Jun 21, 2012

the rug has been pulled out

I really respect and adore the Yarn Harlot. I enjoy reading her blog and books, I think she is intelligent, witty, insightful and a damn fine knitter. However, her response to the ravelympics vs. Olympics dramalama left me fuming.

I agree with her on most points, and respect the points I don’t necessarily agree with. I recognize the reason and the rationality of her thoughts. I think the tone is a little patronizing (the deep breaths were pretty unneccessary), but whatever. So what on earth could I be pissed about? It took me the whole drive home from work to figure out what it was: she missed the point.

Why are we so very angry at the USOC? It really boils down to this paragraph:

“We believe using the name “Ravelympics” for a competition that involves an afhan marathon, scarf hockey and sweater triathlon, among others, tends to denigrate the true nature of the Olympic Games. In a sense, it is disrespectful to our country’s finest athletes and fails to recognize or appreciate their hard work.”

I don’t think any knitter truly believes that the USOC or athletes are offended or feel disrespected by our knitting or even our event. I also don't believe that knitters think that Ravelympics is equal to the Olympics in prestige. What I do think is that this paragraph expresses what many ravelers perceive non-knitters think about how we spend our time. (Note that I say ravelers and not knitters. I'm talking about the people who spend a good deal of time on the internet, in an online community about fiber arts.) From the chuckles, head shakes and little quips and jokes of our significant others/friends/family, to the total inability of non-knitters to understand what it is we do on Ravelry, to our own insecurities that people look at the time and passion we put into a knitting website and think we are being silly, many ravelers are convinced the outside world thinks our doings on Ravelry are a waste of time, or at the very least not a worthwhile endeavor.

It’s never nice to have something really meaningful to you, something you are passionate about and spend quite a bit of time and energy on treated like a “silly little hobby.” Within Ravelry, we don’t have to defend our choices. We don’t have to explain how it’s “not just a website.” We don’t have to spell out what a KAL is, why we participate and what it means to us to be part of a community (online). We don’t have to pretend that we care less than we really do. It is a safe place, a haven. We don't have to defend the joy and meaning we get out of an online knitting community. Sometimes, though, we have to interact with non-knitters and/or non-ravelers. It is then that stereotypes of crafting, “women’s activities,” knitting, social networks, online forums and online communities chip away at our confidence in the worthiness of the time and energy we spend on Ravelry. And this is where the USOC form-letter C&D comes in.

The paragraph above can be translated to read: “Look, the Olympics is a serious event filled with serious athletes. Your little game is silly and probably fun, but absolutely not serious. In fact, it is so silly, that you are essentially mocking the serious Olympics. The time and energy the athletes put in to the Olympics is important. The time and energy you put into Ravelympics is not.” Regardless of whether or not the Olympics actually are more serious than Ravelympics, what the USOC is saying is exactly what we perceive the rest of the world to be saying (and what we may have internalized): the way you spend your time, energy and passion is silly and unimportant; there are better things to do with your time and energy; grow up.

The USOC gave us an opportunity to tell the world “NO. This is NOT OK. You need to understand that Ravelry and what we do there is important to us. It is worthwhile and meaningful in our lives, and not to be insulted or put down.” The USOC provided a platform. It provided a legitimate, public and non-knitting forum for us to band together (strength in numbers) and face our insecurities to attempt to redefine how non-knitters see us. It is not about the USOC; it is a defense of our priorities.

So Yarn Harlot, in providing the reasonable response and telling us that we've gone batshit crazy and to take deep breaths, has essentially told us that our response to is childish and silly. At least, that’s the way she portrays us, and that’s the way she talks to us. It takes a special kind of arrogance to treat us and our insecurities that way; one usually reserved for 1950s husbands and head cheerleaders. She has patted us on the head and told us "ok, you've had your tantrum, now see reason." In doing so, she has shamed us and made us feel like silly children (in a similar way that we perceive non-knitters to treat us), and has essentially become part of the problem by enforcing our insecurities.

Yarn Harlot, in attempting to get us to put down our pitchforks, you have essentially told us to sit down, be quiet, go back to our safe place and to leave interactions with the outside world to the adults. I don't think that this is at all what you intended, but it kind of smarts.

