Thursday, 3 December 2009

A model kind of woman

Yesterday's Craft Day, even if I was unable to actively participate, has left the office with a wide variety of, errr, additional decorations.

It's not that I'm anti craft. Indeed, I've always had quite a crafty bent myself.

Later in the afternoon, a little delivery arrived for me at the office. It consisted of three model kits – two resin and one metal. They're all for figures – two Prussian soldiers from 1870 and Brunhilda, the character from Germanic legend, most well known to those outside Germany from Wagner's epic Ring Cycle.

Assorted colleagues looked at the delivered boxes with wary or bemused expressions – particularly at the soldiers. Apparently, I'm "bonkers". Yet these were the same colleagues who, hours earlier, had been constructing a Christmas tree from an old, rigid board map that was now no longer needed, and knitting tiny scarves for decorative card birds that were to hang on the tree.

And I'm bonkers?

I used to knit at one time. The Other Half even has a traditional black and yellow scarf I knitted him for his role as a fan of the mighty Castleford Tigers.

I have been known to do a bit of needlepoint too. There's a rather complex one of a cat that's framed and hanging in the bedroom.

And I have put together and painted models since childhood, when my parents allowed me to have the old Airfix historical figures, but not the longed-for Spitfire.

The Spock at the top of this post was painted a few years ago and still stands, very happily, on the DVD shelves.

The Prussian soldiers are simply extensions – and quite logical ones, given that modeling background – of my abiding fascination in Prussian history (which started at school – a girls' school, note).

It seems extraordinary that there should be such a gender-based attitude toward something as simple as craft-based hobbies – that as a female, other females were bemused by my interest areas. Not by my interest in a form of craft, but by the direction in which that takes me.

I happen to work in an environment that is highly politicised – and with the majority of the staff being female: in other words, I know, work and socialise with a lot of politicised females. How odd that, while knitting seems to be almost a new form of feminist statement, a woman who prefers to do other kinds of craft as a hobby is – well, not derided, but treated with confusion. It's almost like a new version of my parents saying: 'No, you can't build a Spitfire'.

This, though, does seem to conform to something of a pattern.

Even last night, when there was a bit of Stargate Atlantis on telly in the background, I recognised an ever-so-topical reference to the Hadron Collider, described only by its initials. Isn't that an indication of geekette status if ever there was one?

And while I wasn't paying great attention to the aforementioned programme, I am not averse to sci-fi, either on screen or the page. Indeed, I have a confession: at one time I even maintained a website about one of the characters in Babylon 5, which I adored. And I once attended a B5 convention – in a hotel next to Heathrow airport: although in the interests of making male (and possibly female) readers of this blog jealous, I have to point out that Claudia Christian gave me a full on kiss at that event.

In another recent development, however, I became the one woman in our office (at present) to take delivery of an iPhone. It's logical: I work with Macs at home and in the office. I can synch it with all sorts of things. But yet again, I seem to be part of a 'male' club.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not particularly worried. But it's interesting that feminism – even in people who are very politically educated – would not seem to have really made a great deal of difference to ideas of traditional female pastimes and interests.

Of course, it's complicated further because I don't fall into just one obvious stereotypical category – 'tom boy', for instance. The same woman who loves Prussian history and paints model soldiers also likes handbags and chocolate, and as much as I'm currently reading a vast history of the Thirty Year's War, I've also got my well-worn copy of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice on the go as deliciously enjoyable light reading. I might love football – but I also enjoy Sex in the City. I might have collections of sci-fi trading cards – but I also collect cat ornaments.

So is an interest in history per se what's considered unusual for a female of the species? Or just certain kinds of history? Is it modeling per se that is considered odd for a bird – or just certain subjects for modeling?

And am I really so unusual – "bonkers", even?

It seems, as Spock might say, to be thoroughly "illogical".


  1. Your Spock model turned out good.

  2. Thank you. That's very kind, Revised.

  3. Leonard Nimoy has a house here at NLT so we sometimes see him around. He's a recognizable fellow. Nimoy thinks of himself as a poet - and I think of you as being crafty, Syb.