(the title of this post is a reference to the first chapter of the book Knitting Without Tears by the inimitable Elizabeth Zimmerman)
Why did I think that the “knitting community” was immune to bullies, mean girls, and grumpy old farts?
Well, over a week ago I came face to face with this fact. While it’s rare – people in this community can be downright rotten, too. For some reason though, it stings more when it happens here.
I don’t want to dwell on the negative, but sometimes my brain does that anyway. I won’t air dirty laundry though. But I will always… offer my opinion.
We’re artists. Every single one of us. It doesn’t matter how many followers someone has on Instagram, subscribers on YouTube, pattern downloads on Ravlery – each of us is worthy of respect and appreciation. The “incident” I experienced can be described none other than a situation of “Don’t you know who we are?”
Or even better yet, I’d sum it up as: “You can’t sit with us!”
What’s even more uncomfortable: when faced with a “mean girl” in the knitting community, I’m now forced to look at my own behavior – my own biases, assumptions, and the mean girl that’s in me, too.
ICK. ICK. ICK.
It’s pure fantasy to think that knitters from all walks of life, all nations, beliefs, and experiences will simply skip off into the sunset, arm and arm, singing “Kumbaya.” And when you add to any community a “hierarchy” – a veritable “who’s who” of knitting – I tend to feel like I’m back in high school. At different points during my high school career (which was fraught with mean girls and bullies and over-plucked eyebrows that didn’t help matters), I tried two tactics. Tactic #1: if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, or Tactic #2: HIDE HIDE HIDE.
I don’t recommend either.
At Rhinebeck, I chose Tactic #2. Despite the dozens of people who were warm and welcoming and downright charming, one person treated me pretty rottenly at the beginning of the weekend, and then because that opened my eyes to a hierarchy that I didn’t even know existed, I witnessed things that made my stomach turn: perfectly talented artists getting completely overlooked for artists who are also quite talented but happen to be having their moment in the sun right now.
So I just went home.
(in my defense, I did go back the next day… get back on the horse, and all that jazz)
I’m not in high school anymore. I have more tactics at my disposal. I don’t want to get all woo-woo, but tactic #1 and tactic #2 are going to be officially left behind in the early 2000’s along with my Blink 182 posters and leopard print messenger bag.
When you’re a “podcaster,” you start to feel new pressure to be like everyone else in order to survive. But do I really have to “ooh and ahh” over the same things everyone else does? To use someone else’s analogy, do I really have to bow down to the homecoming court if I don’t want to?
So now – naturally – I’m putting pressure on myself to be a tastemaker. Not sure that is any easier!
But the thing is, as I’ve mentioned before, the podcast is just a single step on what I hope will be a longer journey. So it’s no surprise that I feel pressure to head in the right direction. I feel pressure to “do what everyone else is doing” because at least I know they will like that, no one will laugh at me, or kick me out. It’s hard not to get caught up in the number of followers, subscribers, and hanging out with the “cool kids.”
I need to remember – and I think we all need to remember – that’s not what it’s about and as soon as I go down that path, I’m getting off course. What it’s about for me, first and foremost, is community. Even before knitting and yarn. It’s about getting more involved in this community that I know firsthand is incredibly inspiring and supportive, even if I did recently come to the heart-wrenching realization that it isn’t perfect – it’s still better than any other community I’ve ever been a part of, and of that I’m certain.
Secondly, it’s about this craft that has become my True North. Knitting is how I start and end every single day. Knitting is to me what strumming is to a musician. I wish non-knitters understood that. I wish the world knew that knitting wasn’t some boring hobby reserved for grandmas and cat ladies. It’s a craft that isn’t any less complex than woodworking, pottery, painting, baking, etc etc etc. It wasn’t until I made that realization for myself that I fully appreciated the enormous space the craft holds in my life.
And I’ve finally accepted that I want knitting to hold an even larger space in my life. I realize now it’s fear that’s holding me back from getting the designs that are in my head finally onto the paper (or the pdf) where they belong.
One “mean girl” almost kept me out (and really, she very well may have been a nice girl just having a moment – Lord knows I have those). Cue 16 year-old Amanda, hiding in the library because she wasn’t pretty or cool enough to sit at the lunch table.
Not only am I going to sit at the table – I’m committed to inviting others to it.
Oh yeah… and thirdly, it’s DEFINITELY about the yarn!!!