I realized this morning that there has been another time that I have felt similarly, and actually the "finally a level-headed response!" or "finally the voice of reason" adorations in comments and tweets about Yarn Harlot's blog post are making me feel this much more than the post itself: Has this ever happened to you? Your boyfriend/husband (or girlfriend/wife, but I've read studies that men are far more likely to treat women this way than vice versa) does something to upset you. You get upset, and you voice that you are angry. You get the response of "you're really acting irrational right now" or "you're being overly sensitive" or some other awesome sentence that essentially says that your feelings are not legitimate, but are just a symptom of being a typical, irrational, overly-sensitive, hysterical *gasp* WOMAN. THAT'S how I feel.

Regardless, saying or implying that people who have been expressing their hurt/angry feelings are being irrational, crazy or hysterical is not keeping it classy. (and again, this has way more to do with the comments on Yarn Harlot's post than her post, although there is a bit of that in there as well)

Apology. Look it up.

So, the USOC has issued an "apology" - read it here - for The Letter. Not exactly what I'd call a big fucking apology. More of an "oooh, sorry you're upset honey, would it make you feel better to knit me something?"

My favorite part:

"To show our support of the Ravelry community, we would welcome any handmade items that you would like to create to travel with, and motivate, our team at the 2012 Games."

You support us by allowing us to create and send you handmade items?! Your apology and show of support consists of ASKING FOR FREE SHIT?! Are you fucking high?!

My second favorite part: the claim that the C&D is "standard-form." Either they are lying (which makes the most sense to me, given that the rather specific details regarding Ravelympics and the rather specific insult of us denigrating the games and disrespecting the athletes) which makes them patronizing, lying piles of shit, or they are telling the truth, and are actually that arrogant and stupid to use such an incredibly poorly-worded and offensive "standard-form C&D." I'm not really sure which is worse.

Third favorite part: "We embrace hand-crafted American goods..." which equates to "We don't hate knitters, seriously, some of our best friends are crafters!"

Needless to say, I'm still waiting for my big fucking apology. Boycott continues.

Jun 20, 2012

You done pissed off the knitters

If you have not heard, the US Olympic Committee thinks knitters (or at least those participating in Ravelympics) are scum. Here is my response (ok, my initial response was to fly off the handle on twitter, but this is my measured response):

Dear US Olympic Committee

I am a knitter. I am a participant and team captain in Ravelympics. I am also a huge fan of the Olympics. I look forward to both the Summer and Winter Games with eager anticipation, and I watch as much of the games as I possibly can (and nowadays DVR the parts I can’t, to be enjoyed later). I cry at the opening and closing ceremonies, not to mention countless medal ceremonies in between. I scare the bejeezus out of my cats by jumping up and down and cheering athletes on rather loudly. Safe to say, I love the Olympics and what it stands for. Your recent cease and desist letter to Ravelry makes me question your love for these games though.

I’ll be honest, I have been questioning your commitment to the principles and ideals of the games for a while now. Every time I see a McDonald’s or Coke commercial showing athletes eating and drinking the shit that is directly linked to our national obesity crisis, I have to question whether perhaps you as a committee supporting our athletes care more about the money than about the message you are sending. Still, it wasn’t until this C&D letter that I realized that my suspicions were true.

Beyond the point that 1. Ravelympics does not attempt to compete with the Olympics and 2. Ravelympics does not seek to profit from the Olympics, there is this:

“We believe using the name “Ravelympics” for a competition that involves an afghan marathon, scarf hockey and sweater triathlon, among others, tends to denigrate the true nature of the Olympic Games. In a sense, it is disrespectful to our country’s finest athletes and fails to recognize or appreciate their hard work.”

Let me back up.

I knit whenever I watch TV, from football games to movies to Judge Judy reruns. I cannot just sit and watch TV. So I will be knitting to the Olympics no matter what. As far as I can tell, simply watching and cheering on the athletes, while I knit, is pretty damned respectful, not to mention appreciative of their work. I certainly don’t need to be sitting on my hands to respect their work and achievements. Ravelympics, in case you weren’t aware (which you clearly are not), was set up by knitters for knitters to take up the gauntlet thrown down by our athletes. I don’t run, swim, cycle, jump, hurdle or ride. I knit. Knitting is my passion and my craft. So when I see someone giving it their all, training, learning, pushing themselves, challenging themselves, I feel pretty damned inspired to do the same. But instead of going out and killing myself trying to run a marathon, I learn a new technique, I push myself to finish a languishing project, I knit a fucking sweater. And I do it while watching the Olympics. I do it with thousands upon thousands of other knitters, who are also challenging themselves in the Olympic spirit. I team together with knitters from other walks of life, other countries, other skill levels, and other life experiences. I learn from them as they learn from me, and together, we accomplish our individual and group goals, while congratulating each other on our respective country’s accomplishments in the Olympic Games and sharing the experience of watching, supporting and celebrating this international event.

