May 29th, 2008

Fantastic!, Nine

Stitch 'N Bitch

Yesterday I finally caved to internal pressure (more on that in a separate entry), and decided that I'm going to re-learn how to knit. I picked up a copy of "Stich 'N Bitch," because I know a few people who've read it, and enjoyed it. I was expecting a primer on how to knit, with some cool, modern patterns. I was not expecting to be inspired by the book's introduction. This woman gets it (emphasis mine):

When I'd tell people about my latest obsession . . . [some friends] responded with "Really?" or "How interesting," both spoken with an air of disbelief, even a touch of disdain. After all, I had gotten a Ph.D. in the psychology of women and had started BUST, a feminist magazine - what was I doing knitting? Soon, it occurred to me that if I had told these folks I'd been playing soccer, or learning karate, or taken up carpentry, they most likely would have said, "Cool," because a girl doing a traditionally male activity - now, that's feminist, right? But a girl doing a traditionally feminine activity - let alone one as frivolous and time-wasting as knitting - well, what were they to make of that?

It made me rethink my original feminist position. After all, it had been thirty years since the feminist revolution of the 1970s and housewives as we knew them had pretty much gone the way of the dinosaur, so why, damnit, wasn't knitting receiving as much respect as any other hobby? Why was it still so looked down on? It seemed to me that the main difference between knitting and, say, fishing or woodworking or basketball, was the knitting had traditionally been done by women. As far as I could tell, that was the only reason it had gotten such a bad rap. And that's when it dawned on me: All those people who looked down on knitting - and housework, and housewives - were not being feminist at all. In fact, they were being anti-feminist, since they seemed to think only those things that men did, or had done, were worthwhile. Sure, feminism had changed the world, and young girls all across the country had formed soccer leagues, and were growing up to be doctors and astronauts and senators. But why weren't boys learning to knit and sew? Why couldn't we all - women and men alike - take the same kind of pride in the work our mothers had always done as we did in the work of our fathers?"

This, in a nutshell, is the thing that so many, many, many people just don't understand about feminism. It's not about trying to turn ourselves into men. (Because, ugh, why would we want to do that? Being a woman is awesome). It's about having the freedom and opportunity to do whatever we want to do, same as men have done all along. If I want to stay home and raise my children, that can be a feminist choice. Just like sewing and knitting and baking and all those other "feminine" activities can be feminist choices. I don't have to do "boy" things to qualify as a feminist. (Although I like some boy things, and can do some very cool boy things; I think I impressed the hell out of the guy at the camera store yesterday when I told him about the flash controller I built). Feminism is not about that, though. It's about choices, and being able to make the ones that we want to make, not being forced to spend our lives doing things that have been dictated by someone (or something) external, and not being treated as "less than" because of our plumbing.

I am loving this book, and I'm only on page 10. :D Also, I'm feeling more motivated than ever to do some really cool knitting projects.