Friday, March 17, 2017

A funny thing happened on the way to the barn...

A post with musings about partisanship and conversations.

So, a funny thing did, indeed, happen at the barn a bit ago, and I've been mulling it over off and on ever since.  First, full disclosure:  I have bumper stickers on my car.  This is actually a fairly recent phenomenon (I was always a bumper stickerless sort of person until recently; I still wear my bumper stickered status kind of uncomfortably - it may change).  The bumper stickers on my car are: Coexist; A woman's place is everywhere; the Obama sticker that says "Hope over fear"; I'm with her; and 13.1.  My basic policy about bumper stickers is this: they must say what I stand for, not what I stand against.

So, I recently pulled into the ranch where Disco boards and drove (slowly! speed limit 5 mph!) over to the bathrooms to change.  As I did, I noticed a man walking in the same direction from the covered arena - I pegged him as a dad waiting for his daughter to finish her lesson, and smiled.  I tend to feel friendly towards people at the barn, assuming that, whatever else may be true, we share some interest in horses one way or another.  He seemed very occupied with examining my car (which I should also note, in the interests of full disclosure, is an old and very dirty Prius - I do a lot of driving, some of it on dirt, and it shows).  I headed into the bathroom to change, and when I came out, he was past my car and turning to look at it, again, over his shoulder. 

I got in, started up, and was pulling out when I saw he'd circled back.  I unrolled my window.  Looking back, I was still in the mode of assuming that our common element was horses, and I think my expectation was that he was going to ask whether I had a horse at the barn, or whether I worked with one of the trainers, or something along those lines. 

He said, "I couldn't help but notice your bumper stickers."

At which point, I wondered whether we were on the same page, in a social justicey kind of way.  Once in a while, people will comment on liking one of the bumper stickers.

He said, "We don't see eye to eye at all, politically."  Oh.

"Oh?"  (Because I wasn't quite sure where to go with that.)

"I voted for Trump, and I have to tell you, I am very happy right now."  (This was a few days after the first immigration ban.)

I made another semi-interested, noncommittal noise.  Mostly because I was taking it in, and trying to figure out exactly what was going on.  In the moment, my sincere feeling was that he'd never actually met anyone who thought the things I had on my bumper stickers, and he was checking out the liberal in the wild.  Friends later suggested that he was trying to pick a fight.  Maybe I was picking up on that, too.  But my strongest feeling was this: he was not seeing me as a person.  I don't know what he was seeing, but it really wasn't me.  He said,
"We really do not see eye to eye!"

And I, not knowing what else to do with that uncomfortable feeling that he wasn't seeing me, and I really would feel much better if he did, stuck my hand out the car window and said,
"Hi.  My name is Jocelyn.  It's really nice to meet you!"

He stopped short.  His hand was halfway out before, I think, he realized what he was doing (those social norms are strong, aren't they?), and he responded by introducing himself.  I told him it was nice to meet him, and he said again: "Well, we really don't see eye to eye."  I said, "That's one of the nice things about a democracy!", and he excused himself and wandered off.

It was weird.  It was weird because I still don't really quite know what he was hoping for in that conversation.  I do think that, whatever it was, he didn't get it.  I think I went seriously off-script.  I'm just curious what the script was supposed to be. 

In a larger way, I also found it interesting that he approached me to tell me that he disagreed with me.  It's not something I would do.  I noticed the same thing yesterday, as I was standing outside my Representative's office with signs - some people would make a point of flipping us off or giving us a thumb's down.  It caught my attention because I regularly drive past a protest outside a health clinic - I don't agree at all with what the protesters stand for, but it wouldn't occur to me to flip them off; it doesn't seem like a conversation starter, you know?  On the other hand, maybe I'm just assuming that such a dialogue can't happen and avoiding engagement?  In other words, should it seem hopeful to me that someone would approach me about my bumper stickers - incipient conversation - or was it the verbal equivalent of the flip-off - no conversation, just an opportunity to say I don't agree with you?  Conversations seem so important, and yet so impossible, right now; I'm not sure what to do about that.  (Although a friend just sent me a link to a roundup of interesting articles about conversations and how to have them: here it is.)  What do you think?  How do you handle seeing visible signs of some stranger's non-alignment with your views in the world?

