There are few safe spaces left in America. This great nation has become so politically polarized. Can a happy space exist devoid of political discourse? This past Sunday, a truly warm and fuzzy craft community platform succumbed to the toxicity of today’s politics.
The privately owned 8 million-member online knitting and crocheting platform, Ravelry, was hit by a firestorm of media buzz due to a change in policy. The new policy bans content supporting Donald Trump in order to create their definition of a safe space which doesn’t support ‘open white supremacy.’ WHOA! One can only imagine the furor that instantly spread through the carefully crafted click-bait social media headline. I was immediately sucked in and tried to make sense of how Ravelry arrived at this decision.
I clicked to Ravelry’s policy page to gain insight into their newly implemented policy. In it, they state they are not endorsing the Democrats nor banning Republicans or conservative politics. Hate groups and intolerance are different from other types of political positions. Based on this new information, I was still left hanging with many questions. What was the catalyst for their final anti-Trump policy? Doesn’t Ravelry have a mechanism to flag and block hateful speech, but still allow people to post knitting patterns designed with the letters MAGA (Make America Great Again)? As uncomfortable as that design may be for many, designers have the right to post it as long as it doesn’t incite hate speech in their post. Not so according to the founders of Ravelry.
I decided to read a few more articles from Vice, Washington Post, Fox News, The National Review, The Guardian and the New York Times to gain more insight. Historically, knitters and crocheters have used their craft to express political views. Recently, we experienced the knitted/crocheted Pussy Hat phenomenon during the January 2017 Womens’ Marches. (Read my pussy hat blog post.) So I wanted to find the offending piece which prompted the Ravelry team to make such a decision.
After spending several hours pouring over news articles and Twitter feeds, I determined that the glut of racist, non-inclusive comments from some of Ravelry’s followers created a toxic environment, the antithesis of the fiber community at large and the camaraderie that Ravelry aims to cultivate.
How sad that knitters and crocheters, who hold this fiber craft space sacrosanct, have been tossed into this deeply polarizing environment fraught with sanctimony, hate and intolerance.
In February, my friend, Jamie and I started a monthly knitting and crochet group called Thirsty Thursday Knit @ Brick Nite. Our intent was to create a community event in which fellow creatives can get together, share our love of knitting with a bottle of wine and nosh. To our delight, this group continues to grow each month. This craft has opened an avenue to connect with a warm, welcoming and fun group of people. One of the questions I will surely bring up at our next meeting is “can’t a girl who loves to knit, gab and drink wine enjoy clanking my two needles without broaching politics?” Shit, I just want to laugh and hang out with pals. Can’t we have an escape?
Jamie consoled me and suggested I let off some steam by writing a blog post on the subject. My response was “ya know what I really want? Exist in my safe local bubble. I want to hang with friends without feeling compelled to discuss politics and hate. Gimme wine, french fries, a ball of yarn and I am happy.”
Could I be alone in this sentiment? I don’t think so. Why it’s called self-preservation. Don’t get me wrong, I love the topic of politics, but when it impinges upon my happy space of jumbo needles and delectable yarn, just don’t DO IT, otherwise, I’ll get unwound.
I end this post with this video of Steven Colbert mocking knitters in his typical most hilarious way.