The Gender Divide in Hobbies?

Hobbies are very personal: some people like sports, others like cooking; some people like making art, others like making music. At Yale, we saw opportunities for many of these activities, and some even counted for course credit –whether as Drama School courses or as college seminars. There was a joke about the Basket Weaving course supposed to be offered at some “cool” and not-so-academic colleges. 

A small survey on the ’75 ListServ found that our hobbies varied from model trains to golf, from crafts and art to hunting. There was a much wider range than I had expected and many of us had hobbies that defied gender-typing. Yay us! A 60-year old male friend of mine volunteers at a senior center, where he has led groups of women doing bead working and scarf knitting projects. I gather these ladies swoon over the sight of the very male guy with the very female crafts.

Today many companies provide space – whether physical or just time – for extra-curricular activities. At my office, people are very energetic. They run marathons, play basketball, speed chess and bike. There have also been  yoga and Judaica workshops. Some are purely male – the chess and basketball, while others are mixed.

A few weeks ago our group of about 80 developers received an invitation to learn how to crochet hearth rugs.  I gather this is a faddish handicraft so I decided to come. Monday night at 6 pm I presented myself in the designated room with the required supplies: crochet hook and yarn. Of all those who had originally accepted the invitation, only two of us showed up. We three women – who had not previously worked together – had a great time. We even talked about additional projects we could do. It was a lot of fun. Various people stuck their heads in to see what we were up to and walked away puzzled. I think they were puzzled because we had brought a very female craft into the male world.

There is a serious gap between gender-typing for hobbies as opposed to professions. Cooking is a women’s thing, unless it is professional: being a chef is a male-dominated profession. Making clothing seems to be the same: women do it as amateurs but the profession is highly male dominated.

Going back to my hearth rug workshop, one of the men told me he really did intend to come but couldn’t make it. Perhaps the stereotypes are breaking down, but slowly, slowly. 


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  • commented 2014-11-13 18:45:16 -0500
    Hobbies are so healthy — they balance out the world of work so instead of sitting and typing endlessly into our keyboards, we make things with our hands — handcrafts like crochet and sewing, certainly, but also gardening, playing music, cooking… When I’m asked (usually on secure websites wanting info to identify me) what my favorite hobby is, I always say reading, though it’s not quite a hobby. But over the years having a lovely garden and creating embroidery have centered me and given me a sense that I have added something nice to the world.