be five times more awesome than any other candidate to 1) Prove beyond any potential unconscious biases the interviewer has that I am the best individual for the job, 2) Prove to the Affirmative Action-hating people that I am truly competent and not a mercy hire, and 3) Prove to myself that I got the job because I deserved it, and that any other factor is massively outweighed by my skill. The stress of this expectation was part of why I left engineering school, and why I try to maintain a life not ruled by the tech world.
God damn it, I am a maker. I am a crafter, I am a craftsman. I am an occasional baker and cook. I am a terrible coder. I am, in spirit if not in technicality, a goddamned electrical engineer.
And yet, that isn’t enough for anyone.