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)


Sans said...

Good post. Thank you for putting into words what the Yarn Harlot's blog post made me feel.

Lisa K said...

I completely disagree. What so many knitters are forgetting is that the Olympics has both the right and the obligation to defend its trademark. Ravelry is a business despite how much as we all love it as a community and they sell products - some that have infringed on the Olympic name and symbol. While the USOC may have been patronizing in their tone (and knitters can be angry and respond in kind to this) they have indeed apologized for this. Yarn Harlot didn't defend the USOC for their language, only for their intent in defending their trademark. I don't think that Yarn Harlot was arrogant. Nor do I agree that she is portraying our passion as arrogant and silly. I feel like you're doing a great disservice to knitters by making this fight about her response to the situation rather than to the situation between Ravelry and the USOC itself.

nelago said...

As I said in this post, I agree with Yarn Harlot's reasoning and opinion on the matter, and as such I agree with what you are saying about the Olympics defending the trademark. It was this agreement and understanding that she made a valid and level-headed point(s) that had me confused about my own annoyance at reading it. I mean, how could I be pissed about something I agreed with?! And that is where I started to realize that there is something much deeper at play here than just the USOC vs. Ravelry.

To many of us who use Ravelry as an extension of our hobby (not to sell patterns, part of our business, etc.), it is difficult to push past stereotypes in getting others to understand why and that it is meaningful to us. It's not even about the knitting, it's that we're talking, online, at length, in geeky ways about knitting. We see/feel/hear/imagine the mockery, and it gets to us, as Ravelry IS meaningful to us. And that is what I see at the heart of the brouhaha on twitter/facebook today; challenging what we see as the outside perception of ravelers.

So yeah, having our queen bee pull us back to reality, where these perceptions are still in play, is a blow to the gut. I have trouble believing that Yarn Harlot has these same insecurities, as her involvement in Ravelry and the online knitting community is far more 'legitimate' by non-raveler standards. Which is great, and admirable, and something to be jealous of, for sure! As such, I do believe that she maybe doesn't "get" our insecurities, and why having a public, non-ravelry forum to attack them is important to some (obviously not all).

Anonymous said...

Well said. This is exactly how I felt reading the original post by the Yarn Harlot herself, even though I, too, agreed with her reasoning.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Very well said!

Anonymous said...

We are not entitled to live in a world where everyone understands and supports our love for crafting. Even the yarn harlot may need to draw a line sometimes.

KT said...

I didn't feel that way reading the yarn harlot post. I was actually glad to hear someone speaking calm and reasonably on the subject. Yes, the word choice in the original letter hurt knitters (and crochers?) feelings but the response from said people with hurt feelings was for the most part extremely emotional and factually inaccurate.

This post is also reasonable thankfully but I disagree that yarn harlots post was patronising. It was written in a measured way in her usual writing style. And unlike many of the emotional outbursts it was based on the facts currently available.

Hopefully we will all see that the biggest problem has been a lack of understanding about what the other side does (in both directions) and perhaps we can all learn more about each other, educating others about what knitting means to us in a rational way (boycotts mentioned are useless to me here, I'm uk and we have our own Olympic monster to deal with) and perhaps we can be open to learning about the athletes too and what is important to them.

Rozaroni said...

The Yarn Harlot NEVER never said it wasn't reasonable to be upset. She said it was unreasonable to pull the stunts that the pissed off knitters are doing because they are upset.

Anonymous said...

If people are so concerned about the way knitters are perceived they've just made it about a thousand times worse with the witch hunt they just performed. Gathering like an unruly mob and personally attacking the law clerk who drafted the letter? Shrieking on the US Olympic Team facebook page about how crappy sports are in comparison to knitting? Completely disregarding the fact that the USOC funds athletes whose sports are completely bankrupt in retaliation for a perceived slight?

Yeah people are GREAT ambassadors for this so-called passion of their craft. Go ahead and blame the Yarn Harlot for making you feel bad, though. That makes total sense.

Anonymous said...

Please consider changing your font and color scheme.

Kristi D said...

Thank you so much for putting into words how I felt while reading Yarn Harlot's post.

I agree 100% with the USOC about their need to protect their copyright in the US of the rings and the use of the word Olympic in conjunction with them. However, if a huge corporation's (and make no mistake, they ARE a corporation) boilerplate Cease and Desist letter uses words like "denigrate" to all businesses/entities that they deal with, people are going to be angry. You don't go into an initial argument and start your side of things by comparing your opponent to a Nazi. That is not the way to make people look at you and say "That's totally reasonable and I don't have a problem with your demands." Instead, you're going to get people angry, get their hackles up, and then things are said and done in the heat of the moment.

Yes, I posted on the US Olympic's Facebook page that the language used was unacceptable and that an apology needed to be issued. After the first "apology", I reiterated that what was issued was nothing more than a slap in the face. After the second apology was issued, I went back to their page and accepted it, which was the gracious thing to do.

I agree whole-heartedly that the Yarn Harlot's blog post came across to me as very condescending and "There, there. You've had your tizzy. Now, let the grown-ups explain why you were wrong." And I also didn't understand why that post, after I'd already calmed down, angered me all over again.

I was unaware that some people had harassed the poor intern who had signed the letter. I was not one of them, and I agree that they were wrong and should apologize to that poor young man. He was just doing what he felt was right and didn't deserve the hounds being loosed upon him.

However, any ire that people feel aimed toward the USOC and the language and attitude they've displayed toward the American public over the past 20+ years is very well deserved. The Olympics is supposed to be about finding common ground with people from other countries and promoting goodwill and peace. They've done nothing of the sort over my lifetime and instead have drawn more and more anger and outrage from pretty much everyone I know in real life.