Meanwhile, the wisteria are blooming, and the leaves on the sycamores are coming out, and the branches on the oaks trees on my morning walk are tipped with new red leaves, almost like flowers.  I think it's spring.


Sunday, March 5, 2017

Some knitting!

First, thank you all so much for reading my last post, and for participating in the survey.  If you haven't responded yet but are interested in participating, it's still live - here is the link again: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HDTVNZ7.

Meanwhile, I did promise the occasional post about knitting, and I have, in fact, been knitting. Most of my time until this last week has been spent on one big project, but in the last couple of days, a few things came up and now I have three projects OTN.  It's starting to feel like old times around here.

First, the big project.  A month or so ago, I belatedly treated myself to a subscription to Kate Davies' latest project: Inspired by Islay.  Every week, Kate would send out a new pattern (on Wednesday)(also uploaded to my Rav library), and on Friday, an essay about the inspiration for the pattern, capped off by whiskey tasting suggestions and notes written by her partner.  And now that it's all done, hard copies of the whole collection of patterns and essays are being shipped out.  I love Kate's designs; one of my favorite sweaters (the Northmavine Hoodie) is her design, and I think it exemplifies her incredibly clean lines and well-thought-out design elements beautifully.  It's one of the sweaters that I'm most proud of (and that is most likely to get the amazed "you MADE that?!" - along with my Bohus).  (To my horror, I realize it's not on my Rav page - I really was out of things for a while there, wasn't I?  ETA:  Oh, wait, there it is!)

In any case, the Inspired by Islay collection has a number of patterns I'd like to knit, but the moment I saw the Oa, I absolutely had to have it - I treated myself to the yarn (Kate's own Buchaille) for my birthday.

I want this to be a good sweater so much that I swatched.  It's not that I don't usually swatch, but sometimes, I'll cast on for the sleeve and see how that goes (sleeves and swatches are about the same size, yes?).  Not this time.  This time, I knitted a swatch in the round (in two different needle sizes), cut it, and steam ironed it - exactly as called for in the pattern.  (Can you hear the proud tone in my voice?)
The only thing I did differently was to cast off in blue instead of white so that I could remember which side was done with the size three needle, and which with the size four.  I've been plugging away at the body devotedly since casting on.
That's probably a good seven inches or so of progress.  It's not speedy, but since it's only two colors per row, it's not too terribly slow, either.  I was planning to be monogamously devoted to this project, but, well...

I made the mistake of reading Mason-Dixon, and saw that they are partnering with Jen and Jim Arnall-Culliford to create a Year of Techniques, with a new pattern showcasing a new technique coming out each month (and uploaded to my Rav library - I really love that!).  Since I'm trying to create opportunities for myself to feel more inspired, I signed on.  I figured I'd knit the patterns as I have time (read: after I finish Oa), but then I saw the first project, which uses helical stripes, and I kind of had to try it.  Right away.  I hied myself straight to my LYS to get a Zauberball of mine own, but the only ones they had, while lovely, just didn't have quite enough long striping contrast, so I went off-script and got myself a cake of Alexandra's Crafts Sister, and cast on with that.
I have to say, these helical stripes are a giggle.  Once I really got it into my head that I'm knitting two rows at a time, it got much easier to see what's happening here - the upshot of the technique is stripes with no jog at all.
I'll take better pictures once I'm further along, but trust me - no jog.  No carrying yarns up the inside.  Just two balls of yarn, chasing one another around the armwarmer.  The pattern (which comes with a link to a video tutorial) offers a discussion of how to do this on circular needles or on dpns, which is what I'm using.  I have to say that I think this is probably easier on dpns, since I can drop the yarn at the end of one dpn, without having to move stitches around on the needles.  They say that you can do this with two-row stripes (up to four, even), but I can't quite get my head around that.  I kind of what to try it, though...  These are the Hyacinthus Armwarmers, and I'm kind of thinking I'll make more than one pair.  (In fact, maybe I'll order myself a Zauberball right now so it's here when I need it.  Hmmm....)

But not yet!  Because I'm on serious pink yarn duty.  I'm involved with a group of friends and colleagues who are politically active, and at our last meeting, one of them said she'd gladly pay me for yarn if I'd just knit her a pussyhat (she also offered to pay for my time, which is silly); everyone else in the room asked to go on the list, too.  I said yes.  Then I went home, talked to a knitting friend of mine who was there, and dithered.  I want to knit Oa!  And that's a lot of pink hats!  And I knew if I wrote to everyone and said that my love for them had overwhelmed my good sense, they'd all understand.

