Knitting as a Case Study in Gender Bias

I’m a bit of a vocal feminist, which you know if you read my other blog. I try to keep focused on the fiber stuff over here and leave things politics-light, but I read a couple of article this week that brought the two together in a way I just can’t ignore.

They’re both incredibly fascinating pieces that highlight, in a sideways fashion, the hidden underbelly of misogyny: it hurts men too. Not that I will claim that barring access to knitting is the same thing as being systematically threatened with rape and paid significantly less than men even now, but still, when women and everything they are traditionally associated with are demonized, men get cut off from potential avenues to happiness or expression or just plain being.

But let’s get to the articles. First, the one I was baffled and a bit annoyed with:

Young person with a Y chromosome is lauded for picking up a popular hobby in a fashion that can only be described as mundane and exhibits little more than average skill, but his hobby merits a three-page story because it is not typically practiced by young people with Y chromosomes.

Seriously. It would take NO WORK to turn this article into an article for The Onion. It already reads like a satirization of the way that women are singled out for success in Traditional Male Pursuit #267. The title of the article calls out the fact that it’s really only his gender that makes him noteworthy, yet there is no mention of his gender elsewhere. And yet…there is also nothing about the way that he came to the hobby or anything about what he has created that sets him apart from any other Gen-X/Millenial knit-geek I know.

There are two ways to deal with the Displaced Gender theme, in my opinion. (1) Talk about their gender and the specific challenges or odd situations this creates. (2) Pretend we live in a better world where gender isn’t an issue and focus on the brilliance of the work the person is doing.

Talk about gender or don’t talk about gender, but don’t write an article in which gender is the only interesting tidbit without talking about gender.

Scooby Doo says no. (Animated GIF)
No. Just…come on.

The thing I did find interesting about the article is that a man is treated here in a way that women are sometimes treated in non-female dominant fields: as a curiosity who merits more attention than seems reasonable given what he’s doing. This does highlight my main point, which is that women aren’t the only ones who lose out under misogyny.

As counterpoint, here’s a better article:

Vogue Knitting LIVE convention offers a panel where male knitwear designers and yarn shop owners talk about working as men in a female dominated industry.

The language of this post echoes the language you might expect to hear of women working in [insert, really, any field other than crafting or teaching little kids] or making a hobby of [insert any hobby that isn’t crafty]. It doesn’t try to make it out that men have suffered any real hardships by this (i.e., it doesn’t fall into the fallacy of equating the suffering of the oppressor with the suffering of the oppressed), but it does point out that the bias against female-oriented crafts has made it a little awkward for men to publicly pursue their interest and to connect with other like-minded fellows. The article also ends on a note of science about why knitting is generally beneficial, the bottom-line message being KNITTING IS FOR EVERYONE.

And that is something I think we can all agree on. Why I’m a feminist Reason #792: Knitting is for everyone.