Monday, September 26, 2011

You can knit if you want to

Last night I decided that I would post about how I’m pining to order from a new (to me) yarn retailer. (Well…when I say decided, I mean that my fiancé suggested I write about it, since he’s been subjected to my obsession for a few days now and I think he wants to share the wealth.)

However, when I sat down to write said post, I found myself distracted by something I read about a few days ago. I’d list the original source, but a) I can’t remember where I saw it and b) sadly this topic is ubiquitous enough that you’ve probably already encountered it. Therefore, I will let you draw from your own experience with this ongoing discussion, while I continue with abbreviated preamble.

Apparently some people think that being a knitter makes me a bad feminist. Now, I’m not going to kid myself—there are a lot of things about me that make me a “bad” feminist in other people’s eyes. I like to wear dresses, I cook, I played with doll’s as a kid, I hope to be able to stay home with my children when they’re small, and from time to time I’m not averse to watching a sappy romantic comedy or a period film. The list of “feminine” clichés could go on, but I don’t think either you or I would find it very interesting.

As you can tell from my use of scare quotes, I don’t agree with either of the aforementioned designations. In my opinion, “bad” is subjective and “feminine” is a cultural construct. For the sake of avoiding too much unnecessary chatter, I’m going to focus on the latter. Femininity is not a universal concept—or rather, our Western conception of femininity is not shared wholesale around the world. Some of the most fascinating articles I read during my time as an anthropology student focused on cultures that had conceptions of gender that varied from our own—one of my favorite of which concerned a tribe where women were seen as the tough, valuable workers while men adorned themselves in jewelry and fancy robes to attract wives. (At some point, I should dig through my books and find this specific reference.)

The assumption that being a woman means (or worse should mean) any one thing is ill conceived at best and offensive at worst—which is why I find it so frustrating that some people have decided that feminism must entail the eschewing of all “feminine” trappings. Feminism is about fighting for equality between the genders, not homogeneity, yet so often it seems that people equate feminism with women attempting to be men—or at least trying to distance themselves from the image of “woman”. Yes, I believe that women should be allowed (and encouraged) to take on traditionally “male” roles, if that is what they so desire—but I don’t think they should be forced into being less “feminine” if they don’t want to be. To me that smacks of agreeing that being male is somehow better than being female—and doesn’t that defeat the purpose?

The most recent article I read about this was written by a knitter who had been told by another woman that she was a bad feminist for engaging in craftwork. At the end of the article, the knitter said that she didn’t care if she was a bad feminist, she was going to knit because she liked it. I am going to take it a step further: I am a good feminist because I knit. I refuse to be pigeonholed. I’m not going to cook, clean, wear a dress, or knit because someone tells me that I should because it will make me a better woman—but I’m also not going to give up these just because someone says that doing so will make me a better feminist.

For me, feminism is about supporting women in the pursuit of their own happiness. Women shouldn’t be limited by anyone else’s expectations; women should be free to define themselves.

At this point, I could also bring up the long history of male knitters, but that feels tangential (if not contradictory) to my point.* So instead, I will stop preaching to the choir, and go drool over some more yarn.

*However, I’ll probably do another post on it later in the year, because I think it is really cool!

1 comment:

  1. "...from time to time I’m not averse to watching a sappy romantic comedy or a period film..."

    Hmmm. "Time to Time..." is that as in "minute to minute?" "Second to second?" ;)