In praise of those who do not make

Almost all the artifacts that we value as a society were made by or at the the order of men. But behind every one is an invisible infrastructure of labour—primarily caregiving, in its various aspects—that is mostly performed by women. The cultural primacy of making, especially in tech culture—that it is intrinsically superior to not-making, to repair, analysis, and especially caregiving—is informed by the gendered history of who made things, and in particular, who made things that were shared with the world, not merely for hearth and home.

Code is ‘making’ because we’ve figured out how to package it up into discrete units and sell it, and because it is widely perceived to be done by men.

When new products are made, we hear about exciting technological innovation, which are widely seen as worth paying (more) for. In contrast, policy and public discourse around caregiving—besides education, healthcare comes immediately to mind—are rarely about paying more to do better, and are instead mostly about figuring out ways to lower the cost.

The appropriate metaphor for education, as Ursula Franklin has pointed out, is a garden, not the production line… Instead of calling myself a maker, I’m proud to stand with the caregivers, the educators, those that analyse and characterize and critique, everyone who fixes things and all the other people who do valuable work with and for others, that doesn’t result in something you can put in a box and sell.

– Exerpted from Metafoundry 15: Scribbled Leatherjackets by Deb Chachra.