Somehow the hobby of scrapbooking didn’t occur to me as a prime place to examine social constructions of masculinity. I don’t even remember how I stumbled upon this topic, but it makes sense — it’s a traditionally female-dominated practice (largely because women were apparently supposed to scrapbook in all their “free time” while staying home with the kids which, having done my stint as a stay-at-home mom, I’ve never really understood). And the subjects of scrapbook pages and greeting cards are sometimes male, raising all sorts of interesting questions about how to create “manly” decorative schemes.
In January, Lili’s Little Fairies sponsored a greeting card making challenge called “Oh Boy” — the goal was to use a Lily of the Valley stamp to make a “masculine creation” like this sample:
You can check out more ideas and the 87 entries here. Many commenters noted how challenging it was to design a “masculine” card, or how hard they found it to make a card for a boy.
There is a whole blog devoted to handmade cards for men, with weekly challenges like “Cheeky Chappies” and “The Great Outdoors.”
It’s interesting to browse the samples and entries with an eye for not only the themes considered “manly” (fishing, vehicles, rock music, pirates, hot women, gambling, etc.), but also to the colors and layouts chosen to convey masculinity.
A Scrapbooking 101 article addresses both stereotypes of masculinity and colors and layouts in “Creating Masculine Scrapbook Pages.” Some interesting thoughts:
The standard solution when you want to create a masculine page has been to fall back on male “icons” such as footballs, baseballs and cars, but this can be difficult (and misleading!) if your subject isn’t interested in any of those things. Instead of using these “traditional” male images I like to create masculine themed pages based around color, pattern, and texture. Pages using earth tones and rich blues and greens are a great place to start when creating masculine pages. I also like to use masculine patterns such as plaid, narrow stripes, and argyle.
She advises “girly” elements like ribbon can be used if tied in “more masculine looking” knots rather than bows. Flowers should be in masculine colors (like dark blue or rust) rather than feminine colors (such as pink). Having just written about the toll living up to society’s standards of masculinity takes on men, perhaps I’m reading too much into this advice: “A simple way to add a masculine touch to a page is distressing.” (She’s referring to creating a distressed look by sanding the paper, but it’s evocative to wonder if masculine = distressed.)
Debbie Schlussel thinks the idea of men scrapbooking themselves is pretty distressing. Her 2007 blog post “Girlie-Man Nation” describes the scrap-booking industry’s attempts to interest men in the hobby as a deliberate and aggressive attempt to “get men to become more sensitive, wimpy, and girly.” Men who scrapbook are “girlie-manish” and “really not a man.” Her last sentence sums up her view: “Men and scrapbooking. Al-Qaeda and the rest of the world are training their men to destroy us and we’re training our men to . . . be women.”
While one male scrapbooking fan argues that men should be naturals for scrapbooking because they often take vacation photos, love to relive their pasts, and often enjoy collecting things, the fact that an absurdist theater group called itself The Men’s Scrapbooking Club indicates it’s not likely to go mainstream any time soon.