Making, gender, and doing



I believe I follow the sentiment intended, but think it’s overboard.

For instance, my mother was always “only” a stay-at-home mom. She is one the the greatest Makers I’ve ever known!

Crafts, sewing, fantastic meals and cakes - you should have seen our homemade and decorated cakes every birthday - more than just icing on the cake - I had cakes that were trains and other awesome things. Lot’s of traditional “mom” stuff, but I always from a kid viewed it as her making things.

And you should have seen the flower beds and gardens she was always busy making around our yard.

Oh, and we always had Halloween costumes - good ones - that she made.

Bird houses …

I could go on and on. Making is definitely a “traditional” female thing.

She was a comfort maker, a sport maker, a work maker, a person maker, a home maker!

And now my sisters (a professor, a CFO, and a broadcaster) are all better makers than I (a male) consider myself to be.


My wife is in this boat on our high school robotics team. She does the most work, and doesn’t get any recognition for it since it’s not building the robot. It’s just “boring” stuff like ensuring that the team is staffed, populated, financed, fed, housed and is applying for all the awards we are worthy of earning.

It’s a sticky trap, that one of doing very useful work that doesn’t fall in the shiny category of making stuff.


Sounds like team making to me.


What’s gendered about making is chiefly the medium. Wood? Metal? Those are perceived as manly media… except that certain types of metalworking, especially with wire, and especially for purposes of making jewelry, are seen as more feminine, perhaps because they’re better suited to smaller fingers. Textiles? Strongly feminine. Mixed media? That can get ambiguous. Really, it’s the old shop vs. home economics divide. They’re all about making, whether in pink or blue bows, even if the more feminine stuff is stereotypically less vocational. Making isn’t necessarily about vocation; plenty of makers, men and women alike, are arguably pursuing hobbies rather than vocations, making things for themselves and as presents for friends and family. It’s reasonable to criticize maker culture for failing to appreciate other sorts of contributions, but the notion that advocacy of making is ipso facto sexist is short-sighted nonsense.


I think the OP’s point is that “makers” aren’t the only ones with value, and that thinking of it that way tends to elevate what are thought of as traditionally “male” skills over female ones.

Setting the gender issues aside for a moment, I have certainly found at there are distinct skill sets around “making” and “maintaining” and each has value. I used to do some head-hunting and I would often run across people who had a lot of sequential experience creating products, founding companies, or building departments from scratch. But these “makers” often didn’t have the staying power of the “maintainers” to stick to something and grow it. So their resumes had them job-hopping around every couple of years. That’s great for some positions, not great for others. Recognizing what a client was hiring for, and helping them understand the difference, was a critical part of finding the right person, and also in helping to keep the people at the company longer; makers need to be challenged constantly or moved around, while moving a maintainer around without giving them a chance to grow something substantially would cause job dissatisfaction.


When I was in junior high school in Iowa in the sixties we had one quarter each of wood shop, metal shop, sewing and cooking, and everybody, boys and girls, took all the same classes.


Pretty sure the dichotomy between educator and creator (i.e. researcher, engineer, artist, etc.) is related to the terrible state of the American public school system.

It’s interesting that most (public) school teachers are women, and it would be cool to find out what would happen if that were to change. For example, if teaching became more prestigious (in the US that pretty much means “better paid”), would that help fix not only the gender imbalance in education but also the one in STEM?


Quite possible she’s not a Maker in the sense that it’s used here. No need to twist the definition to try to make it fit. That doesn’t mean she can’t be a Maker as well as an educator.
I’m a sysadmin, which is not what I would consider a Maker in this sense. It doesn’t diminish the work I do. I choose to also Make sometimes, which makes me a sometimes Maker. (Also, I don’t see that the term Maker has anything to do with gender. I just came back from helping a bunch of middle school students with their building projects. All the kids were there by their choice and more than half were girls).


I reject the framing of the axis as (Maker) <–> (Maintainer). To me it’s always been (Maker) <–> (Passive Consumer of Mass Production) and the people she’s talking about Makers being ‘elevated over’ are orthogonal to the axis. Or in many cases, Makers themselves, as pointed out in the first comment in the thread.


Sounds like team making to me.

The point isn’t for us in the comments to look at all of the caregiver tasks that Debbie Chachra describes as caregiving and give them value by declaring them all making. We are falling into the trap she describes. She doesn’t want to do that either.

