IT’S COOL YOU ARE SO INTO KNITTING

For years, I have smiled blankly as friends broke out their scarves-in-progress or told me about the awesome yarn they were using. They ask me to touch their yarn squares and then I nod as if to say, “Yes, so much nicer than the alpaca blend you used to use.”

 

 

In my silence, there is no hostility, it’s just that simply I do not get it.

I am grateful to be the recipient of all the hats and scarves that come my way especially since I will inevitably lose them as I am wont to do with hats, gloves, and scarves. But when this all became cool in the late ‘90s/early ‘00s, it was sort of confusing.

My loudmouthed friends were all of a sudden breaking out these yarn squares at coffee shops and punk shows for a moment of Zen and it irked me. Theoretically, I could understand the “embrace of the feminine”  but it also felt like a step backward. It was as if the backlash on Riot Grrl intermingled with the capitalist regurgitation of “girl power,” making all the ladies hide. I didn’t like it.

Around this time, Kathleen Hanna hit the nail on the head with a song called “CROCHET” on her Julie Ruin album: “ You make me want to go away/ You make me want to go away/ You make me want to / CROCHET ! “

 

 

This felt so right-on because the knitting circle was in part, a  safe space where discussion ranged from love lives, to careers, to Foucault, and that was wonderful. But it did also feel like a silencing, a passive aggressive attempt to counteract the disappointment of in-fighting and competition that manifested in our communities by keeping our gatherings out of sight. And maybe that was what I found so disappointing. It had nothing to do with the fruits of labor.

I mean, why be mad at this?

 

 

She is so happy. I don’t want to stomp on anyone’s joy.

But then there is stuff like this:

 

 

What is this about ? This makes me so hostile.

With all that said,  I am really interested in DIY culture (it makes me happy) and to deny that the knitting phenomenon has a large part in how DIY became more mainstream would be ludicrous.

So, I film a lot of shots like this:

 

A still from Zucotti Park.

 

Artist/fashion designers Susan Cianciolo.

 

Because, ultimately, I want to analyze the role of “women’s work,” and how it might be changing the world–DIY and beyond.

About cat_tyc

Cat Tyc is a Brooklyn based filmmaker/video artist making a documentary about style & exchange called SWAP. She gets weepy watching "Project Runway" marathons and loves her Marc Jacobs skirt more than you.

10 comments

  1. As a feminist who came of age in the 60s, I have always regretted how the movement trivialized and rejected the homemaking arts, while fully understanding why it needed to be done at the time. Still, these arts are essential to civilization, and it’s too bad a whole generation of people are clueless about the finer points of cooking, sewing, and keeping a comfortable, safe, clean home. Personally, I love that a lot of those things. I hope we have gotten past the point where only women do this work, and all women are expected to devote their lives to it. If you like it, do it, regardless of gender. It’s important stuff.

  2. cat_tyc

    I totally appreciate hearing your perspective and agree with you that negating homemaking skills created a new disempowerment. I am very much a product of that (and actually talked a lot about this in my rough draft and maybe need to reincorporate) but that was sort of my point is that its great that these skills/activities have been going through a process of being re-defined and celebrated. So my point in my “confession” is really to address the juncture of being raised in a time where I was discouraged to play “house” to grow up in a time where all my friends wanted to do was hang out and knit cross bones into their clothes. Its not earth shattering but I think the time has come to address this juncture because the necessity of everyone having a sense of homemaking skills is imperative and I think its interesting to address the impact that the feminist movement had on that re-definition ( confusion & all).

  3. Yeah, a few things about my generation’s feminism have always bothered me, although I believe the benefits of that movement far outweigh the errors. I grew up in the world portrayed by ‘Mad Men,’ and that show is no exaggeration. It was pretty horrible, it was not that long ago, and I hope younger women appreciate how far we’ve come and the struggle it took to get here. I’d be interested to hear what you think about an essay I wrote that has a tangential relationship to fashion (it’s about slut walks): http://www.dfalbo.com/wordpress/?p=1

  4. cat_tyc

    In talking about this, I am also addressing a newly discussed aspect of the Riot Grrl movement (which is more the generation I am coming from and a perspective is finally getting its time to be explored and articulated) which was a silent shaming that happened in the post wave of its original gestation. The knitting trend played a role in this and I feel like I was reacting to that as well. The fact that there has been this transcendence into becoming a relevant force in pop culture/society is really exciting especially since its steeped in feminist action and that is something to be celebrated and why I am making the film I am making.

