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The lady likes to knit September 5, 2005

Posted by Winter in fun.

ok, this more of a collection of thoughts rather than a coherent argument so let me know wht you think because i’d really like some feedback on this issue, trivial though it may sound.

I have a bit of a guilty not-so-feminist secret to share, I like, and take a particular pleasure in baking cakes. Nice, moist cakes full of fresh fruit and spices that are really good with a cup of tea. Mr Kippling, thanks for holding the fort, but I’ve arrived to take over, you can tuck your self up in the smoking room with some wisky and a cigar.

Recently I spent a rather fraught ten minutes talking to a lady who likes to knit and she spent a rather long time telling me about good shops and websites to get wool from and how knitting can be social and “very therapeutic.” And I’m standing there thinking, god, how sad. Later on, there i was telling some poor sap stuck in the corner of the room with me about how, actually, baking was ‘very therapeutic,’ and it kind of struck me that actually there is really nothing wrong at all with the knitting. The lady I was speaking to likes to knit. She likes to spend time, and effort, on what she’s doing. from the look of her jumpers she does it very well, and I suspect she likes the feeling that she knows just how much effort and which wool and how long it took, just as I like to know what ingredients and how much effort goes into the cakes I eat.

I was speaking to a friend last thursday about the wool experience and she said that she had seen stalls selling various do it your self knitting kits and she said, ‘can’t some one just do it for me?’ I suppose that’s kind of what it comes down to, why I don’t tell many people that i bake and why my woolly friend is quite defensive of the therapeutic qualities of good knitting, because if you can get someone else to make and prepackage it for you, then why are you wasting time doing it your self? Feminsm has done a lot to liberate women from the chains of domesticity, and that is great for women who want to get out there have careers and lovers and wild nights out partying. But what about women who want to knit and bake and look after their children as their mothers may well have done. too often housewives are belittled and ‘womanly hobbies are ridiculed.’ So, whilst men have kept hold of their traditional hobbies, women have been left in a position of having to defend the things they enjoy. I’ve never heard of a man being asked why do you fish? you can get nice piece of cod in the super market for £2.00. (i am by the way, well aware that some men knit and bake and some women fish and have sheds, that’s not the point I’m trying/failing to make).

In a very round about way, what is feminism offering women who want to do traditional hobbies and past times apart from riddicule? and if we can’t offer women something that they like and want to be part of, why should we expect women to try to make the effort to engage with feminism in the first place?



1. Lauren - September 5, 2005

Actually, the knitting groups that I attend are quite feminist. One is made up of grad students of rhetoric and compostition at Purdue University, consisting only of feminist women, several of whom are gay. Additionally, the more traditional knitting group that I attend is made up of women from ages 25-60+ (I am the youngest by far), all of whom are liberal, political, and many of whom do not hesitate to call themselves feminists.

I agree in part with the introduction to Debbie Stoller’s “Stitch ‘n Bitch” where she says that knitting/quilting groups are an act of progressive community-building, which is in itself a feminist goal. Further, I find it pleasant that doing things like baking a cake from scratch, knitting, quilting, sewing, all of it, is preserving the “feminine arts” of yore. Further, it is interesting that a younger generation of women are eager to pick up these “traditional” hobbies — in reaction, I think, to McCulture.

2. Winter - September 5, 2005

Yes, there is definitely a feminist knitting movement. We have a “Stitch n’ bitch” group here in Cardiff. Knitting, crafting, beading, all women’s crafty things have pretty good feminist credibility with a lot of people I think. Maybe you’re worrying too much R? Mind you, there’s no need to justify these hobbies as “therapeutic”.

As to men’s hobbies, well you know what? I think we should be asking them a few more questions about what they’re up to! Scuse’ the stereotypes, but has anyone noticed how traditional men’s hobbies tend to be things which take hours and hours and hours, and get them away from the wife and kids i.e fishing, watching cricket or football, small trains etc.