It's unfortunate that some people took this to an extreme, but you find that with any large group of people. Knitters are no exception. Hopefully this will cause some smaller groups who don't have the same numbers as Ravelry does to be able to stand up and say "They did this to us, too! It's a trend that needs to be stopped!" Sometimes it takes a huge outcry like this to make a change. I'm hoping this is the start of a better relationship between Americans and the USOC.

Anonymous said...

Ms. McPhee attempted to summarize an respond to a series of rants on several sites relating to the C&D letter. One poor word choice certainly changed the tone of that letter and, therefore, responses to it. Just the sort of error I would expect an overzealous and unseasonsed intern to make. Yarn artists did go a bit off the deep end about it, which hardly comes off as mature. So a well-respected author with a so-called "bully pulpit" attempted to cast bread upon the waters. Ms. McPhee seems to have hit the mark for the majority of us. It's unfortunate that you feel the way you do, but no one "made" you have those feelings. When a non-knitter (as I once was) reads Yarn Harlot, s/he sees how lightly a passionate person can tread upon the Earth while remaining true to the craft. As far as other bloggers (??) -- not so much.

Pinneguri said...

Sorry for my broken English, being Norwegian and passionate might influence my language ;)

Reading the Yarn Harlot post I am reminded that the world is divided amongst those who know and those who act, and somehow that is also a generation gap. Like in the Middle East nowadays. I don't mean to imply this feeble little thing is a revolution like in the Middle East, but more a shadow: The young wants change and acts enthusiastic, the older ones (?) want thing as they are. The young sees that it is wrong that everything can be bought and sold, down to people's souls, the old ones consider that the birth right of the same people.

And before anyone tells me about using old to demean people: Old is a state of mind, not an age!

What I see is a lot of old people follow Yarn Harlot. Too bad. For her too, I would guess.

And of course, all the stuff you said I totally agree with: This has nothing (well, just a little ;p) to do with a cooperative mind set where everything is bought and sold, pictures, design, and worst of all, two words linked together, it is the tone from the people that think they are better than I am just because they have bought that right.

I love knitters. That's all there is to it.

anna said...

What you say about the paragraph explains also why the first apology of the committee made knitters even more angry.
"we're sorry and we would love to bring your handmades with us to the Games" is just repeating their view on the value of our crafts and skills and time. And purposes and queues.

Your take of the Yarnharlots post is interesting. I'll think about it, it may explain why it was not inviting to read nor brought any new insights. Thanks :)
It did function well as a catalysator though, I feel. O no, perhaps because of tapping into that undercurrent... I'll think about that too. Thanks (2)

harperis said...

This is a wonderful post.

As background, I am an attorney and I instantly understood the trademark issues, including the fact that the word "denigrate" comes directly from law relating to claims of trademark infringement and unfair competition and that the use of it in the USOC letter was an attempt to state an element of their legal claim rather than some sort of specifically targeted insult. That said, as an attorney, I also have particular opinions about how one should handle legal disputes, and I felt that the USOC letter was poorly done and not crafted in a way that would invoke a cooperative response. So, because of my background, I was not particularly incensed. I was mostly just rolling my eyes. But I understood and sympathized with the general outrage, even if I wasn't motivated to really participate in it. (I posted an article on my Facebook page and mentioned that I sympathized with trademark protection, but thought it had been poorly done, and pretty much left it at that, besides also posting a link to the apologies (from the USOC and also the one from the Magpie Knitter, just because that was awesome).)

Yet, despite my laid back, "above the fray" attitude, I was actually a bit offended by the Yarn Harlot's post--personally offended--even though technically she wasn't even really talking to me. As you say in your post, I pretty much agreed with her. Heck, she was pretty accurately describing my own response to the situation. It was just so patronizing. And, I agree, the comments of "O lawdy thank you, O great voice of sanity" were adding to my annoyance. However, I don't usually follow the Yarn Harlot. I have, of course, heard of her, but that was the only post from her that I've read. Therefore, I didn't feel compelled to comment on it because I have no idea what her normal tone is, and also, never having read her before, I wasn't really looking to her for insight. I just saw a link to her post and clicked on it because i was curious about what she had to say. She said it--I wasn't excited about it, but clearly she was articulating what several others were feeling and hadn't voiced, so cool beans, I guess.

Now, reading your post here, I get it. I get why the USOC letter was unsettling despite everything I know, why the Yarn Harlot's post was annoying, even though it was correct in essence, why, even as I was merely rolling my eyes, I was also comforting myself with the thought that there are people in my life that get it--that understand how important the fiber arts are to me and how much work and love and heart and soul I put into them, without really understanding why I needed to comfort myself.

So thank you. Thank you for articulating this--I hadn't yet gotten there myself (assuming I would have gotten there at all). You've put this situation (and issues way beyond it) into a perspective that I can truly understand and move on with.

maryskid said...

Oh NO, you dare to disagree with Stephanie. I disagreed to and left my comments with my name (not the anonymous posts you see here). Now you will be inundated with people who think you are being mean to her while they defend her inappropriate analogy between the elite athletes who are really much much better than anyone else on the planet than artists or craftspersons, or, well, anyone. It's never been about the cease and desist/trademark thing and anyone who is listening knows it, it's about the dig at the crazy ass knitters who don't have a clue about what really worthy people do with their time. You know what I say? True, heartfelt dissent is good, it needs to be fostered and when well grounded, considered. You go girl!