But (and here's my dark secret), I want to be the kind of person who knits for other people.  And I am not.  I mean, it's not that I never knit for other people - I spent all last fall knitting sweaters for the girls and my niece; I spent a year knitting a blanket for Older Daughter to take to college.  But you know what I mean - the kind of open-hearted person willing to say, yes!  I'll knit nine pussyhats!

Of course, because life is complex and I am of two minds about nearly everything, I also aspire to be a person who knows when to say no.  Because knitting for people notwithstanding, I definitely find it hard sometimes to say no.  So I decided this was an opportunity to sit with myself and figure out what I want, in this instance, at this time.  I thought carefully about the whole thing and realized that, honestly, by the time I finish Oa, it'll probably be too warm to wear it anyway (alternatively, we'll have a nice bout of May Gray and June Gloom, and I'll have it done for that).  And once Oa's done, I'll be harrassing my daughters to tell me what I can knit for them.  So, really, why not knit nine hats?  But I also knew in my heart that I really didn't want to spend hours knitting with, say, cheap acrylic yarn (shudder).  The upshot is that I realized I honestly was willing to put off Oa, and to knit nine hats (if that's what it turns out to be), if and only if I was doing it with yarn that I really, REALLY enjoy.  Read: it's not gonna be cheap.

So I wrote to everyone with the honest statement that I'd rather buy nice yarn from my LYS, and saying that I completely understood if people didn't want expensive pink pussyhats.  So far, most of them do, and I have cast on for the first one.
The yarn is Fibre Co Tundra (alpaca, wool, silk).  It's soft and puffy like baby ducks, the pink is a nice rich raspberry, and I'm knitting this up on a size nine needle - a bit smaller than called for, but I think the fabric is turning out well.  And I'm enjoying it.  I'm glad I spent some time teasing out what I wanted to do and what it would look like, and being honest about it.  I do worry that I'm committing people to spending money on hats that may not in the end, be what they visualized (too bulky, too hot, I don't know - just not what they thought they were getting), but I'm trying to let that go and enjoy the process of knitting them, now that I've gone through the process of figuring out what I want knitting them to be about.

All right.  I'll stop there.  I have a few fun stories to tell about my last couple of weeks, but I'll save those for next time.  What do you have OTN these days?

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Pussyhats - the interactive edition (survey link included)

(Note: if you want to just go to the survey - which is for everyone, whether or not you knitted a pussyhat - you can skip below to where it says Here is the link.)

I think a lot of you may know that a knitting friend/colleague and I (hi, Marie!) have been researching the knitting community for a while now.  It started with a survey that I posted on Ravelry and advertised at the first Sock Summit (remember those?).  The response was pretty overwhelming - not only did I get over 2,000 responses in a very short time, but people wrote screeds in response to the open-ended questions.  We have also interviewed knitters individually and in focus groups.  My colleague and I are still (!!) coding the data; you people have a lot to say, all of it rich and thick.  I've gotten a paper out, and she and I are giving a presentation on more of the data in June, so we're starting to get a handle on it.  The goal is something larger, when all put together.

And then came January, and the pink pussyhats and the Women's March.  My first real exposure to the pussyhat discussion came before the march when I saw a response that someone posted on Facebook to a Washington Post article.  The article, entitled: "The Women's March needs passion and purpose, not pink pussycat hats", fascinated me.  Especially when the author referred to the proposed pink hats (this came out before the march) as "well-intentioned, she-power frippery".  Wow.

Knitters (including the one who posted on Facebook) responded in ways that I didn't find at all surprising, given what we've seen in our data, and what I know of my fellow knitters.  Like: “We are going to protest on our own terms. We don’t have to do it in the way that the patriarchy deems serious or correct.”  And: "Knitters can walk and chew gum at the  same time. We can knit while we call our representatives, wait on hold while trying to get through to congress, we can put down our needles and make donations to Planned Parenthood and the ACLU and sign endless petitions. We can knit while we attend PTA meetings and community organize." Both of these quotes capture sentiments that we see in our data; they also capture the sense of having to explain things about knitting that knitters know and non-knitters don't.

