and that includes spinning and knitting. And yo! for knitting on International Women’s day…
Once upon a time I was stridently criticised by a particularly angry women for knitting. Apparently I was letting the side down. Apparently no feminist (for such we both were, and in my case still am) should contemplate doing such a thing.
Not right on enough, you see.
Of course, I was dressed like this at the time…
But even though I was actually wearing my dungarees – pocket useful for holding yarn, IMO, even if it did give you an attractive and unusual third breast – it was not good enough. Knitting, you see, was a Weapon of the Opressor. Women, apparently, just knitted for men and/or because men told them to.
WW1 knitters, from Knitters of Yore, Interweave DVD
OK, these rather redoubtable women are knitting for men – for soldiers in WW1 (though perhaps some of the socks and scarves may have found their way to the nurses and VADs). So, quite possibly, are these women from WW2, who appear to be mending as much a creating:
I wasn’t dressed like this either, when we had our argument, but on balance I feel more attracted to the ribbons and the shoes and the rather strange triangular hat worn by the dancers.
Once I’d stopped laughing, I could see she sort-of had something: women have knitted and spun and weaved and worked with textiles as part of their everyday lives, and done it to bring in income. They’ve been exploited doing it. But at some point everyone has, male and female – the deprived and exploited sock-knitters of mid-Wales, for instance, were men as well as women. That wasn’t what she was thinking of, though. After thirty minutes of abuse I snapped. I suspected that her attack on me had more to do with her relationship with her mother, an opinion I chose to share (hey, it was the mid-80s and she was into Marxist self-examination, so I felt I was being helpful, OK?). I might have gone a bit far, but I did mange not to stab her with my needles – long, metal and sharp, of course – which I consider to have been quite restrained.
Quite seriously, for me – raised by a stroppy feminist and true to my own roots – feminism broadly means I can do what I want and be what I want to be, providing I don’t harm anyone else, and that nobody has the right to tell me I cannot (it means many other things as well, but let’s not get distracted). OK, if I wanted to take up pole-dancing I might like to think about it a bit, but if I want to knit, I can knit. If I want to spin, I can spin.
Women spinning yarn for soldiers’ socks, New South Wales, 1915; Wikimedia Commons
If I want to be a brain surgeon, an astronaut, a farmer – I can. Society might not always agree, but by and large things have moved on a bit from the time I was told I couldn’t join a BBC cameraman [sic, and I was] training programme because I was female.
And if I want to knit, I’m ******* knitting.
Wartime knitters – courtesy BBC / Getty
I am going along to have coffee with some women I know today in a local cafe, just to mark International Women’s Day. They are older than I am and most were once members of the Socialist Worker’s Party. I wonder if times really have changed? I shall take my knitting and find out!
(But I will not, as a public service, be wearing the dungarees, happily thrown out years ago. Bechod.)