What exactly is it about this that is disrespectful to the athletes and/or denigrates the Games? Seriously, I would like an answer to that question. The way I and all the other knitters see it, we are doing nothing but celebrating the Games, the athletes, and the spirit behind it all. Another question: how is sitting on the couch, gorging yourself with the poison from McDonald’s and Coca Cola elevating the Games and respecting the athletes? At the very least, that is the message you are sending.

So now that you have caused me to lose faith not only in the US Olympic Committee, but in the country as well, here is what I am going to do:

1.     Watch the Olympic Games on Canadian TV (I am blessed to be able to do this, living where I do)
2.     Cheer for Germany. As a dual-citizen, I get to pick either or both, and right now, I’m picking the country that doesn’t disrespect my craft and the heritage and history behind it
3.     Boycott all of your sponsors.
4.     Knit my damn heart out during the Olympics.

So what are you going to do? The copyright crap aside (how petty can you really be?), you owe all knitters and crocheters out there a pretty fucking huge apology. It’s one thing to send a C&D letter, a whole other thing to be mean, disrespectful and, well, douchey to an entire subgroup of crafters. The apology might not be enough.



Jun 10, 2012

the garden scores again

I found a big ol' lavender bush in my garden! I love how this place doesn't cease to offer up delightful surprises :)

I was too lazy to find a better place to hang it, so it's hanging off the knob on the lid of my sock yarn leftovers jar. Also too lazy to get out the real camera. I'm sensing a trend.... must be time to get my drink on at Sandhill Cranes Winery!

Jun 7, 2012

the one where knitters win the war

In attempt to not be extremely crabby when I get to work after my long commute, I have employed two strategies: 1. My ginormous Biggby coffee mug and 2. listening to knitting podcasts. I feel like I may be the last person in the world to jump on the podcast bandwagon, but I’m used to that feeling. I was late to the Harry Potter party, late to the Buffy bash, late to the wollmeise wooly love fest, late to just about anything that I am totally obsessed with. Clearly, I could never be a hipster, as can only ever say “oh, I was a fan after ___ got popular.” Side note: hipsters seem to pride themselves on being too hip to follow the sheep-like crowds (they are “independent thinkers”), and yet are awfully conformist within their own “non-conformist” group. Sorry hipsters, but anytime you have a group that all wears the same clothes, likes the same music, reads the same literature, etc., you have a flock of sheep (and since when was it bad to be sheep? sheep are awesome! they’re cute and they give us wool!). So don’t pretend you’re all authentic, non-mainstream and above the masses, for you resemble Gleeks more than you do Jack Kerouac.

Anyway, where was I before my rambling about hipsters…? Ah yes, podcasts! I was a little skeptical about knitting podcasts, since there is a rather pronounced visual element to knitting (not to mention tactile importance).  Sometimes not being able to see what is going on is a little frustrating, but I have fallen in love with several podcasts nonetheless!

I’ve been listening to the Knitmore Girls, which is thoroughly charming (and having a German mother myself makes it that much more endearing), CaithnessCraftCollective, which is getting me all amped up about our upcoming family trip to Scotland, and the Savvy Girls Podcast, which often has me in hysterical laughter. When I heard Melanie of the latter talk about her knitting CD, I just had to look it up on iTunes. It is amazing! The songs are all WWI-era songs about knitting for the war effort. Some are sweet, some are a little sad, and some are downright hilarious (in particular the one about the husband whose pants keep falling down because his wife/daughter are too busy knitting for soldiers to sew a button back on!). Melanie has talked about the research that went into this collection, by herself and others, which just makes me even more smitten with this album. I work in the archives field, so it is really rewarding to see someone use materials from archives for something SO FUCKING COOL (sorry genealogists, your work is interesting and all, but a CD of wartime knitting songs is an infinitely more marvelous use of archival research).

So go listen to the podcasts above (those four of you who aren’t already…), buy Melanie’s album ("Knitting All The Day" by Melanie Gall, available on iTunes!), and recommend more podcasts to me. Please. It’s a long drive, and I haven’t yet mastered knitting while driving…