Other articles discussed not only the issues with pink, and craftiness (as an index of non-feminist femininity), but also with the word itself: "pussy".  People don't like it.  At all. 

In fact, the pussyhats are interesting in no small part, I think, because of the uncomfortable mixing of (assumed) prefeminist (maybe even antifeminist) knitting - and don't forget that color! - and the reclaiming of that impolite, raucous, uncomfortable word (the one we all had to hear our now-President saying on a hot mike): pussy.

Words for female genitalia are marked.  By which I mean, we notice them in conversation.  They are more derogatory, more shocking, more offensive, than similar words for male genitalia.  Calling someone a dick just doesn't have the same sting as calling someone a pussy - let alone calling them that other word for female genitalia that I don't say in class without a warning that it's coming.  (It's one of two words that I treat that way.)

Note: I'm a linguist - this is all data.  We have to be able to talk about these words; they both mean and do something in the public sphere.

So, what did these hats, in all their knitted, offensively-named, pinkness do in the public sphere?

The answer to that, I think, is emblematic of knitting and knitters in some very interesting ways.  They were aggressive without being mean; they were noticeable and visually arresting, and lighthearted at the same time.  My experience of them was that they were bonding; they created a tribe out of a disparate group of people.  When we finally crammed onto a trolley to go to the San Diego march (after letting two trains go by because they were too full of people to fit any more in), while there wasn't a sea of pink, the hats were definitely in evidence:

The women who created the Pussyhat Project offered a few reasons for their inspiration.  One that particularly caught my attention was the goal of letting people who could not go to the march nevertheless participate by knitting hats to send to Washington for people who could not knit their own.  That, right there, captures something that we see again and again in our data: knitters' desire to use their knitting to create community, and to show connection and caring for other people.   Recipients of the hats talked about how much it meant to them to get the gift of a handknitted hat from a stranger; it created circles of connection that went far beyond the day and location of the main march.  This, too, is something that knitters celebrate and work to create.

The pride in making something by hand, in the activism that many knitters participate in (whatever end of the political spectrum they may inhabit), and the surprise (re)realization that not everyone understands/participates in/experiences the joy of making something by hand - these also showed up in articles discussing the hats and the march.  I also appreciated this author's point that the hats (along with signs and clear backpacks) and the organization that they represent are a clear link to the kinds of (often unacknowledged) work that women do every day: tedious, detail-oriented, repetitive but necessary tasks (dishes, laundry, changing diapers - I'm looking at all of you).

All of this is to say that the pussyhat phenomenon strikes me as quintessentially knitting in action.  I know that by no means all knitters (or even the majority of knitters) agree with or support the politics of the march, or knitted a hat (or hats); but I still think that that this is a moment that captures the essence of how knitters see their craft in relationship to their lives more broadly writ.

So, Marie and I have put together a short survey on pussyhats.  It offers questions both for those who did knit pussyhats, and for those who did not.  We'd like to hear from everybody.  It's truly short - probably only five or ten minutes to fill out.  And we'd love to see it distributed as widely as possible.  So please, feel free to post it (if you let me know where you've posted it, I'd love to drop by and say thanks!), email it out, FB it, tweet it, whatever you want to do to get it out to your own community of knitters (again, whether they were pussyhat knitters or not).

Here is the link:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HDTVNZ7.  You can copy and paste it, or just click on it from here.  Thank you in advance for your input and help.

As a rather ironic addendum, I was so intrigued by the whole movement and how it relates to what we've learned about the knitting community that I utterly failed to knit any of my own, for me or for my girls (who marched with us).
I have since made up for it:
And I've been informed that I have a whole list of hats to knit before April 15.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A snowy long weekend

As you may know, California's drought appears decidedly to be on hiatus.  Read: we've been getting some serious precipitation. 

Here's a funny thing about that.  I love rain.  I love cold, wet winters.  (Among other things, cold wet winters means snow in the mountains - we'll get to that soon.)  But since getting a horse, I have become decidedly less enamored of rain.  Rain means no turn-outs and no lunging.  And no turn-outs and no lunging means a fresh and frisky horse.  Which means I don't ride.  It's interesting how adding a new activity to my life has completely changed my outlook on weather.
(I got a new camera, about which I am tremendously excited.  Among other things, it is much smaller and lighter than our old good digital camera, with better resolution.  And I can take close-ups again!  Say hi, Disco.)

