Why don’t men ‘do’ scrapbooking?’

Why is it that nearly all scrapbook enthusiasts are women? It’s not as if we don’t like taking photographs, is it? If you’re on holiday and someone barges into you while they’re trying to line up a family shot, it’s not going to be Mum standing there apologetically!

We also love collecting things, though that’s more to do with not wanting to throw stuff away. It’s not that we’re not in touch with our past either. You show me a guy who’s never played with any of his son’s toys. You don’t see many women queuing up to relive their greatest ‘Barbie’ moments, do you? So what have guys got against scrapbooking?

It’s certainly nothing to do with not liking to decorate things. The western world particularly is blighted by men who insist on decorating – when they really ought to get a professional round to do it properly. No, this whole ‘female domination’ of scrapbooking must be rooted somewhere else. The plot thickens!

As an avid male scrapbooker, I am perfectly happy to be in this minority. I almost feel as if I’ve discovered my own recreational ‘oil well’ and I want to keep it to myself so other guys don’t start drilling. (These would be the same guys that like decorating).

At school, I remember being one of many boys who owned scrapbooks. We’d fill them with newspaper cuttings of great sporting moments – (which team you followed had a huge bearing on the number of ‘great sporting moments’ available). We didn’t ‘do’ acid and lignin-free, that’s for sure. If we’d known about it though, we’d still have preferred our acid-filled paper and lignin-enhanced adhesives. The idea of the scrapbook disintegrating in the future would have been quite exciting, a bit like ‘Mission Impossible’ – ‘Warning: this scrapbook will disintegrate in 20 years.’

These days scrapbooking is of course a global industry. I still get incredulous chuckles from some people when I say that. A couple of years ago I’d have been chuckling with the best of them. But back then I didn’t realise how much fun it would be to put photographs on a page and then blend papers and embellishments around them. In particular, when I made my first heritage scrapbook layout it occurred to me that I was creating a bridge between my ancestors and descendants – a very gratifying thought.

Since becoming interested in scrapbooking I’ve found that ordinary photograph albums just don’t do it for me any more. How many of us have sat patiently whilst a well-meaning relative guides us through pages and pages of tedious photos when all we want to do is throw 80% of them in the bin and make scintillating layouts with the other 20? I think a photo album is rather like reading the lyrics of a song. A scrapbook page layout is turning the music on too.

So when did all this creative memory scrapbooking thing start? The most popular answer would probably be from Marielen Christensen and her family in Utah, who presented a display of 50 family albums at the 1980 World Conference of Records in Utah. 50 albums? I feel for the poor guy who had to sit through an explanation of who the people in all the photographs were. The first ever scrapbook store as we know it was opened in 1981, the ‘Annex’ in Spanish Fork, Utah. That must have been a leap of faith – you’re selling what? Even the women would have asked that. The guys are probably still asking that today.

One crucial reason why guys don’t normally scrap (other than in strictly ‘combat’ terms) is that scrapbooking isn’t nearly competitive enough. When I go to my local crop, (I’m so the only guy – newcomers think I’m there waiting for my wife), the women are always encouraging me by saying my pages are ‘looking good’. No one tries to sabotage my layouts with crinkly scissors, or apply adhesive to my chair when I’m using the lavatory. I’m even offered cups of coffee, and get asked about my kids. How is the average guy supposed to cope with that sort of pressure? Also, when you go to replenish your cardstock stash and some lady is about to take the last piece of Bazzill Basics ‘Apple Green’, they don’t even allow ‘bodychecking.’ No – it’s just not an environment that guys are used to.

Another possible explanation of why we men are predominantly shying away from the acid-free world is that thousands of women have become so good at making layouts, that were we to take up this hobby belatedly, there’s every chance we’d end up not being the expert, and consequently have to seek advice rather than offer it. One of the many great things about women, is that they can usually take advice without their ego being dented. We’re not so great at that. ‘I’ll get us there. I don’t need to ask that guy for directions!’ So, as for being the scrapbook ‘newbie’ in the house, well, what self-respecting guy would bring that on himself?

Maybe we needn’t concern ourselves. There are probably more pressing issues than why men are not scrapbooking in great numbers. I’m still going to sit with my little stash, being relentlessly encouraged by benign female onlookers. If I remain the only guy there for the foreseeable future, that’s fine. I’ll happily go on being that quirky token male, and if the only downside is the continued outlawing of ‘bodychecking’ at crops, then it’s a small price to pay.

About the Author

By Alun Maxwell. Alun Maxwell is author of www.themed-scrapbook-idea.com, a site containing scrap tips, observations and many original layouts – from a heritage scrapbook layout to a Liverpool page. There is also a monthly newsletter, ‘scraptalkinguy’, and an ‘alternative’ history of how scrapbooking began.

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