This post could turn in to something of a word salad.... but I want to type it here because it's a conversation prompted by Instagram, but firstly, Instagram is a dreadful place to have any sort of meaningful discussion. I can barely keep track of 20 Team Hilltop Cloud Tour de Fleece posts per day, let alone host any sort of nuanced discussion in the comments.
Secondly it's a conversation that needs to move beyond an Instagram bubble, if I really do believe in what I write there I shouldn't be afraid to write it somewhere that is accessible to those who don't use social media.
Over the past few days a well known male knitting designer and teacher called Sockmatician made a instagram post that basically called on everyone to "just be nice". He claimed to have invented the #diversknitty and was upset that other people were using it in a way he wasn't happy about. He wrote a bizarre poem that immediately set my teeth on edge. To me it smacked of misogyny, yet another man telling me how I should think and behave. As I've later discovered that reaction is partly my privilege showing, because of course he wrote his original post in reposes to the discussion that has been happening regarding racism in our community. So by telling everyone to just "play nice" he was actually trying to silence the voices of BIPOC, so he was also being racist.
People replied to his post, pointing out the issues with what he had just written, and instead of apologising, or stepping away to think about what they were saying, the original poster then became aggressive, and started victim blaming. His husband then chimed in, made everything worse, and in the end claimed that the hurt the commenters had caused had led to male knitting designer being admitted to hospital due to a mental health breakdown. As someone who has suffered with mental health issues I can completely appreciate how this situation may have led to him feeling very unwell. Just writing this makes me feel anxious, however, mental health is not an excuse for treating other people poorly.
This weekend, the knitting designer attended a yarn show in the West Midlands. He was there to teach and sell books. At a quiet point during the show, a vendor, who was also a woman of colour, went over to question him about his actions. He responded with aggression, and had to be removed from the show. Meanwhile his husband is carrying on being offensive over on his personal blog and on Facebook.
I've said this before, and I'll say it again. It is not ok to behave in this way. The knitting designer tried to claim that just because he was gay he knew what it was like to be in a minority group, and he wasn't being racist.
His words caused hurt and harm.
He has not apologised, or recognised that he was wrong to post in the manner he did.
I'm saying it in my own corner of the internet, because we need to be having this conversation outside the swirling mass of words currently floating around on instagram.
I know you all come here for pretty pictures of spinning, or interesting technical articles. I have a couple of them lined up. But those things only happen when we also have a space where everyone is welcome. Where we can have the tough discussions highlighting the lack of equality in our world, because then we can do the fun things and everyone benefits.
If you've read all this and are just thinking that you'd like to stick to your fibre crafts ask yourself "why do I think that, why am I not listening to the voices of those who are saying that they feel unwelcome or unsafe?" Just because you haven't experienced those things doesn't mean that others haven't. People are saying this is a problem. Those of us who are in a position of privilege need to stand up and say "ok, if you don't feel safe or welcome or represented we need to do something about this"
As ever, my inbox is open if you want to send me an email privately. I have tried, to the best of my ability, to make sure that what I have written is accurate, and respectful. If I have inadvertently caused hurt please tell me. I am open to fixing my mistakes and I apologise in advance. Comments here are open, but to be clear, I will not tolerate any defence of Sockmaticians actions. If you want to tell me to "just stick to the spinning", then I suggest you go and read the letters that go out with the Time Travellers Club each month. The ever educational Penelope Hemmingway wrote this last year (I am very much looking forward to her talk at Summer School in August). Textiles have always been political. They always will.