Our local flora and fauna, however, feel no such ambivalence towards the rain.  Everything around here is bursting out with whatever growth it can muster. 



 Even some of my favorite old trees are looking happier with their feet wet.






Of course, all this rain also means snow!  Rick has been watching the snow reports at Mammoth like a hawk.  When the base got to 15 feet, he started giggling like a child on Christmas eve.  So, for the long weekend, it was pretty obvious where we were going to go.  We got out of town on Thursday afternoon and beat the storm to Mammoth.  Which was a good thing, because by the time we got down the mountain after skiing on Friday, it was hard to find the car.
Glad we didn't drive through all that snow to get there!  The skiing did get a bit hairy here and there, when the mountain was enveloped in clouds and whiteout conditions...
(That's Rick and Younger Daughter, just upslope of me.)  And the top of the mountain didn't open all weekend long - I think it's the first time ever that we've been there and not been able to ski the whole mountain.  When the sun peeked through the clouds, though, the view down into the valley was stunning.
And there was always some Mammoth Brew Co goodness at the end of the day to take away the aches and pains.
The knitting got some run time, too.
(If you look closely, you'll see that's a Bohus reproduction Wild Apple on my head - toasty warm and good-looking to boot!  Those Swedes know a thing or two about keeping warm in the winter.  And what you can't see is that my handspun, handknit cowl is tucked into my coat, keeping my chin and neck toasty warm even in the worst of the wind on the chairlift.)

On the way home, we were treated to stunning views of the eastern Sierra
And the western White Mountains peeking through the clearing storm.
I didn't neglect my knitting, either, although pictures will have to wait for next time.  I finished a hat for Younger Daughter (Ysolda Teague's Snapdragon Tam), and on the drive home, I cast on for my Oa, which I am very excited about.

And I think that's enough for now!  What did you all do for the long weekend?

Saturday, February 11, 2017

A few projects on and off the needles

One nice thing about a long holiday break (which has been over for a while now, but still), coupled with no longer being chair of my department (the email load dropped off almost instantaneously with me handing the chairship over in the fall - I can't tell you what a relief that was), is that I finally had time to get excited about knitting again.

It's not that I haven't been knitting all along - last fall, in fact, I knitted a sweater for each my girls, and then one for my niece for Christmas.  It's more that I wasn't engaged in the joy and fun of thinking about new projects, weighing the options, looking at yarn; and I definitely wasn't anywhere close to thinking about playing around with designing anything.  One thing I know about myself is that I absolutely loathe last-minute pressure; I hate being late.  So, as chair, I realized pretty quickly that the only way to be ready for the inevitable late-notice, oh-my-gosh-oops-we-forgot-to-tell-you-this-is-due-tomorrow stuff, was to be veryvery on top of everything else, so that I'd have room for the last-minute things when they arrived on my plate.  I got into the habit of keeping an ongoing list of big-ticket items (the kinds of things that I know I need some serious time to get through: curriculum, meeting agendas, personnel reviews, etc etc), and the smaller things that I could knock off in five minutes here, ten minutes there (email, email, email).  Which meant that any time I had five or ten minutes, I was trying to get through those things so that I'd have longer chunks of time for the bigger stuff, and at the end of a day of getting through all of that, I really just wanted to read something mindless or knit something mindless or go to bed.  The nice thing about that strategy is that I did get enough sleep every night (no last-minute all-nighters to get something done), and I did get to walk my dog on a trail almost every day, and I had dinner with my family, and I spent time with my horse.  So, it wasn't the worst survival strategy in the world.

But what I almost never had was several unscheduled hours with nothing planned, and no to-do list that I felt strongly about getting to (to avoid emergencies later down the road).  And another thing that I seem to be learning about myself is that I need that kind of time - that kind of I could almost be bored here so what could I do that's interesting kind of time - to feel that there's enough space to poke at a new and exciting project, or a new craft, or a new instrument.  I'll also admit that things like Facebook, the New York Times crossword puzzle, solitaire, and Instagram all make it really easy to fritter away the smaller chunks of time that could become bigger pieces for sinking (in the sense of slipping into a lovely warm bath) into the creative.  As I write this, it occurs to me that I need to use time the way I did as chair - except, instead of getting the little work done in small chunks of time so I could create big chunks of time for the hard projects, I need to stop spending my small chunks of free time on little relaxingish things, so that I can create for myself the space, and spaciousness, to settle into a creating place.  Something to mull over.

