Eliza Bennett - A woman’s work is never done, 2011
Using my own hand as a base material, I considered it a canvas upon which I stitched into the top layer of skin using thread to create the appearance of an incredibly work worn hand. By using the technique of embroidery, traditionally employed to represent femininity and applying it to the expression of it’s opposite, I hope to challenge the pre-conceived notion that ‘women’s work’ is light and easy. Aiming to represent the effects of hard work arising from employment in low paid ancillary jobs such as cleaning, caring, and catering, all traditionally considered to be ‘women’s work’.
I thought a lot about “women’s work” yesterday while I was working on a freelance job in a male-owned studio space, which mostly does set building kinds of jobs, involving lots of power tools, etc - I was hired to do some fiber-related work for a commercial. I was weaving in ends on this crochet cord thing, and a woman was in the studio and she was being friendly and just making small talk; she looked at what I was doing and said “that looks like fun.” I got kind of enraged in my mind, thinking, would she say “that looks like fun” to one of the men building something with wood? I was working. It wasn’t for fun, it was for work. Now, this is nothing against her as a person, it just seemed representative of how society as a whole feels about this kind of women’s work (the crafty kind), or actually, how privileged white American society feels about it. How so many people feel about my entire career. How people don’t think they should have to pay for knitting patterns, because designing is fun and we do it because we love it. How some hobbyist designers themselves say they do it for “pin money” or some bullshit like that, because they don’t see it as being worth real money. I’m getting into a lot of areas here that have nothing to do with the art project, and that I’ll stop going on about… Anyway, yes, I LIKE knitting, and fiber-related work, that’s true, but that doesn’t mean it’s not WORK. I am one of the lucky few who actually gets to do something I like for work, but there are nights when my hands and wrists are aching and I’m up till 3am because I absolutely have to finish, and I have panic-y fears about tendonitis and carpal tunnel, and I bleed from needle pricks, and it is not fun. It is fucking work, and it is hard work, with long hours, and it is worthy of an income. And the fiber-related work I was doing in that studio was no less hard and no less worthy than the work the men were doing with power tools.
And I understand that the art project about women’s work is not about people like me, who get the privilege of working jobs we choose and mostly love. I am extremely lucky to get to choose to work with yarn because I WANT to, and I do not mean to equate my work experience with those women who work “low paid ancillary jobs such as cleaning, caring, and catering, all traditionally considered to be ‘women’s work’.” The project reminded me of some of my experience, so I chose to talk about it, because it is all related to the concept of “women’s work”, and the devaluation of it.