Hating The Things You Love

Be a little nerdy, spend a little time on the internet, watch a few commercials,  and you will know there are things you are supposed to hate. Have a hobby as well, and those things will converge into a list of things you are supposed to hate specifically in relation to your hobby. (And I don’t think being a woman particularly helps, either.) I’ve been thinking about this more and more lately, trying to pin down what exactly about this bothers me and why it bothers me. I haven’t quite put all my feelings into a theory, but to start I’ve put the things that bug me into a list. I’m sure I’m not the only one bothered by these things, so I figured I’d put my list out here and see what you think. Does this list match your list?

My Yarn

I’m supposed to treat it like an addiction, call it my stash, hide it from my husband, lie about how much I have. Rather than acknowledging that some people may have a spending-related addiction and stepping back to take a look at my own spending in relation to my income and budget to see whether I am spending more than I reasonably should, I’m supposed to aspire to being addicted. I’m supposed to appropriate the language of addiction as though it puts my non-addiction in the proper light, put a cutesy spin on it, and then start apologizing. A few times a year I should be overcome with guilt and put myself on a stash diet (moving from the language of addiction to the language of fat-hatred). Then, when I can’t stand the temptation, when I become weak and buy more yarn, I should call myself naughty and promise to do better next time.

My Husband

While I knit away furtively in the other room, he should be playing video games and yelling at me to put that damn yarn down and make him dinner. He should spend all our spare cash on his hobbies and tell me I’m not allowed to have anymore yarn. We should never talk and he should have no understanding of my hobbies, while I make no attempt to understand all the stupid things he wastes his time doing. Of course, this is assuming I didn’t scare him away with the dreaded “boyfriend sweater” before I got the all-important ring.

Now, my husband does play video games. Because video games are fun. Sure, sometimes he plays them while I knit in the next room. Sometimes he plays them while I’m in the same room, and sometimes we play them together. He reads comic books, and if he reads one he thinks I would like he tells me about it. He goes yarn shopping with me and helps me pick things out. He’s much better than I at putting colors together, so I rely on him for that.

And about that boyfriend sweater. Oh, the boyfriend sweater. Should I talk about it? This concept bothers me on so many levels. One, it assumes all knitters are female – couldn’t a man knit himself a sweater? Two, it’s a bit too heteronormative for my liking – couldn’t a man knit his boyfriend a sweater? Or a woman make one for her girlfriend? Three, it assumes the goal of every woman in a heterosexual relationship is to get married, and of course it’s the man’s responsibility to decide when. Finally, it assumes that the woman can only get that ring by behaving properly according to his standards. Do anything to annoy him even a little and he’s gone and you’re alone.

Myself

Particularly my ugly face, fat body, messy house, and lack of any artistic skill whatsoever. When I publish photos of myself on the internet I should crop out my head or put a big splotch of something over it. I should apologize for how I look in the photo, and blame it on some external force I couldn’t control (“Excuse my bed head, I’m making that face because the camera wasn’t working right and I was trying to figure it out,” etc.). I should apologize for the quality of the photo itself.

Everything is about apologizing. I think that’s a big part of why this attitude bothers me. Women are taught to apologize constantly for their opinions and even their existence in this society, to the point that they can’t even have a hobby – they can’t even do something that’s only meant to make them happy – without having to apologize for that too.

I should reinforce this tendency in others as well. When someone does post her picture without apologies I should respond, “Wow, you’re so brave for putting yourself out there! Of course, if I looked like that, I might too, but no one wants to look at my ugly mug.” Just a little reminder that the OP wasn’t acting the proper way disguised as a compliment, along with a chance for the responder to step in and say, “See? I know the rules. I’m ugly and worthless and I like it that way, thank you.”

My Hobbies

Now, this one doesn’t often show up in knitting, I’ll admit, and it’s not exclusive to women. Most knitters I come in contact with online seem genuinely to love knitting. I see the concept of hating one’s hobby played out more in places like the gaming boards my husband frequents. Constant fights over whether one figure a person happens to dislike being released in a toy line they otherwise have no complaint about or some minor quality of life update in an online game COMPLETELY ruins EVERYTHING, is the WORST idea the company has ever had, does various UNFORGIVABLE things to one’s remembrance of their childhood (that are in no way equivalent to sexual assault, but that’s a topic for another day), etc., etc. Well, they could just not buy the figures they don’t like or play a different game, right? But, no, you see they have the ABSOLUTE RIGHT to have the gameplay experience match their own preferences in every way. Otherwise, they’re being oppressed.

