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Bunting and fripperies, Cath Kidston etc

(27 Posts)
StephaniePowers Tue 26-Feb-13 12:57:55

Someone I know has recently opened a gift shop type business. I was asking her how business is going and she's doing well, but she seems quite unhappy with her self-image now.

I worked to persuade her that a business is a business, people know she's not just arranging scented candles for her living, but basically after the excitement of organising it all and getting started up, she's feeling that it's all a bit trite. Someone in her circle had made an offhand comment, and because this person is a fundraiser for a huge well-known charity, she'd got the idea that she was being looked down upon.

I mean there is no doubt that some jobs matter very much. If you don't do one of those jobs, if your job is to bring small amounts of pleasure to a basically wealthy populace, is that something to be looked down upon? I'm asking this in the feminism section because of the focus in recent years on all those Kirstie Allsopp Cath Kidston type programmes and books: this is where my friend fits in and does well. Is that so bad?

cheddarcheeselover Tue 26-Feb-13 13:00:06

are the items she sells produced by workers who are paid fairly and treated well?
thats the way businesses like that can have a real impact, by providing wrk for others.

StephaniePowers Tue 26-Feb-13 13:04:01

Some are Fairtrade/ethically sourced. Quite a bit is produced by small women-led British businesses: think the women you see profiled in Country Living.

AmandaPayne Tue 26-Feb-13 13:05:21

Yes, small businesses can make a real difference by taking an ethical stance in trading, which in turn can be the reason people use you rather than generic huge website.

Does your friend feel bad because she's not a brain surgeon or a charity worker, or is it to do with the sector of her shop? If it is the former, I think she probably needs to ask herself whether she's being honest in her ambitious - is retail what she wanted? Or is just that she feels she 'ought' to want something more worthy. There is nothing inherently wrong with retail.

cheddarcheeselover Tue 26-Feb-13 13:06:53

well then she's doing good I say, see if she can up the amount of fairtrade items, and commission more stuff from the country living set!

BettyBlueBlue Tue 26-Feb-13 13:15:14

My view that your friend has a business that is doing well, she's not selling anything dodgy or controversial, so she should just take it as a job, and be happy that is prospering. She must have felt that there was value in selling presents to make other people happy, so there's a nice philosophy behind it too.

Like any other job, it shouldn't define you or your identity completely. You can always read or pursue more sophisticated interests or issues outside work.

If anything, a successful business woman is always a positive thing for feminism.

Good luck to her with her business!

StephaniePowers Tue 26-Feb-13 13:15:35

She feels - I think - that because of the more decorative nature of what she sells, she isn't doing the same amount of good as a brain surgeon.

She used to work in the pharmaceutical industry, which, ultimately, is thousands of small efforts taken together to produce drugs which should benefit people. She felt part of a big machine.

It's definitely true that selling cushions and bunting is not the same as trying to better mankind.

I kind of think that entertainment and aesthetics have always been there for humans, so really she is part of a big machine, just a totally different one.

I think the problem has come for her after feeling looked down upon by this one woman. She said something about it not being very sisterly.

AmandaPayne Tue 26-Feb-13 13:19:16

Ah, poor her.

I do agree that there is a feminist element to the whole 'home' trend. You know, the making women feel shit if they can't whip up a batch of cupcakes and display them on a vintage stand with coconut dusting. I'm not sure where I go with that, but I don't think it is 'unsisterly' to open a shop selling home stuff. I like those things from time to time. They brighten my day.

And that doesn't mean many women don't enjoy those things. It doesn't mean that a valuable local business creating jobs and supporting ethical trade is not important.

BettyBlueBlue Tue 26-Feb-13 13:20:05

As women we are very critical of each other. We should maybe learn how to edit ourselves in our critiques a bit more, but maybe your friend needs to prepare herself for comments like that in the future with phrases "I know it's not brain surgery, but it makes people happy" or "Running a successful business is not for the light hearted either". Things of those lines.

TheDoctrineOfSciAndNatureClub Tue 26-Feb-13 13:43:32

Would she feel bad if her shop sold, say, well-crafted sheds?

Is part of her feeling from selling what are perceived as female-focussef non-necessities rather than general non-necessities?

Lessthanaballpark Tue 26-Feb-13 13:43:42

If she's a successful business woman then she is doing good. Also, why are bunting and fripperies any less important than say, sports memorabilia?

Also, think of the women that she is buying stock from and selling. She is creating a demand for their work and putting money in their pockets.

Besides, if her business is a success she can use her position as a local businesswoman to spread some good I'm sure.

StephaniePowers Tue 26-Feb-13 13:53:04

Amanda, it's interesting about the whole home/baking thing. I can do the cake thing, make my own clothes etc, but more often feel deterred from saying I'm really happy with something I've made - because other women might feel I'm underemployed in other ways? Because it seems smug (hard to define what that means)? Because they are conditioned to come down hard on so-called 'womanly pursuits'? I don't know.

Well I agree with all of you: a business is a good thing if it brings benefits to society. I wouldn't be inclined to say that cushions benefit society but commissioning work from women who may otherwise not have an outlet is good.

AmandaPayne Tue 26-Feb-13 14:00:56

I can bake too. Can barely sew a dropped hem though. Wonder web is my friend grin.

I think it is very sad if women feel that they can't be proud of something they've made - whether that is a dress, a cake or a wooden picnic table. I'd certainly not consider that it meant someone was underemployed. What I am really thinking of is the pervasive messages we often get from the media - you know the sort, the 'good mum wouldn't buy a birthday cake, she'd make one' sort. There is an idea that this 50s homemaking resurgence is, rather like hyper intensive grooming, another way society places pressure on women's time resources and prevents them having the time to devote to real competition in areas they may otherwise thrive in.