The fall didn't really give me room for that - the chair transition and a few other things got in the way. But knowing that I had a sabbatical this spring, once I finished teaching an online intersession class (my first fully online class, and one of the "other things" whose preparation was on my mind during the fall), I was able to take a few weeks to not-work, and to start to get my legs back under me.

I knitted cowls for me and the girls:
That's me and Older Daughter; Younger Daughter has one, too.  These are all knitted out of Baah Sequoia, a super-chunky and super-soft and lofty yarn dyed by a friend and local dyer.  I have discovered recently the pleasure of cowls, in that they never fall off, and you don't have to deal with ends flying about or not staying put.  Of course, there is also great pleasure in a lovely neck-warming small shawl, so I knitted one of those, too (and used it, in progress, as a header shot for an article that was just published on knitting and food in socialization).
The yarn for this is a lovely little skein I picked up from the Yarnover Truck during the Vista Fiber Festival.
I don't have any pictures of me wearing it yet; I'll have to get some.  I'm surprised I've managed to hang on to this one - a lot of people have threatened to steal it.  The yarn is Apple Tree Knits Plush Gradient, and the pattern is Imagine When.

I also (finally) finished Rick's winter socks:
These are just a plain pair of socks, knitted out of Candy Skein Delicious Fingering, in the Sour Apple colorway.  My only complaint about this particular skein of this yarn (which I've used before and love) is that it stained my fingers blue-green every time I worked on these socks.  They are therefore due a good soaking before Rick actually wears them out and about, lest they turn his feet and shoes irreparably green.

One funny thing about these is the heel, which I knitted in my usual eye-of-partridge stitch.  (I knit these from the toe up, with a heel flap on the bottom of the foot.)  On one sock, the eye-of-partridge turned out beautifully visible.  On the other, not.  I can't figure out what the difference is between the two - same needles, same stitch, same everything, different outcome.  It's weird.

And for my birthday, I treated myself to a sweater that I've been admiring: Evelyn.  This was a fun and easy knit, and the yarn is soft and plush; I'm a bit worried that it's looking a titch fuzzy already, so we'll see whether this turns out to be something I can wear constantly (which I'd hoped - it's good-looking AND cuddly, which is a winning combination, in my book), or whether I need to be more careful of it. 
This was a fun knit, for the most part.  The cable up there at the top of the back felt a bit fussy (mostly because that much cabling in that small of a space tends to lead to tight stitches when I knit), but boy does it look nice:
The sleeves are more of the same, but narrower...
As is the button band.  (A snap will eventually go in there at the top.)
The only part of this whole sweater that kind of annoys me is the collar, which would not lie flat for love or money.
I have since tacked it down.  (That'll teach it to be contrary.)

There are a few other small things I could post, but I think I'll save them for another day.  I'm wrapping one of them up today (I hope), and, if all goes well, the yarn for my next sweater will arrive in the mail.  (Arrive, yarn, dang it!)  If not, Younger Daughter has mentioned that she'd like another hat, so perhaps that'll go OTN instead.

And that's all the knitting news that's fit to report.  What are you all working on?

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

She was warned

Well, I didn't think I'd be posting again quite so soon.  And I'd intended my next post to be a round-up of recent knitting projects that I've completed, and a foretaste of things to come.  (True story: a package just came and I was so sure it was yarn for my next project - I bounded out the door, all excited...  And the nice man handed over a package of wine from a club we belong to.  My face fell.  I don't think that's the reaction he was expecting at all.)

But, time and tide - and crazy doings in the world of politics - wait for no woman.  So, I told you fair warning and here it is: linguistic analysis and feminism incoming...

Today's NYT coverage of the silencing of Elizabeth Warren on the floor of the Senate included, in the front page article blurb online, the following quote from Mitch McConnell*:

"She was warned.  Nevertheless, she persisted."

I have to be honest.  Reading that gave me cold chills.