In knitting it seems to be more a matter of hating the way others participate in the same hobby. You see it on the Ravelry boards, every time someone new to the craft (and, I’ll admit, seemingly new to message boards as well) joins up and starts yet another thread asking what’s so wrong with Red Heart, why would anyone knit flat/in the round, knit socks, knit with anything thinner than worsted or on needles smaller than US 8s, knit with that swill you find at big box stores, etc., etc.?

Where do these questions get us? Isn’t there a more productive way to have these conversations? “I prefer to knit flat because I find long, straight needles easier to handle, and I really enjoy seaming and find that seams add structural integrity to my sweaters that I just can’t get knitting in the round.” “That’s interesting. I prefer to knit in the round because the circular needles help take some strain off my wrists by taking most of the weight of the yarn. And I haven’t noticed any structural instability to my knit-in-the-round sweaters. Besides which, I’m just not a huge fan of purling, so the idea of getting through a whole sweater with mostly knits is appealing.” “Isn’t it interesting how two people can enjoy the same hobby in such different ways?” “I know! Let’s go get coffee.” Maybe I’m wrong. It just seems that the fact that you could have conversations about differing opinions but that I see so many people choosing not to means that the point isn’t to learn about the craft or that game we both like to play or about our differences, it’s to get on the internet and yell the loudest so more people will think you’re right. (And let’s not get into the Ravelry “disagree” button, ’cause: damn.)

So, my point, I suppose, is that I don’t quite have a point right now. These things are just stuck in my mind lately and they bother me. Maybe if I can get some others’ opinions I can flesh out my own a little. I just don’t want to see a post on the Ravelry boards where a woman posts a picture of her smiling face without comment or apology, or a blog like this, a blog run by a woman who just plain old comes out and says women should feel comfortable and confident being themselves, and find it surprising, different, refreshing. That should be the norm. How do we get to where that can be the norm?

 

3 thoughts on “Hating The Things You Love

  1. You know, I hadn’t really given the whole self-denigration/hobby-denigration thing on Ravelry and various knitblogs any thought at all. And the fact that I never gave it any thought gives me pause.

    You’re right. As women we all too often make excuses for ourselves, put our wants and desires and opinions to the side, and feel guilty if we exercise the least bit of assertiveness.

    Thanks for a thoughtful, thought-provoking blog entry. I will make an effort to no longer apologize for my stash, myself, and my hobbies. It will be difficult, I think. But I will make an effort.

    1. Thank you for this response – I think you hit on another aspect of why this bothers me. It’s easy to go a long time without thinking about this stuff, because it’s everywhere, which makes it invisible. It wasn’t until after I’d been reading blogs and Ravelry posts for a few years that these things really started to build up in my mind and I felt like I needed to examine them a little more.

      I became aware of this stuff a little bit when I first started knitting. I would post my projects on livejournal and when my friends would say they thought something was beautiful and they were impressed, I realized my instinct was to say, “Thanks – it only took an evening, it’s not really that complicated,” even though I was really proud of what I had made and agreed that it was beautiful and impressive. So, I made a point of saying, “Thank you – I’m really proud of this,” instead. Or “here’s a picture of something awesome I made.” And there was always that worry – even on a friends-only journal – that I shouldn’t say that, shouldn’t be too confident, they won’t like it, they’ll call you names. Fear of what “they” will do to you is a huge motivator, and it’s a big part of what perpetuates these attitudes, this need for women to apologize and minimize and try to disappear.

  2. Nice post. You really made me think. Last time I posted a picture of a finished object I was proud of, I gave the credit to the yarn I used – what great stuff it was, what pretty colors, etc. – acting as if the yarn itself is what made the finished object great. We women need to learn to take credit where credit is due. 🙂 Thanks for posting this.

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