My embroideries occasionally pop up as reblogs on my dash, but this is the first time that anyone’s made me look at them from an outsider’s perspective in a way that I would like to discuss and garconniere has pointed out something important that I hadn’t thought of, but wanted to address.
i love this… but i will always have personal issues with how racialized the word “savage” is, and seeing a little arrow…
I stitched these. The “Bless our House and its Heart so Savage” one is a couple years old and while I didn’t intend the arrow to be directly linked with the word “savage” in such a literal way, I’m grateful to you for pointing out how racialized that particular combination is and how literal it actuallyappears … and I’m disappointed that I didn’t think more about that to begin with. So, now I have to do the work of asking myself questions as to why something like that never occured to me and what that says about how I connect words and images in my mind and whether or not other people have seen the same connection and whether or not it bothered them and why no one has asked me about it before this.
I put a heart and an arrow on there because the lyric, to me, has always drawn up thoughts about how things that are supposedly sweet and lovely and “twee” can actually be complicated and bloody and unbearably painful. Love/family/the idealized concept of home/domesticity are constantly compared with images of death and imprisonment and the denial of self in Joanna’s lyrics and this has always interested me. I think her lyrical intent here was to point out that a cross stitched “adage” can never reveal the true dynamics of a home and that families are capable of inflicting incredible pain on each other. At least, that’s the meaning I take from it personally, as it relates to my own life and experiences.
I wanted something that visualized that concept, and for me, at the moment, it was the idea of a heart being struck by an arrow (love and death, joy and pain). The fact that I separated the heart and the arrow was a practical decision so that the final look would be balanced visually and the heart and arrow would form a frame for the lyric, but in doing so I think I lost the connection between the two and ended up creating an offensive tie between Joanna’s lyrical use of “savage” and the image of the arrow. I don’t think Joanna’s use of the word was intended to be racialized, but I think *my* choice made it racialized and that’s unfortunate and uncomfortable for me and requires some real ”checking myself” on my part.
Honestly, I hadn’t thought about it until you brought it up, so thank you. Joanna uses racialized language in some of her other songs and has, in the past, used culturally appropriated images to up her “folksy” factor (a publicity shot where she wears a headress made of wolf or coyote skin and a widely publicized riverside “spiritual” experience that she claims was to find her “spirit animal”) and those have always rubbed me the wrong way. Now that you’ve pointed it out, I regret using that particular image and lyric combination in my embroidery and I’ll definitely be thinking more about it in any future work I do.
thank you so much for taking the time to respond! i didn’t recognize the words as joanna newsome lyrics (twerkinfortheweekend and mccall pointed it out to me though) and you raise some interesting points…
i think intent speaks volumes and your explanation clarifies a lot of the feelings i had about it.
plus, we all know how i feel about “spirit animals.”
(in case you were wondering, dear random reader, this is in about this piece)