The more complete quote was:
"She was warned.  She was given an explanation.  Nevertheless, she persisted."

This appears to me (and judging by the articles, tweets, email messages, and Facebook posts going around, I'm by no means alone here) to encompass the history of women in a nutshell, with only the consequences left unstated:  So we silenced her.

I've been mulling this over ever since (while simultaneously plotting with friends to make a t-shirt out of it; if that's your gig, stay tuned), and three things in particular strike me.  They are all linked to one another, and difficult to disentangle, but here goes.

First, and perhaps most simply, what I think resonates for so many women (and the reason why the trending hashtag here is #shepersisted) is that concept of persistence.  Persistence is what we do.  Think of the persistence it takes to do all the "women's work" that, changing times notwithstanding, is called that because it still typically does fall on women: diapers, dishes, laundry, changing sheets/towels/toilet paper, cleaning, child care, parent care - the list goes on and on.  Each of these tasks is one which must be done, but which doesn't stay done; if there's one thing we know, it's that clean dishes don't stay clean, and neither do diapers (alas). It takes a certain degree of dogged determination to hang on to the bigger picture and keep slogging through the daily round, sometimes. 

As knitters, we know this one particularly well.  Nothing but persistence lies between us and an FO we can use or gift, and be proud of.  It's persistence that makes us rip out that miscrossed cable (12 rows back) and fix it.  Persistence is what got countless pink pussyhats knitted in time for the Women's March in January (more discussion of this is bound to be forthcoming; I was fascinated). 

But that persistence can also encode something darker.  What is it that we are persistent in the face of?  Sometimes, as above, it's drudgery or repetitiveness.  But women deploy their persistence in other circumstances.  In the face of demeaning comments, or of being ignored; harrassment, assault, rape; a culture which attempts to deny women the right to determine what happens to their bodies in so many ways - and which calls it locker room talk, even when the talk becomes action.  Women persist as they earn less than men for doing the same work, and they persist in the face of men telling them that wage inequality just isn't a thing.  We persist patiently in the face of (sometimes endless) mansplaining.  (And, as a linguist, can I just tell you how much I love that word - talk about encoding a fabulous and real linguistic construct!)  When we are afraid, whether for our bodies or our sanity, we persist.  We persist in the face of warnings that our presence and behavior are unacceptable, and will have potentially very frightening consequences for us.

There is something even more insidious in those three little sentences, though, something that strikes me in particular as a linguist.  They are encoded in the same kind of language one might use to describe imposing a punishment or consequences for a naughty child.  "I warned her.  I explained why.  She didn't listen, so now she has to face the consequences."  In my gender and language class, I have my students read an article (West and Zimmerman 1983, for those who might be interested) that looks at interruptions - defined (simplifying here a little) as a turn in the conversation that is inserted into someone else's turn, and (this is important) which is disruptive to the conversation (by, for example, changing the subject, or taking the floor over before the first speaker is finished).  The authors first look at adult interruptions of children (contrary to popular belief, adults interrupt children far more often than children interrupt adults).  These interruptions most frequently take place at points in the conversation when children's behavior is deemed problematic by adults, and are used to try to redirect that behavior in order to bring it into line with expectations. 

And here's where things get interesting.  Looking at adult same-sex and cross-sex dyadic (two-person) conversations, it is clear (and this, by the way, shows up in study after study after study) that men interrupt women far more than women interrupt men, or than men interrupt men, or than women interrupt women.  And, moreover, their patterns of interruptions are remarkably congruent with adult interruptions of children.  In other words, men interrupt women at points in the conversation when they deem women's actions or words or thoughts to be problematic, in order to redirect them to fit expectations more closely.  "She was given an explanation" fits right into this; it suggests a speaker with superior knowledge and understanding of how one should behave, someone with the authority and power to require conformity.  (It's also very patronizing.)  This is just one of the many ways in which women are (and have historically been) treated as less than full adults. 