“I understand this response, but I’m not going to ask people—including myself—to deform what they do so they can call themselves a “maker.” Instead, I call bullshit on the stigma and the culture and values behind it that rewards making above everything else.”

The point is that there is all different kinds of ways to contribute to society besides making things or declaring our activities making things, and that we can’t forget about the value of support activities or caregiving that makes possible the society that for some reason values “making” above everything else.


How would it exactly? Wouldn’t that just mean more men would be pushing more young men into the field rather than pushing young women into the field? If we are still getting more men in STEM at the college level (I’d suspect that the undergrad level is where lots of young women shake out), how is having more men teach it at the HS level at all going to be helpful?

I do agree that more men in education would be a good thing, because it could help to break the gender stereotype of only women being caring and nurturing. But the STEM problem is deep than just shaking up education, I suspect. It’s a cultural problem too, and that’s harder to crack.

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(my emph) - slightly rearranged as meatworking - surely a kind of making, rather more archetypally female than male? Or is that just womb-envy?

I was thinking about it more in the context of opening up jobs in STEM fields and making those fields less dominated by men. I’m not saying it would be sufficient on its own. It’s also important to encourage more women to actually go into science-and-engineering-type professions.

However, there is already a push to do that, while I have not seen a lot of effort devoted to making education a more respected/prestigious/well-paid/what-have-you occupation.


I do think that’s important, too. But I’d suspect that much of the shake out does happen at the undergrad level and goes on from there. I’d also suspect that the more prestigious the institution, the more men you have. And it’s as much a cultural problem as it is a getting girls to code problem. You can push as much as you want, but if women are on the receiving end of intense forms of harassment once they get to college in these fields, how are they going to get to the place where they can get to being on the job market? We really are going to have to overturn some of our cultural assumptions about gender to overcome this problem, I think.

I think you’re right. that’s coming from the top, too. But as long as certain perceptions of women exists, it’s going to be a hard fight getting there.

No, you’re right here. To do this, we need to make it clear why education, and not just an overemphasis on STEM, either, matters in modern society, for everyone. But in our capitalist society the most important thing is the bottom line. Until that changes, little else will change about the prestige of a teaching career. As long as the popular view is the bootstraps narrative, we’ll undervalue education.


Thought provoking article. I think this is more about semantics revealing a prejudice in our society and culture rather than being a screed against making things per se. Take eHow/Instructables/Make Magazine vs. Pinterest as an example. eHow/Instructables/Make Magazine don’t exclude women but most of the things I’ve run across there (and seen publicized elsewhere) were written by men (unless specifically looking for makeup tutorials or something equivalently “gendered” in western culture).

And those involved there are credited as being makers.

Whereas almost everyone I personally know who is what I would consider a maker uses Pinterest and none of those other sites. As far as I can tell, they’re not credited as being makers.

(Unrelated note: I had to pop the article into a “speed reading” website that shows one word at a time rapidly because this is such a wall of text that I couldn’t read it. I have to do that frequently enough so that alone is not especially noteworthy but this was a particularly egregious case. If your paragraphs are super huge, please cut them down to a reasonable length.

There’s no particular advantage to dense paragraphs in a digital world and they make it really hard for even mildly dyslexic people to make it through your writing.


I dunno, sometimes the only thing that keeps me going is knowing that there are millions of people using the software I write, so no matter how I feel about it, they liked it enough to pay for it, and they need me to keep that value going.

The part of me that craves the sterile perfection of beautifully engineered artifacts is not the part that the industry rewards. Making products is a service. Heck, the thing about the “maker” movement that creeps me out is how focused it is on people and education. It’s almost like the point is all that yucky human stuff.

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I’ve never like the term “maker” either - we all make stuff - whether it’s a sandwich, noise or a mess. I think basically we’ve been making stuff since the first proto-human took a rock and whacked something with it or sharpened a stick. i think that creative impulse is what we as a species do.

And, while I fully embrace making stuff and find the evolution of tools we can use great - I really find the term has been co-opted by marketers who have taken some aspect of inherent humanness, put a label on it and are trying to sell stuff under that label.

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I can’t say I’ve ever really cared for the term maker either. Anything I enjoy eating or using, if I can actually produce it myself, I want to at least once but the term that was in vogue when I combined that tendency with the internet was DIY. While DIYer isn’t particularly fun to say, I’m not a DIYer … I enjoy DIY.

Maker may be marketing friendly but what is fun and profitable for marketers is completely unrelated to my interests except in an academic sense.