3. Andygrrl - September 5, 2005

Well, as a lesbian feminist knitter myself, I whole-heartedly agree that knitting can be a political activity. 🙂 Yes, it’s very therapeutic–it’s helped me get through the endless horror of New Orleans–but it’s also, for me, an act of resistance and reclamation. I can wear a beautiful sweater with pride, knowing that *I* made it, and not some 8 year old in Thailand making 12 cents an hour. And I love how the Stitch ‘n’ Bitch books make such a traditional, housewifey act subversive, with patterns for string bikinis, etc. Shoot, one of my first projects was knitting a bag to hold my cloth menstrual pads!
I bet your love for baking cakes (which, by the way, sound delicious) is just as feminist. There’s a strong tradition of feminists reclaiming “traditional” women’s work such as baking, knitting, etc, and highlighting how much work and craftsmanship they require. I mean, they hang quilts in art museums now. I was never very domestic until I became a feminist, actually; feminism showed me how “traditional” women’s activities can be empowering. I’m not just a consumer drone now; I create.
As for housewives, I agree that they tend to get dismissed, etc. But I really have a hard time working up a lot of sympathy for them. Of course a woman should have the freedom to choose how she lives her life, and there’s nothing necessarily wrong with being a housewife. But the key word there is “free”; being a housewife, I’d argue, really isn’t a choice. It’s a privilege, an extremely rare one. Most women in the world don’t have the luxury of staying at home. The housewife, at least as we generally think of her, fundamentally participates in the capitalist patriarchy, whether she espouses feminist beliefs or not. She relies on a husband, and hundreds of poorer women in the economy, to maintain her lifestyle.
Now ‘scuse me, I gotta get back to finishing the ribbing on my sweater…

4. Naiades - September 6, 2005

I agree, there’s loads of feminst knitting groups and the like around, but there is still this kind of sniggering behind people’s back attitude towards these kind of activities, well I’ve seen quite a lots of it anyway. maybe I’m unfortunate in my experiences (quite possible)

5. Naiades - September 6, 2005

oh, i’ve just read back what i wrote, it wasn’t very coherent, appologies. I think what I was trying to say is that quite a few of the women I know who knit and bake and the like are quite dfefensive about it and spend quite a lot of time justifying it, I and think that has to come from somewhere, other wise they would just be saying things like oh I really enjoy it, period.

6. Winter - September 6, 2005

I think it’s good to reclaim women’s traditional hobbies. Thanks for your perspective andy – I hadn’t really thought about the political angle before. I also agree that general housewifery is a different issue to actively reclaiming certain traditionally female art forms. I cook and I bead, but I don’t knit or sew. I admit, I have on occasion felt a tiny bit “oppressed” at women’s events when people start going on and on at me about the joys of knitting or something, but I think it’s just enthusiasm really.

7. TP - September 6, 2005

I sew, knit, bake and craft alot. For me it’s about creating something that is good and pure (baking without preservatives and sweeteners) individual (t shirt printing, sewing) and fun.

They are art forms and I can choose to express myself that way. It’s great.

Like andygrrl I got into these kinds of things through feminism and punk.

Never fear, there are loads of us crafty girls doing crafty stuff – don’t be embarassed, be proud! Out of interest check out dainty time.

8. Naiades - September 6, 2005

Thanks for the input, its really good to get other peoples perspectives on these kind of things.

I agree the house wife thing is a whole other issue which has a lot to do with money, choosing to be a house wife is great if you have the finances to support that choice. lots of people don’t.

thank you

9. Winter - September 6, 2005

You’ve almost convinced me to learn knitting (: . Naiades’s cakes are indeed very good, by the way.

10. Lauren - September 6, 2005

I was never very domestic until I became a feminist, actually; feminism showed me how “traditional” women’s activities can be empowering.

Me too. It’s odd to outsiders that becoming a mother not only made me more feminist but that my “traditional” DIY crafting did as well. I think part of the feelings of empowerment come from reconfiguring the social views of these activities from the passive to the active.

11. Naiades - September 6, 2005

Lauren I think your right, there is a lot to be said for actively creating things rather than just being a passive consumer. and as for the baking, I’m with Traveling Punk on that one, I like to know my food isn’t full of crap and these days the only way to really know that is to make it yourself.


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