Rachel, it definitely comes down to a subjective/objective thing. I'm a lecturer on Ethics or responses to social issues. One thing we teach is that in society there are responses that should be subjective and some which should be objective depending on what we're responding to...
Confusion and anger occur when amongst other factors we mix this up. Art/Craft is a subjective form; objective responses bring out frustration.Thank-you, Lucy Fleur, for sharing this little gem. I'll be sending you the book. For me, wrapping my head around this difference explains so much: what I feel I can say, the origin of so many hurt feelings, and our frustration with issues like defining quilt styles as traditional or modern. I believe that getting to the bottom of this can help our online community to maintain unity, a positive atmosphere and the ability to learn from one another. But I think before we go on to discuss, I'll take a moment to explain what the heck I'm reading into this comment.
As I understand it (confessing now to a deep, abiding love for philosophy - blame it on Dad), subjective statements are those we make about ourselves - how I feel, what I like, what I believe, even what I think about you. Objective statements are intended to be descriptions of truth - the way things really are, accuracy, facts. Some examples from the sewing world...
*I love using white for sashing. OR White is the best color for sashing, hands down!
*To me, quilts patterns with intricate piecing are most fulfilling to make. I love that I can make something so beautiful from little pieces of fabric - even unwanted scraps! OR Quilting is really supposed to be a way to make something useful from scraps.
*I prefer to sew with designer fabrics, though I know they can be expensive. In fact, designer fabrics are what inspired me to learn to sew. OR Why would I put so much effort into a project made with lower quality materials? Designer fabrics are the reasonable choice for any serious sewist.
See the difference? In a normal context, the first set of statements just wouldn't offend anyone. But the second set of statements... If you disagree, you are being told you are wrong. Not just that they have a different opinion, but that your different choice is wrong. But, can art be wrong? Can it? I hope you'll say "no". I've seen art that is vulgar, art that makes no sense to me, but I won't say it's "wrong" - not artistically.
As one commenter noted, "quilts are an extension of the women who make them." My sewing is an expression of what I find beautiful. Feelings and emotions - not facts. Therefore, art can't be wrong (objectively), but it can be something you dislike (subjectively). And while no one would much like you if you ran around telling everyone politely, "I don't care for your art" at every opportunity, I hope one would still have friends if she occasionally said, "this time, your art is not for me." Stating your dislikes politely is not wrong - it's just an opinion. I want to talk another time about why I expect that sharing such opinions is in fact valuable. I'll try not to get distracted by that thought now!
Moving on, what is the big deal about describing quilting styles as modern or traditional? What is the hoopla with the "dumbing down quilting" debate? I wonder if whatever careful language is used to discuss these things, the hurt and negativity might begin in the terminology itself. Doesn't the word "modern" bring to mind "fresh, exciting, better"? Or the word "traditional", doesn't it bring to mind "old, has-been, stuck" or something like that? In another culture, the traditional might be given a position of honor and respect. But, here in the States at least, we lean towards assuming the new is also improved. And I'm not saying we're right, but the underlying assumption may be there regardless. Are we trying to be civil while using somewhat "objective" terms that do us in before we get started? As my friend Miranda pointed out, what would it change things in our minds if "traditional" styles were called "classic" instead?
It's pretty easy to see the parallel with the term "dumbing down quilting." The very word "dumb" is a strong statement that doesn't sound like an opinion as much as a judgement of failure and contempt. Even if the points being made were respectful and fair, the label has an objective leaning I'd say. And so the hurt starts right then and there.
One commenter said, "It's natural to try and put labels on things - it helps us describe them." I so agree. Someone new to quilting sees a style of quilts that excite her. She wants to try them, and she wants to describe them! Or, someone wants to describe herself or what she'd like to do in our community. Perhaps we need new names for these styles; perhaps we don't. But whatever we do, we need to speak about art subjectively, making statements about ourselves. And, we need ears to hear these subjective statements without making the leap of applying them to everyone and to walk confidently along our way, without taking offense.
One of my favorite comments was, "It's fun to talk over things with others that enjoy the same hobby, even if you don't agree. It's an afternoon coffee club with your friends - only long distance. And I can be happy with that I'm doing, and enjoy that others are having fun with what they do. And it can be the same or completely different! That's what friends do, right?"
Yes, that is! And if our community is really a sort of friendship, I think that with some care and grace we can do this too. So let's talk shop as friends, even when we don't all agree. And on that note here are a few questions. Take what you like!
Would it be helpful to replace the term "traditional" with "classic"? Could "modern" benefit from a more neutral name as well?
Although we are each more than any label, how do you describe your sewing or quilting style? Please don't argue with anyone else here. This question is about you.