My response to the Yarn Harlot’s response to the USOC

You can read the Yarn Harlot’s post here: http://www.yarnharlot.ca/blog/archives/2012/06/21/now_that_you_ask.html

It is nice to have a calm voice rise above the mob. I agree with much of what you said. However, I believe you missed the mark on this one.

You are correct that the USOC is not asking Ravelers to abandon their games, only rename them. (I say “their games” because I don’t personally play along, although I am an active Ravelry knitter.) I don’t know much about copyright laws, but what you said made sense, except that I agree with the people who pointed out that, unlike your Sock Summit example, nobody would confuse what we do with THE Olympic games.

You missed the mark in your comparison of knitters to athletes.

The difference is NOT that we are knitters and they are athletes. The difference is that they have a world-wide competition every four years to find who is that best at running 100 meters or playing table tennis or shooting an arrow. We have not had a forum, on the global scale, to compete with our peers. If we did, I’m sure we would be eager to see who would win at Cable Construction or Turning a Heel or Working Without a Pattern.

You said, “We are not, however, spending our whole lives trying to be not just someone who can run 100 metres, but trying to be someone who can run 100 meters better than every single other person on earth.”

Perhaps not. But we would! If there was a global competition to be the best at something knitting-related, there are those of us who would train and compete in those events. At whatever cost. In my home state of Connecticut, our local fair is having it’s 100th annual event. (http://www.goshenfair.org/contests.htm) Among it’s contests are Needlework, which include knitting and crocheting. Competition is fierce. Those medals are displayed with much pride.

The Olympics only highlights athletes. (Can I use “Olympics” here? Is there a jar I should throw a quarter into?) We don’t know, every four years, who is the best typist on the planet. Or the best electrician. Or what construction team can frame a house the fastest. For some reason, long ago, certain sports were chosen to highlight achievement, and we continue to raise our athletes to demi-god status. Perhaps it’s because it’s not as much fun to watch someone type, or wire a house, or even knit a sock. It doesn’t make for riveting television programming.

You said they “put more sweat and training and work into that than anyone else ever has in the whole world.” I understand that physical training is different than knitting but you, of all people, should know how hard we train! Just like the athletes who want to be coached by the Great Ones, knitters travel to your Sock Summit, or various retreats to learn new techniques, training with those in our field who are recognized professionals. Somehow these knitters find time, funding and passion to better themselves at their chosen endeavor. It just happens that they are improving knitting skills rather than rowing or sailing skills.

You said, “We are not like elite athletes.  We are really great, but we are not the same as they are.” Well, of course not. The same way my surgeon is not the same as my accountant, but if I said that my accountant, by doing a great job on my taxes, “saved my life,” I’m not denigrating the work that my surgeon does. In the same way, Ravelry’s competition, using a derivitive of the Olympic name, does not somehow belittles their athletic efforts.

As for being an elite athlete: You are not, perhaps, an elite athlete (recent bike-riding notwithstanding), but you are elite. Let me say that again really carefully: You, Stephanie, are an elite knitter. You belong to a small, select group. You are paid to travel, teach and learn about knitting and knitters. Many of us would choose that as a vocation were it an option, however, because our craft is not held in high regard, there are few people who could command enough money in this field to make a living at it. You are an exception. You are doing what many of us would like to do but can’t. Your profession is made possible by the devotion of knitters to their craft.

The USOC said that by spending time knitting, competing amongst ourselves, and doing it in our own forum during the same time the Olympics are held, we were, being “disrespectful to our country’s finest athletes and fail(ing) to recognize or appreciate their hard work,” which in turn implies that anyone can, without any time or training or effort, pick up needles and knit something – basically failing to recognize or appreciate our hard work. I’m not advocating pitchforks and angry mobs but is it any surprise their words were met with such hostility? They added their voices to the many who already can’t believe we pay upwards of $20 for yarn to make one pair of socks or that we value giving a handmade hat that took 15 hours to make instead of simply buying a store bought item. And you defended them.

It’s a fine line to walk. I agree we must “Stay Classy.” That doesn’t mean we should accept the abuse, nod our heads and move on; it means we express our outrage in a civilized manner. I don’t know how sincere the USOC’s apology was, but we wouldn’t have received one had the knitting community not risen up together in anger. Now, I believe that, for the most part, we have been heard and it’s time to move on.

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7 thoughts on “My response to the Yarn Harlot’s response to the USOC

  1. Agreed 100%. I felt the same way as you do. I am an active Rav member as well, yet I do not compete in the Ravelympics either. I feel many of the things you said were on target. I did not write a comment on the Harlot’s blog specifically for the reason that I know if I disagreed, I would be hunted down and strung up. There are many in the craft community who are held in such high regard (as they should be), but it doesn’t make them the voice for all of us. You can see my response to all of this here: http://www.kusalaknits.blogspot.com

  2. Very well put! I think you are dead on about how having a big, flashy, highly hyped international event is the only real defining difference of “worth.” It’s all part of some social belief that if you aren’t sweating/pushing your physical body to the limits, you aren’t really worth admiration/adoration (at least not in a public way), which may also speak to the dismal state of education in this country…

  3. Your words resonate with me. I’m not a blind follower (am I the only one who hasn’t knit the color affection shawl and still read SPM?) and had a hard time being patted on the head and told that, yes, while it is troubling and perhaps not the best choice of words, the adults in the room are technically correct in that knitters and their friends the crocheters do denigrate the elite athletes when they compare themselves to the gods. Whatthehellever. I’d like to see whomever is in the beach volleyball competition knit a pair of knee socks in two weeks (my last ravelympics project) on US1s.

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