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Baking & Sewing: A woman’s guide

By Jorja Strickland, December 1 2022

I would first like to acknowledge my hope that the headline of this article drew enough of your attention for an eye roll — maybe even a scoff. Hopefully I’ve accomplished that, if not, the rest of this article will at least be refreshing. Let’s focus on the real topic at hand — a raging feminist’s dream: stereotypical women’s hobbies. The societal expectations. The double standards. The judgment. The shame. The fixed role in society. 

Women’s hobbies seem to be something of a joke because they’re not seen as hobbies at all — but as glamorized chores. Some hobbies are just more likely to be accepted as being attributed to women because it makes sense as a social normative custom. Why might this be the case, you ask? My conclusion is simple — it’s based on the historical role that women have had in this patriarchal society. Those centuries when it was a woman’s responsibility to cook and bake for her hard-working husband and their young children. When it was her job to do the sewing and patchwork and knitting and maybe, just for fun, embroidery for the family. 

Women’s hobbies are seen as inferior, dull and simple, but that’s only because they were made to feel that way from years of expectations and forced burdens. We’ve consistently dealt with the reputation of being “weak” and “fragile,” and the hobbies that we partake in are used to highlight that argument. I’m sorry, do you realize how much wrist strength goes into stirring? How much coordination it takes to do needlework? These pastimes we undertake are not for the faint-hearted. 

Even still, when we stray from stereotypically “dainty” women’s tasks, we still get criticized. Grilling, brewing beer, leatherworking, and all the likes — we get mocked, becoming the punchline to some obnoxious joke that men tell each other with a fist bump. And yes, I did get all of those examples from a website titled “Top 75 Manly Hobbies For Men” — what’s your point? 

Major hobbies that have been characterized as female stereotypes are actually reflections of past generations and the diminutive role we were forced into, yet this should not be a fact to judge us on or something to mock us by. Instead, it makes us all the more powerful and self-reliant. Hobbies that we are ridiculed for enjoying ultimately form us into well-rounded, functioning people. We can cook our own meals when hungry, yet will still occasionally get Chinese food after a long, draining day. We can mend our clothes, or even make our own accessories — myself definitely not included.  Conclusively, what people perceive as making us weak, effectively makes us independent and capable. 

Classifying something as “feminine” or “masculine,” especially when concerning hobbies, is grossly inappropriate. As seen in the website that was mentioned previously, these categories are drawn from unreliable stereotypes that don’t accurately represent today’s society. It’s like we assign genders to activities that anyone can enjoy and take part in. It goes both ways too. Men get judged for taking part in things such as baking. That running joke in old sitcoms with a male in a pink floral apron? Imagine a man liking something so clearly for the delicate, weaker sex — cue the laughing track. It’s unfair to both sexes, while women still get associated with that pink, cutesy apron, men get mocked for exploring a hobby that they could very well enjoy. They shouldn’t get subjected to criticism, just as women shouldn’t have assumed hobbies that really just delegate us to housework tasks. 

This touches on an important social issue — the fact that women and men have always been perceived as opposites. Where men are strong, women are weak, men are large, and women are small. This idea is applied to their hobbies as while men should do things that enhance strength and power, women partake in things that highlight their gentle, delicate characters. Why do these things have to be so defined? They don’t. Hobbies are things that people do for enjoyment, nothing more, nothing less. They shouldn’t be a statement. Shouldn’t be political. The concept that some are more “manly” or more “girly” shouldn’t prevent either gender from participating in any hobbies. At the same time, those two words alone, when compared, position men as mature and adult and women as childlike and not knowing any better.

I feel like the conclusion here, one that can really be applied to any given rant, is freedom. Freedom for either gender to just do what they enjoy without judgment for not adhering to their delegated role in society. In fact, it’s the 21st century —  “role in society” shouldn’t even be a phrase anymore. Don’t be held back from trying something new or from taking up a hobby that conforms to one sex or another. Do something different, something risky, without fear of getting judged or perceived differently. This does not include birdwatching, you will definitely be judged for that.

This article is a part of our Voices section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet editorial board.

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