Unraveling: Knitting and Politics
When I woke up this morning, I did not expect my knitting pattern website to be embroiled in politics. Yet that is what has happened, as Ravelry, the “Facebook of knitting” as the Washington Post commented, has banned Trump supporting post. Yes, a knitting website feels that it needs to take a political stance against the current President of the United States, and is getting backlash for it. This is the world in which we live.
I’m honestly not sure how I feel about this. Trump scares and worries me as much as anyone, and I keep thinking that he can’t appal me more, until he does. And yet some have pointed out that to ban a certain viewpoint in the name of inclusivity is fundamentally flawed. They have a point. The problem is, both support for and opposition of Trump are now as much emotional stances as reasoned ones, and any discussion about it almost inevitably descends into complete incivility. This, again, is the world in which we live.
What interests me most about this story is how befuddled people were that a knitting (and crochet) website gave a political response of any kind, much less such a stark one. It speaks to the stereotype of what a knitter is – reclusive and grandmotherly, and certainly not political. Given its associations, knitting would seem to be the ultimate act of conformity and complacency.
It really isn’t. Knitting is subversive in its very nature, because it doesn’t have a structure or limit that to which you must adhere. I’ve often thought that knitting had a lot in common with computer coding, right down to the fact that it is binary (with knit and purl stitches) and the fact that the “pixilation” of the work allows it to be, like an image on a computer screen, anything you want. In an era where mass market production is the norm and we produce so little with our own hands, knitting is a protest, a therapy, and a creative endeavour. (Really, you should try it.)
Should Ravelry have made this decision? They had to, really. In this world and in these debates, there is no sideline, and those who do not wish for their tolerance to be bulldozed need to express that paradoxical “intolerance for intolerance.” The site administators suumed this up by stating that “formal political neutrality is not tenable” in such an environment. As a social and interactive platform, Ravelry was required to pick a side – and given what they do, their side doesn’t surprise me.
Jane Perrella. Teacher, writer. Expert knitter. Enthusiast of medieval swordplay, tea, Shakespeare, and Batman.