But none of that takes away from the fact that very many women (and men - just look at Great British Bake Off) do love to bake, hang bunting and smell scented candles. And, as Doctrine so rightly points out, I bet your friend wouldn't feel bad if her business was autographed sports memorabilia, or golf clubs. It is a real double edged sword. The pressure to excel at 'feminine' activities can be oppressive, but the devaluation of those activities considered feminine can be catastrophic to the value society places on those activities.

I agree that she needs to come up with some responses ready to trip off the tongue. I think it's great if anyone has the guts to start a business in this climate, and so much more so if they are trying to be ethical in how they do it.

Earthymama Tue 26-Feb-13 14:02:10

I think the "comment-er" was extremely rude and would struggle to justify her remarks unless she lives in a barren concrete box.
We are all entitled to live in surroundings that please us. As long as we don't get into massive debt or cause others pain by doing so, I cannot see what great harm your friend is doing to society.
In fact, if she is stocking fairly traded and locally produced goods she is contributing in an excellent way.
I am a child-minder and I know certain people amongst my acquaintance look down on my job.
But hey-ho, I know I do it well, that families have an income because of me, and that children are loved and cared for.
Sometimes I regret that I didn't manage the career I wanted but all in all I just shrug it off.

StephaniePowers Tue 26-Feb-13 14:32:16

Thanks for your views, it is all rather complicated, isn't it?
I agree that the commenter is rude (I know her slightly: this is quite restrained for her!).

I had never thought of the notion that the resurgence in home 'crafts' is a way to oppress women. I had rather thought of it as a response to the dearth of decent part-time work out there, compared to the number of over-qualified, middle-class, thirty-something women who wish to work after they've had children. As in 'I can't devote time to being an investment banker now, but I can spend a few grand on a course and materials and make soft furnishings for a living'.

StephaniePowers Tue 26-Feb-13 14:36:08

I shouldn't have said 'wish to work'. I mean 'need to work' as well. <slaps self>

AmandaPayne Tue 26-Feb-13 14:43:02

I think that's definitely true as regards women who make a career from these pursuits. I was rather thinking of the already overstretched full time accountant who now finds that, on top of everything else, people question why the cake at her son's party isn't homemade and she didn't hand sew a costume for her daughter's play!

It's all really a bit of a side issue. In the sense that, whilst I find it interesting to discuss the growth in home pursuits, your friend had the guts to open a shop and I find that admirable.

Sunnywithshowers Tue 26-Feb-13 14:59:21

The commenter was out of order. Why shouldn't your friend have a successful business? Well done to her for having the courage to go out on her own.

I used to be a charity fundraiser, and sometimes frankly it's just another bloody job. Same politics and bullshit, same unpleasant people... and I sometimes (secretly) wonder whether I did any good for mankind at all. I'm at uni now and want to write for a living when I leave. It's not brain surgery, but someone might enjoy reading it.

HairyHandedTrucker Wed 27-Feb-13 18:45:20

your friend has opened a business that helps women by displaying they're wares and giving them an opportunity to support themselves at something they excel at. Yes, very unsisterly hmm fwiw, I fucking love bunting <packs bags> . Bunting is not feminine, society likes to see it that way, but unless it comes out of someone's fanjo I'm not getting the connection. feminism for me is not just about giving women the right to enjoy "men's " pursuits but allowing men to enjoy things have been considered "girly" by society. I bet their are millions of closed male bunting lovers out there sad

HairyHandedTrucker Wed 27-Feb-13 18:46:46

closed = closeted

amothersplaceisinthewrong Wed 27-Feb-13 18:52:11

While I personally loathe everything that Kath Kidson and her ilk produce (far to fussy and flowery for my taste), I still say good on your friend for having the guts to start up a business and tap into a market that appeals to many.

Lessthanaballpark Wed 27-Feb-13 19:23:10

I do too love bunting! Bunting's awesome. It's cheap to make and brightens up a room. In fact I've got some lovely red rosey bunting hanging above my bed.

grin @ HairyHanded! Now I'm imagining a factory with bunting coming out of a fanjo assembly line!

AbigailAdams Wed 27-Feb-13 20:08:28

Sounds lovely to me too. I think your friend is awesome. Just think her business cheers people up. Everyone loves gift shops. Each customer probably goes out of her shop happier than when they went in! Anyone who starts their own succesful small business deserves kudos and encouragement. She is very brave especially in this climate. Does she employ anyone?

Yes the content may not leading edge feminist stuff or change the world overnight but it is helping drag this country out of the recession. And let's face it brain surgeons, as wonderful as they are can't make that claim smile

Chubfuddler Wed 27-Feb-13 20:13:04

It must be lovely to be a brain surgeon. People are automatically impressed. You sound really philanthropic but are probably minted too. Ace.

lisianthus Mon 04-Mar-13 03:24:04

At on end of her business she is helping her suppliers earn enough to feed and house themselves. At the other end, she is bringing a little bit of happiness into the day of everyone who enters her shop and sees something that makes them smile. She is also a risk-taking small entrepreneur whose business stands or falls purely on her own endeavours.

This is something of which she should be hugely proud!

Tbh, this could be a UK cultural thing. There doesn't seem to be the respect for small business owners in the UK that there is in the States or Australia, where being your own boss is something to which to aspire. There I expect it would be the salary-taking commentator who would be asked if she has plans to strike out and set up her own charity.

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