Knitting and Gender – Revamped.

March 3, 2007 at 5:40 pm | Posted in Random babble | 1 Comment

It seems I spend an awful lot of time thinking about the relationship of my knitting to my gender, or my lack thereof, and comparing it to other people. It seems to me that every knitter I run into has a defined gender, and on some level, knitting is an expression of that gender.

But it goes beyond gender roles into stereotypes, as things often do.

This repost and revamping of my thoughts on knitting and gender was inspired by listening to an episode of Cast On that was hosted by guest speaker Franklin Habit. He mentioned how he was knitting a fairly complex sweater in public one day, and someone came up to him and asked, “Oh, are you learning to knit?” He talked about how this generally isn’t a smart thing to say when a person is working on a complex project, but at the same time, it’s almost expected that a man who’s knitting in public is going to be ‘just learning’, dabbling in the craft.

Knitting is connected to gender because society rules, despite our thoughts and attempts to the contrary, how we’ve seen things in the past, how we see things now, and how we will see them in the future. If there’s a person sitting there, moving her pointy sticks and making loops of yarn, this person is a woman, either hip and trendy and into this ‘new yoga knitting thing’, or she’s a traditionalist, making a valiant effort at keeping an old craft alive.

If a man knits in public, they are either being brave, trying to establish their place in a “woman’s world”, or they are gay. No two ways about it. A man knitting must be one of those things.

It seems that no one can be just a person who knits. No one can be a knitter. We must be a knitting man or a knitting woman, but never just a knitter. And in this day and age where you have supposed gender equality, and more and more people discovering that they were born into the wrong sex body, you’d think we could move beyond those stereotypes.

I consider myself a knitter. I am a person who knits. Physically, I am female. I have breasts, and bits of me bleed once a month. Mentally, I am neither male nor female. There are many “What gender are you” tests that confirm this, and I’m not just talking about ones where you can easily skew the results. I’m talking about ones that involve spatial relations and other brain teasers. Men do tend to perform differently on those tests than women. I come out smack-dab in the middle. Mentally, I am neither man nor woman.

Knitting does not define my gender. I am neither hip and trendy, nor a traditionalist, nor brave, nor gay. (I am asexual, and no, that doesn’t mean I reproduce by cloning myself, for those of you who feel like being smartasses about it. It means I feel no sexual attraction to males, females, or anything in between. I have no sex drive, and honestly, I’m quite happy that way.)

Men get lucky if they knit. They get support groups, they get huge happy collections of other men who also share a love for the craft. They get everything the women get, and a little bit more sometimes because society deems them odd for jumping into a woman’s traditional place.

Women get the benefit of having more patterns designed for feminine figures, since there are more female knitters than male ones. If I do looking for sweater patterns, for example, I generally tend to steer to ones that are “designed for men”, since I honestly don’t want anything accentuating the curves I have and don’t particularly want. There are plenty of patterns out there for men’s sweaters, and it seems that there’s a limiting factor on it. Woman want to knit them, not for themselves but for their men, their brothers or fathers or boyfriends or whatever.

My purpose is not to disparage the connection that people like to make between knitting and gender identity, if they feel that knitting is an expression of their gender, or they’re comfortable enough with their gender identity to not feel challenged by society’s views. It just seems unfair to me that there are only so many ways of describing a knitter, and in the end, the final description seems to come down to that dichotomy of male and female.

I would love to start up a webring or a podcast or something with this in mind. People Who Knit – The Gathering Place for Knitters Without Gender. But part of me, some rather sad lonely little scared part of me suspects that I’m the only one out there who feels like this. I don’t feel like I deserve some pat on the back for jumping into a traditionally gendered role or anything. I think sometimes I just feel a little lonely, being in a minority that alas, doesn’t really have any support groups. I may very well be a minority of one, a unique person seeing this phenomenon from a unique angle.

People see me as a woman, more so because I knit, and even more so on top of that because I knit lace. I dislike that image, but there’s little I can do about it without extensive cosmetic surgery. Online, I can have my little escape. I can be Ria, the person who is known by a name, not a pair of boobs, and I can be, for as long as I maintain this blog, a knitter. Not a knitting man. Not a knitting woman. Not a knitting tranny. Just a knitter.

And that’s all I really want to be.

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1 Comment »

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  1. Since my response to this is so long that it would be ridiculous as a comment, I am composing an email to you wherein I ramble about gender. I was working on it for a while when I realized that I had done nothing productive today at all, so I’m going to leave it alone and finish it tomorrow. Or the next day. Or whenever.


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