Each Wednesday, I write a post from my dissertation.
The scrapbook industry is built around women doing gender through either owning scrapbook stores (Downs 2006) or selling scrapbook products inside people’s homes to friends and family as independent consultants.
All of the industry workers in this study are women. In the case of the independent consultants, this makes sense because 86.4% of all (scrapbooking and other) independent consultants are women (Direct Selling Association 2008). In this sample, the independent consultants like that the work allows them a flexible work schedule so that they can still provide primary childcare and eldercare. Vincent’s (2003:182) findings regarding Tupperware consultants, where being a consultant allows women to “organize their work around their other responsibilities” supports my findings.
Downs (2006) finds that women scrapbook store owners do gender as part of their job by providing food, childcare1, holiday wish lists for husbands, and emotional comfort2 to customers. Moreover, the success of local scrapbook stores is contingent upon the store owner’s ability to do womanhood (Downs 2006). In other words, successful store owners need to be gender appropriate.
Other Related Thoughts
I did not study the online world of scrapbooking in my study. This was to keep my project manageable. Since I defended my dissertation in August 2010, I have been noticing a few trends online regarding gender. I am noticing that some of the most popular scrapbooking experts are gender appropriate. They mention things like how they have to take a break from blogging to focus on their family (motherhood), they show off their recent purchases (shopping), they share recipes or focus on diet and exercise (body project), and so on. I have not done a formal analysis of these trends, but think that this is something I will pursue over the next few months. The experts though are not completely gender appropriate, however. They have successful businesses. They do something other than focus on femininity or their families. And they get called on it. I have seen more than one scrapbooking expert dedicate a blog post to answering a common reader question: “how do you have time for it all?” The implication behind this question is that your house is dirty, you serve frozen meals or fast food for dinner, and you use the television as a babysitter. In other words, you are bad mom, wife, or woman.
Why is it so important that industry workers are gender appropriate? Or, is it just that gender-appropriate industry workers are most likely to be successful in this industry? Comment below or join the conversation on facebook or twitter.
1Some scrapbook stores have areas in their store for children to play while their mothers shop. At the store I worked at, there was not a play area because it was a liability. Even though there was no play area for children, customers would sometimes leave their children under the care of an employee while they ran out to the car. When children were left in my care, the mother was typically on her way out the door when she asked if I could watch the child, assuming I was both willing and capable of caring for her child.
2I have helped customers pick out products to create scrapbooks to memorialize recently lost loved ones (people and pets), scrapbooks that are for potential birth mothers to look through to choose adoptive parents, and scrapbooks detailing chronically ill children and their Make-a-Wish® foundation experiences.
Direct Selling Association. 2008. “Fact Sheet U.S. Direct Selling in 2008.” Retrieved January 30, 2010.
Downs, Heather Ann. 2006. “Crafting Culture: Scrapbooking and the Lives of Women.” PhD dissertation, Department of Sociology, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL.
Vincent, Susan. 2003. “Preserving Domesticity: Reading Tupperware in Women’s Changing Domestic, Social and Economic Roles.” The Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology/La Revue Canadienne de Sociologie et d’Anthorpologie 40(2):171-96.
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