A Good Yarn

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Clean Up

First, I finished up the toddler socks from my 2 Socks on 2 Circular Needles class:

You can clearly see where I switched from 2s to 3s above the heel. I'll probably just donate these to Children in Common or something like that with a lot of different kids, so hopefully there will be some kid with long skinny feet who'll be excited to finally have some warm socks that really fit.

Knitting and Feminism

I consider myself a feminist and I'm very interested in the way some feminists view crafting and mothering and other "traditional" female pursuits. For instance, I know a lot of feminists hate Martha Stewart, but I love her. Of course, she's easy to view as a role model just as a businesswoman who built a very strong business almost single-handedly. She didn't inherit a great deal of wealth and prestige. I'm leaving aside the alleged insider trading and lying to the SEC and why Martha was so strongly pursued while male CEOs get a free pass. Well, mostly leaving that aside.

I think the problem a lot of feminists have with Martha is that she built her business empire on crafting and cooking and homekeeping. I think some people view that as an attempt to force women into a traditional, powerless role. That if you enjoy throwing parties, knitting, quilting, decorating, etc. you will be busy around the home and won't bother to worry your pretty little head about politics and the plight of the poor or disenfranchised or equal pay for equal work, etc.

I have a different take on it though. I think Martha helped increase the value of traditional female pursuits. It seems like women are going to cook and do crafts and decorate their homes, Martha or no Martha. But Martha made people realize that this wasn't just fluff, it had real value. Women weren't wasting their time, they were making a valuable contribution to society and to their families. And she made it profitable, which is a language I think all Americans speak.

A more particular debate has ensured in the knitting world. There have been a number of articles written from a feminist perspective calling for our sisters to put down the needles and see knitting as an anti-feminist activity. Again, I think part of the backlash is the fear that women who are busy knitting, won't be busy engaging in the world. There's also the notion that if you knit, you are embracing the traditional role of a woman as limited to the home - housewife and mother. Obviously, I don't see things that way. I came across it again this week when I was reading Katha Pollitt's essay about the life and death of Andrea Dworkin. I love Katha Pollitt and usually agree with her. But I was a little taken aback by her statement:

"These days, feminism is all sexy uplift, a cross between a workout and a makeover. Go for it, girls--breast implants, botox, face-lifts, corsets, knitting, boxing, prostitution."

Wow. I know what she means and I know where she's coming from. A lot of knitters these days are the post-feminist (or Third Wave Feminist as I think they prefer to be called) Stitch N Bitch 20-something women. And she's right, a lot of feminists embrace their sexuality and celebrate things that feminists of the 70s would abhor - like the mudflap girl tank in one of the SNB books.

So, as a knitter (and scrapbooker and beader and frequent watcher of decorating television shows and sometimes aspiring gourmet chef), do I fall into that group? Am I sacrificing my core beliefs? I know that I haven't embraced a traditional female role. I haven't turned my back on the world at large - I continue to be active politically and do my part to make the world a better place beyond just those in my direct sphere. I still insist on using gender neutral language and being called "Ms." I knit gender-neutral clothes for babies (unless specifically requested otherwise) and refuse to buy Barbies for my niece (although I broke down and bought her a Bratz, which is probably just as bad a role model for little girls in a different way).

Maybe none of that matters and it's all just words. Maybe all that really matters is that I find peace and relaxation in my own life through knitting. That I'm able to become a part of a community instead of sticking to my own little world by knitting with others and blogging. And that I continue to fight for the rights of other women - to obtain birth control regardless of their pharmacists' personal beliefs, to obtain safe abortions when necessary, to have a place to live, food to eat and good health care and for their children to live in a safe and nurturing world where every child is valued from birth until death.