Wednesday, December 06, 2006

On secrecy and men knitting

I've made it through four of this week's seven scheduled screenings, but the pace I've been on caught up with me last night. I sat down to watch the Blue Jackets game and dozed off prior to the third period. I wasn't able to knit yesterday, but I did get Kristin's approval on the three repeats I've done for the basketweave scarf. She thought it looked fine, so I won't be starting it over.

Although Tuesday was a knitting-free day, one of the few since I've learned, I would like to talk about my secret knitting and being a male knitter. In the comments to yesterday's post, Jennifer blurted out the secret project she's working on but can't blog about. First of all, if you're not reading the comments, check them out. I respond to them. Second, don't be shy. Post one of your own. I'm thrilled to get comments.

Anyway, she talked about a scarf she's making for a Christmas gift exchange but can't blog about because it would end up spoiling the secret. As I've found, the secret part of this site has its advantages. Still, I can understand wanting to share one's excitement, especially if you don't have another outlet for expressing it.

I've pretty much worked through my initial reasons for not using my name--wanting to keep the surprise secret from friends and family and, let's face it, insecurity about doing something society would deem strange for a man to be doing. I like the protection the secret identity gives me from students and some other people who might accidentally stumble upon this site. Regular readers (or anyone so inclined to poke around here a little) are more than welcome to know who I am. In fact, I encourage it.

I guess what I'm saying is that I'll continue to use my "secret knitter" identity after Christmas even though it won't really be a secret to those who know me best.

As for being a man who knits, I'm not worried about it denting some über-macho image that men are supposed to live up to. I've done some online searching about men who knit, and some of the justifications strike me as overcompensation, as if there's something to be embarrassed about. True, I think there's a greater likelihood of other men ridiculing me for knitting, but I don't feel any need to make the activity more masculine. And how would I do that anyway? I watch and play sports, enjoy eating red meat, and could probably change a tire if necessary but would probably call AAA instead. Is that enough for me to be a credit to my gender?

If I'm being honest, yes, I'm aware that there are stereotypes about male knitters being gay. Kristin e-mailed me a link to a YouTube video about men who knit. It reinforces that stereotype, at least in the observations of the commenters, but it was interesting to see. (It also suggests that male knitters are bushy bearded, granola eaters.) While it's easier said than done in stating I don't care what other people think--something that is patently untrue--I'm not going to let the misperceptions and opinions of others take away from the happiness I get from knitting.

I'm more secure in being a knitter because I enjoy it, and reassurance from Kristin and those commenting here has helped a lot too. While I grew up in a household where my mom was the only woman, the video reminded me that growing up I had more female role models in my family than male relatives. (For instance, I never knew my grandfathers.) They were farm women predominantly and strong individuals, even if I can't imagine any of them considering themselves feminists.

In her sixties and maybe her early seventies, my paternal grandmother would still carry fifty-pound feed bags to the cars of customers at the grain elevator. (And yes, some of these customers were much younger, able-bodied men.)

A cousin who was around the age of my grandmother's younger sister made do on her own despite not having the use of her legs. (As a child she contracted polio.) Now I know this is going to sound like one of those sappy, vaguely condescending movies that make me roll my eyes, but she really was one of the happiest people I've known. She was not a big woman, but she had to be strong. To my recollection, she used crutches to get around her house, not a wheelchair. I can't imagine how she did it, but it worked for her. When we would get her for the holidays, my dad, one of my brothers, or I would carry her to the car and into our home. Otherwise she managed on her own.

The influence of these and other women on me has been valuable and didn't make me any less male.

One last thing...I've come across a couple online items written by some women who are less than thrilled about men who knit. One of their main objections seems to be men who try to reclaim knitting as something originally from the male domain in history. As far as that goes, I couldn't care less. The other primary beef is that apparently some think men knitting validates the activity. All I can say is that these people need to spend more time knitting and less time worrying about some shadow political agendas.

Next...back to the basketweave scarf.


At 5:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm with you, knitting is not about gender it's about enjoyment, people who complain about men hijacking women's activities need to get a life, and before I get howled down by your commenters yes I do consider myself a feminist, I just think that there are more important things to worry about, like the rate of HIV transmission in South Africa, in young women because they don't have the power to insist on a condom with husbands and boyfriends, or the fact that most people living with HIV in this country (including pregnant women) still can't access anti-reterovirals, or that the ex-deputy president of the country thinks that having a shower after sleeping with a hiv positive girl young enough to be his daughter (she claims she was raped, but he was acquitted of the charges) thinks that having a shower afterwards will prevent hiv transmission...

Sorry, didn't mean to rant there, but really in the scheme of things worrying about gender in knitting is really unimportant. If you enjoy it do it. My husband has no desire to learn to knit not because it's women's work, but because he's seen me frog so many items that he knows it'd drive him nuts.

Keep enjoying the knitting. I'm looking forward to seeing your next scarf, and I have been checking the comments too.

At 8:14 AM, Blogger the secret knitter said...

Ruth, just to clarify, I've not encountered any objections to my knitting. Mainly it's because no one knows. I did find it a little strange to come across a couple items online that were very territorial about knitting, but I can't say they've been anywhere close to the majority opinion.

Also, not that I think you interpreted it this way, but I wasn't using the word feminist as a pejorative. I'm not sure why, but the word has acquired a negative connotation. I've observed the problems my mother has had getting jobs as a woman in ministry and find it absurd that such closedmindedness still exists. (Not all small churches in small towns are like this, but there are still a lot of them.)

I'm going to post a photo of my progress on the current scarf, so check back for that.

At 3:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Greetings, I just tend to get wound up when people start to limit what others can do based on their gender. I know you weren't using feminist as a perjorative, I just didn't want the feminazis to accuse me of lacking the feminist spirit because I don't believe that knitting should be the sole-preserve of women. Now that I think of it, you probably don't have too many of them reading your blog. I'll slink off back into cyber space now... :)

At 9:17 AM, Blogger the secret knitter said...

If any of my readers have strong objections to men knitting, they haven't made themselves known. I highly doubt they're coming here, though.

I agree with you that trying to limit what people do or like based on gender is wrong. I'm sure if I thought about it I could come up with some examples counter to that. Nevertheless, aside from physiological differences, a lot of what gets chalked up as a man's thing or a woman's thing is social and cultural climatizing over the years, not because something is inherently specific to gender.

Really, I'm not as radical as this might make me sound.

At 7:56 AM, Blogger Jennifer said...

all i have to say is men who knit ROCK! : ) my hubby studies me when i'm knitting and can look at my work and tell me what stitches are what and how different patterns are made. he's fascinated and i know deep down he wants to learn, but would NEVER admit it lol i was making bibs for our friends who had a baby in sept and convinced him to knit a couple stitches so he could be part of the gift. i know he loved it and would probably be a great knitter, but the big strong hockey goalie i'm married to would never take it up...cares too much what others think. i'm ok w/ that...i just love that he thinks i'm amazing for being able to turn a ball of yarn into something awesome : )


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