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Etsy: A “Female Ghetto” For The Creative & Crafty?

Over at Double X, Sara Mosle initially sings the praises of popular online indie retailer Etsy.com, but then points out a problem. “There are virtually no male sellers on Etsy. If the site is such a great way for anyone to market handmade goods online, then why is it such a female ghetto?”

So begins her essay, “Etsy.com Peddles a False Feminist Fantasy,” is which she seeks to prove that Etsy specifically attracts women in their mid-thirties, often with children, who want to believe “that you can have a family and create hip arts and crafts from home during flexible, reasonable hours while still having a respectable, fulfilling, and remunerative career.” Mosle says there’s little proof that there’s much money to be made selling goods on Etsy — hence the absence of men, who, obviously, only pursue lucrative or purely recreational “hobbies.”
Look, the reason that women vastly outnumber men on Etsy is because it is, ultimately, a crafts site. And, like it or not, crafting, jewelry making, needlepoint, etc. are female-centric creative pursuits. The lack of male sellers is not any more complicated than that. I don’t care if “stone cutting, metallurgy, and welding” are male dominated industries — dudes, in general, just don’t sell s**t they make online. Not on Etsy, not anywhere.

Mosle peddles out plenty of statistics to support her argument that Etsy is selling a “feminist fantasy,” and while those numbers do check out, her theory is still predicated on the belief that the majority of the women who sell on Etsy are naive dreamers. That they want selling jewelry or needlepoint pillowcases to be their career (and that men would never be so unrealistic). But Mosle offers no interviews with women who actually say this is their desire, just her own analysis of message board conversations. Her stats also work against her.

“The average age of an Etsy seller, according to the site’s 2008 survey, is 35—women’s prime childrearing years. Nearly 60 percent have college degrees, and 55 percent are married. The average household income is $62,000—well above the national mean. In other words, the Etsy.com seller is often a married woman with (or about to have) young children, with a higher-than-average household income, and a good education. These should, in sum, be highly employable women. So, what are they doing, often pursuing hobbies, or working only part-time, on Etsy?”

I would argue that raising children is a full-time job and one that many women enjoy. Maybe they also enjoy pursuing their creative interests, by jewelry making or painting, in their spare time? The bonus is a site like Etsy gives them a place to make some extra dough off the hobbies they would be pursuing anyway.

Mosle admits to fantasizing about opening her own storefront on Etsy, and that she’s “not immune to the siren call that brings many women to the site.” But she says she doesn’t expect to make a living off of it — and I don’t think many of the women on Etsy expect to either. The women who do manage to make a living off the goods they sell on Etsy, likely sell in stores as well, and have used the site to build brand recognition and reach a wide market.

As for those stay-at-home moms that Mosle writes about? Etsy hasn’t pulled the wool over their eyes, they aren’t stuck in some artsy/crafty female ghetto just because they aren’t getting rich off handmade stationery. Maybe Mosle problem is that she’s pissed her own Etsy fantasy is just that — fantasy — and she doesn’t want to be alone in her disappointment.

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