The word quilter is gender neutral, much like the word nurse and yet if you pull a google image search for either of these people you will find photos of a whole lot of middle age white women (MAWW) and the occasional porn star in a skimpy get-up doing something suggestive with a stethoscope.
Go further and open just about any quilting book or magazine and more of these MAWW’s will greet you with their smiling faces. In fact there is a whole lot missing.
- People of color — how many quilting articles do you see featuring anyone who is not totally pasty? ( yes pasty, I have the complexion of a vampire, I know my people)
- Ethnicity — The woman in the Hijab? The guy in the dashiki? Yeah they just might be quilters as well.
- Men — Seen many dudes rockin the sewing machine in your favorite magazine? Of course they are out there and many are friends of mine, but you sure don’t see them in mainstream quilt media.
- People with disabilities — Wheelchairs, prosthetics and more while adding another dimension are not limiters to the creative life.
- Faces of diversity/ LGBT — Two dudes cuddled up under and quilt? Two women giving the gift of a quilt to a new baby? A kick ass drag queen stitching between time on stage… yeah, me neither.
The problem is that the quilting industry is painfully behind the times and it is up to each of us to point out these gaffs to the companies and individuals that continue to perpetuate them. To change the face of an industry full of “isms” – sexisim, raceism, ageism, ableism, hetrosexism, not to mention xenophobia ( yeah it is not an “ism”, so sue me!).
I have been stewing over this topic for a while now based on reflections from Fall Quilt Market, personal interactions and a critical eye cast over the currently available publications of our industry and I can say that as a whole we are failing. We are better than this. Anyone can and should be a quilter if they choose. Diversity should be welcome in our classes, publications and our shops. We must make it clear that our hearts and minds are open by making active effort to welcome the faces we are not seeing. ( I might also point out that by saying what you do believe in you are being very clear about what you oppose and that helps your customer understand where they are spending their dollars. Some view this as a risk not worth taking, I on the other hand believe in The Power of Unpopular)
Well crap I don’t want to be an asshat, what can I do you ask??
Choose pronouns carefully – quilters are male, female and gender queer.
When choosing images that represent products, books, fabrics and shops we must use images that embrace the faces that are being left out so that they may feel as welcome as anyone.
We must show that we are allies and that gay, bi or transgendered stitchers are welcome in our stores and classes. Creating your business as a Safe Space is a the first step.
Create classes with more gender neutrality when possible. Children’s classes that appeal to both boys and girls. And don’t limit boys to the car carrier and girls to the pretty purse class!
Sponsor diversity celebrations in your town. Align yourself with the organizations that represent your goals and values as a business.
Or maybe just start small by indicating that you know there is a problem and you want to be part of the solution. Feel free to use this image on your blog or your website to let everyone know that you are actively looking for solutions to make our quilting world a place where everyone is welcome and recognized. I know I don’t have all the answers, but that is no reason not to ask the hard questions.
The quilt world is changing, what are you doing to be part of the solution? Add your comments here and I will add them to the post! Also check out these other great posts that are all about the changing face of quilting!