  5. Sounds like an interesting film, hope I get to see it. What is this shaming you mentioned? Were people looking down on anyone interested in cooking etc? Or was/is it something else?

  6. cat_tyc

    Thanks, yes I hope lots of people get to see it. The shaming I am speaking of was more along the lines of shame for drawing attention to one’s self, feminist perspective, anger, anything uncomfortable, etc. This knitting trend felt like an acceptance of this, a cuter more socially acceptable way to be pro-woman as long as you were not complicated and that is what I was taking issue with. As I have already said, it has transcended that but for a moment, this phenomena felt like a manifestation or response to what was going in the feminist communities of my generation and I was frustrated by that. Hope that clarifies.

    At the end of the day, its just knitting. I am thinking way too hard about knitting.🙂

  7. Interesting perspective. It sounds as though there was a backlash against 70s feminism (reaction to the shriller, more angry manifestations of it?), and girls were put back in their self-effacing places for a while, and then the grrls came along to reassert the realities of feminism. I don’t really know much about the experiences of younger women, so I appreciate hearing about it from you. To me it’s pretty simple, once you get past all the theorizing. Mutual respect all around works wonders. Demand it, pay it, stand up for it. I enjoy this blog – keep up the good work, y’all.

  8. chelseacarpenter

    Feminism, in its essence, to me, is a movement directed toward ending discrimination based on the way a person was born – I like this definition precisely because it is broad. It encompasses issues of race, less-abled bodies, gender, and sexuality; creating coalitions amongst the disenfranchised.
    That being said, as a youngster, I called myself a ‘humanist’ because I thought feminists hated men.
    Then I moved into an anarchist collective (geez) and felt pressure to be masculine, because being feminine was to be oppressed.
    But then I, with my hairy armpits and makeup-less face, became pretty depressed.
    Full of confused hostility one day, I marched to the grocery store and bought cookie ingredients. I was going to make some f’ing cookies, because gosh darn it, I liked my friends and wanted to give them that gift, even if they believed that baking was only for Martha Stewart.
    It was on my walk home that I came to the above definition. If women wanted equal rights, it meant they wanted to be treated as humans, no matter what they chose to do, whether what they chose to do was deemed “feminine” or “masculine” by our culture, not because they’re women, but because they are human, and deserve equal respect in THAT regard. Too often, the oppressed adopt the behaviors of their oppressor in attempt to prove their worth.
    The thing is, we do not need to prove anything to anyone. We need to be happy.
    It is one of those self-evident truths; happiness shouldn’t be contingent upon our gender.
    Therefore, if it makes someone happy (man, woman, or anyone on the spectrum in between) to knit, then more power to ’em! Personally, I’d like to see more on the spectrum take up the needles for the love of DIY; I suppose it may happen as soon as everyone stops associating knitting with a ‘feminine’ skill.

  9. I agree, chelseacarpenter. Similarly, even as a young girl I was puzzled when people called some things ‘feminine’ and other things ‘not feminine’ and used those definitions to critique how well somebody was living up to a feminine ideal. That seemed backwards to me. Call me Mr. Spock, but logically, I always thought that anything a woman did was by definition ‘feminine.’ So if I wanted to build things or drive a truck, that was a feminine thing to do, since a woman was dong it. And if I, a feminist, want to bake cookies, that is OK because nobody is forcing me to do it. Unlike Hillary Clinton, whose campaign trail comment 20 years ago that she didn’t spend her time staying home and baking cookies forced her into a bake-off with Barbara Bush. Sheesh!

  10. Pingback: Happy Spring from Cat Tyc’s Neighborhood Trees! «

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