Fiber phobics vs fiber fondlers: A feminist discussion

Every time a friend sees me knitting or crocheting for the first time, I get the same reaction. The men laugh and wonder what happened to their rather tough-talking in-your-face feminist friend. The women raise their eyebrows and explain how completely uninteresting they find the whole thing. “Knitting/crocheting is for old biddies” seems to be the unanimous view. It annoys me how defensive I get about this, and it saddens me a little how many otherwise bright and feminist young women seem to have this reaction.

I see that one common response to this way of thinking is to try to make the crafts themselves seem more sexy. “Not your grandmother’s knitting” and the Stitch n’ bitch books are examples that come to mind. I understand that impulse, although those books seem to me to be protesting too much. And why do we need sexual innuendo on every page of a learn-to-crochet book? Call me a prude (you won’t be the only one), but I cringed every time the excellent instructions in the Happy Hooker book were interrupted by double, or, even worse, single entendres.

And I find this especially troubling from a feminist perspective. Knitting and crocheting are, for most women today, a completely voluntary undertaking. We do it because we like keeping our hands busy, for a creative outlet, for the joy of giving away something lovingly handmade. What’s wrong with that, exactly? I don’t become less intelligent or less ambitious by knitting and crocheting, but my feminist friends still seem to find it embarrassing that I enjoy something so old-fashioned and ‘feminine’. And that’s the core of the problem: Knitting and crochet seem to be so unpopular BECAUSE they are perceived as women’s activities. How can anyone proclaiming to be feminist not see that this is part of the age-old problem that anything women do is perceived to be lesser, not as good or important as what men do?

The stitch n’ bitch books solve the problem in a time-honoured fashion: Make it sexy. As long as something women do is connected to sex, it’s somehow okay. This makes me tired. Very, very tired. I’m not a happy hooker. I crochet. I don’t stitch and bitch. I knit.

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6 Responses to “Fiber phobics vs fiber fondlers: A feminist discussion”


  1. 1 Céline 24 October, 2006 at 6:26 pm

    Interesting. At first, I too felt kind of judged unsexy because of knitting, weaving, quilting, etc. Mostly because it was related to relatives who did those things who were not very sensual or sexual. And I too, I get weird reactions in professional spheres for being into crafts so much, as if it was a waste of my intelligence. This is absurd for me, as I think my succes comes from apprehending everything as I would in craft or bricolage. Fortunately, I don’t mind other people’s judgement a lot.

    But in face of the social imposition of women having to be sexy in a certain sort of way, I absolutely like the fact that these crafts are outside the public/media sexiness sphere. I think there are other ways of being sexy than conforming to what is publicly proposed, and that can include crafts or not, according to each woman’s personality.

    What I find comforting, is reading crafts book written by women, where it is clear that their husbands admire and support their wive’s crafts to the degree they deserve to be. THERE IS HOPE YET!

    Thanks for your thoughts on this.

    Kind regards,

    Céline

  2. 3 hooknspin 24 October, 2006 at 11:50 pm

    My feminist side is all hairs standing strait up on the attitude you’ve been getting. Apparently they don’t know the meaning of feminist. You can be happy homemaker, CEO, straight up witch with a capital B, or a craftaholic. Because, that is our choice!

    I too am an ecclectic mix of corporate/craft interests and do not find it strange in the least because it’s what makes me happy.

    Thank you Celine for your comments too. My husband sits in awe while I spin and has told me on more than one occasion that we should figure out a way to generate some type of power during the process. He wears his hand spun, hand crochet items to corporate events with pride!

  3. 4 allena 25 October, 2006 at 3:13 am

    i think that people place me in the old fuddy duddy what the heck are you doing column when they see me knit or crochet.
    i really enjoy knitting and crochet for exactly what you said to keep busy, to be able to MAKE things and give things that are handmade but look oh sooo wonderful and not really handmade.
    but on the same side i won’t cover my home in crochet things. like tissue box covers and door knob cosies etc. BLEH that’s just not me. give me practical!
    anyways i thank you for your thoughts and thought i should say hey.

  4. 5 Sheila 27 October, 2006 at 2:54 pm

    Interesting Post.. on my end I am constantly told that I need to “get a life – get out – party”, and my constant response is my craft is my life and totally fulfilling… and must agree that I also crochet because its a creative outlet for me, I like keeping my hands busy, and enjoy giving away something handmade with love… and agree with Allena.. you will not find crochet decor in my home.

  5. 6 red_swirl 14 December, 2006 at 3:28 am

    I really like this post, and the replies.


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