Why do so many men these days, particularly young men, not make and build tangible things like their grandfathers did?
I’m stipulating men not because I’m a sexist flower but because unlike men, for whatever reasons, women have retained hobbies through recent decades (why is the idea of having “hobbies” so cringe-inducing?).
Women are knitting, sewing, scrapbooking, painting, quilting, decoupaging cross-stitching, doing leatherwork, making paper sculpture into the small hours all over the world. Sewing cafes are springing up like Sweat Shop in Paris.
What are men doing?
Not much it seems. On Etsy, a site where you can buy and sell handmade and vintage goods, the proportion of women versus men is outrageously, stupendously, shamefully unbalanced – 96% women, 4% men (according to a 2008 study) given that all humans benefit from creating something tangible in the world. Uh-huh, a website where you can sell anything you make with your own wee hands is predominately used by women!
Humans, c’mon, this is sad.
Making stuff is a creative process that is deeply meaningful and, I believe, fundamental to our sense of wellbeing. Being in the zone when creating with your hands. Feeling the sense of accomplishment, achievement and resolution at having manifested something new in the world, no matter how hideous or lame it may be, are crucial feelings.
Why have most men in developed countries turned their backs on whittling, turning driftwood into furniture, making clocks, weaving, building bookcases and treehouses and all the rest? Is it to do with technology and global business? Are men using their creation vibes to instead make intangibles like websites, companies, design?
I’ve worked with so many designers and art directors who are brilliantly creative in their jobs but who are easily crushed when their ideas or designs don’t fly for whatever reason.
Why? Because so much of their ego is tied-up in what they make at work since they don’t have an outlet for creativity at home. While they are well-paid to have the creativity sucked out of them at work, what does it do to their own creative spirit, the spirit that spends all its time locked up at work?
It’s even more disheartening when you consider how much women like men who’re ‘good with their hands’!
Lots of professional men I know refuse to fix or repair things saying, ‘why do it yourself when you can pay a man to do it for you?’. Well, there’s everything right about that. But that’s not what I’m talking about. (Even while it might make a guy feel great to fix something tangible like his grandpa would have done.)
What did you like doing when you were little? Do that again. Yes, I really am including Airfix kits. What did your dad, granddad, uncle or other man in your life show you how to make? Have a go now. Remember, reconnect, recreate.
An ex-boyfriend of mine, a supremely creative person who inexplicably has his own successful accountancy business, had to be coerced to walk into a model shop at age 40 to buy his heart’s desire, an Airfix airplane kit.
He was embarrassed. I mean WTF is going on with that? Why? I can’t see Tim Burton thinking twice about nipping into a model shop and spending days gluing bits of plastic together to create a replica if he fancied it.
I suspect the men who’ve made and created empires like Richard Branson and the Amazon dude also have hobbies that involve making other things manifest with their own hands. I am sure the physical manifestation of a toy airplane, a wooden birdhouse, a metal coat hook, lollipop stick cabin or whatever, actively helps men create business success.
Etsy dominated by women? Men without tools? Why? What is going on?
Men need hobbies. Someone start a movement.
POST SCRIPT: 16.04.20 I sent a Tweet out asking some lovely men whose opinions I value to comment on this post – Leo Babauta, Jonathan Mead, Charlie Gilkey, Jonathan Fields, Tim Ferriss, Glen Allsopp, Chris Guillebeau, Alain de Botton. Imagine my utter delight that two of them noticed my request and responded below. Click ‘comments’ to see.