To my mind, this is what those three sentences encode.  We gave her a chance to behave like an adult (as defined by us) and then we interrupted her to force her into line.  The "she was warned" is deeply troubling.  Women who have been "warned", historically, have paid serious and often lethal prices for continuing to persist after that warning.  (I also find the distancing created by the use of the passive voice disturbing - who's the agent here?)  Linguists talk about the concept of "intertextuality" - the idea that a given text is understood at least in part through its link to similar texts produced elsewhere and elsewhen.  This text ("we warned her") is understood, consciously or unconsciously, as located in the context of all those past threats and their consequences.  It means that even though no-one will be burning Warren at the stake (but all those chants, directed at Clinton, of "jail her" and their intertextual links to "burn her" last fall were unmistakable and also resonate here), the chilling warmth of those historical flames is present.

"She was warned.  She was given an explanation.  Nevertheless, she persisted."

Taken all together, the degree of misogyny encoded here is quite remarkable.

ETA:  Male Democratic Senators were allowed to read all or part (depending on the Senator) of Coretta Scott King's letter, including the part that Senator Warren was rebuked for (http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/senate/318515-sanders-dems-read-coretta-scott-kings-letter-after-warren-silenced).  As I said, it's not about party - it's about gender.

*I am focusing here, as a feminist and a linguist, on this text as spoken by a man to a woman in this context.  I could, but won't, also go into why I think the rule that McConnell cited is inappropriately applied here: while the rule states that Senators should avoid accusing other Senators of behavior unbecoming to a Senator (an attempt, I assume, to help stop Senators from engaging in ad hominem attacks on one another instead of debating the merits of legislation; not a bad idea in that context), it seems to me that in this context, Mr. Sessions is being evaluated as a candidate for Attorney General, rather than as the proposer of a bill.  Regardless of political leaning, the misogyny in this message seems like something that should trouble women...

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

(tap tap) Is this thing still on?

It has been much longer than I intended, since I last posted.  Far too long, in fact.  So long, that I wonder if there's anyone still out there in the world of knitting blogs?  (hi!)

I have missed writing.  I have missed hearing from others who are out there, making things and writing as well. 

In fact, as I look back, I have come to realize just how limited my time and energy for creativity has been the last few years.  I was just sorting through my photos and putting them all into dated albums (something I usually do month by month, but I was a year or so behind), and for about four or five months last year, there were no photos at all.  Seriously?  No photos?  It's not like it's hard to haul out an iphone and take a picture, right?  Looking at Ravelry, there is a similar gap - until recently, my last posted project was from spring 2014.  ??  (I should say, it's not so much because I wasn't knitting, at least a little, in there - but I wasn't keeping track, and it hasn't - mostly - been anything too exciting.)

Basically, I fell off a bit of a creativity cliff in there.

It's not like life wasn't continuing.  I finished a four-year term as the chair of my department this past fall (2012-2016); I'm pretty sure that that's where the vast majority of my creativity went - into holding meetings and writing memos and staying on top of email and and and...  (My knitting time also went that way - when you're running a meeting, it's much harder to knit, I find!)  I learned a lot during those four years (I'm sure at some point I'll write about some of those lessons), but I'm glad it's over; I also lost a lot of things during that time (and I'm sure I'll write about that, too). 

Older Daughter went off to college on the East Coast. (She's actually in her sophomore year, which says something about how long it's been.)  She loves it (although she says her intention is to return to California after)(pleasepleaseplease). She even gets to ride for her school team.
Younger Daughter is a sophomore in high school. 

And, we added someone new to our family two years ago (say hi, Disco!):
I'm going to keep this first post brief - there will be more to come.  I've been thinking a lot about what I want to be writing right now.  I value and appreciate the chance to share and think about and challenge myself in my knitting - and for the feedback and friendships that have developed here around craft.  I also, though, have been engaged with and thinking much about the current political situation, and about some of the issues that have been called into the forefront of many people's thinking because of that political situation - some of them issues that I've thought about and discussed for a long time in my classrooms (I do teach gender and language, after all), and others that I am learning about as we go.  I'm guessing that some of that is going to appear here, too.  And, finally, I've been dealing with some changes (mental, emotional, and physical) that come with midlife - that's got me thinking as well!  I'll try to give a head's up when a post is going to veer more towards the political/personal, so that anyone who might be reading can give those a miss, if wanted.

Meanwhile, give a shout-out if you're still here!  If you're new, say hi, too.  And if you have a blog or website, or something to recommend, please share.  I'm starting to branch out from knitting and yarn crafts to other things (cooking!  maybe even politics!), so please feel free to share those, too.

I'll be back soon.