Summer's over! Summer's over! Eeeek! (I feel like Chicken Little.) Classes started on campus today; my classes start tomorrow. I've spent all day finalizing my syllabi (why does that always take so much longer than I think it will?), and getting them uploaded into our online course containers (and why does that always take so much longer than I think it should?!), not to mention fighting with our lovely management program to get it to fork over class lists and permission numbers (that would be the multimillion dollar system that takes longer to load pages than my aged grandmother pouring molasses in the Arctic)(note: no aged grandmothers were harmed in the writing of this post). But that's mostly under control, leaving me to hyperventilate quietly in a corner, worrying that I've forgotten something and that I'll walk into class tomorrow with lipstick on my teeth and toilet paper on my shoe. You know, a usual beginning-of-semester day.
What this also means is that, although I've been knitting, and have even finished some knitting (Stripe Study is done! Younger Daughter's socks are done!), and have cast on for something new (more on that next time), I have no photographic evidence of the aforementioned knitting successes. Alas.
However, I did see something on Erica's lovely blog that caught my attention. It was a link to this article, entitled Tough Gals: Do They Still Exist? (Note: The use of the word "gals" in the title probably should have alerted me to its blood-pressure-raising content.) In that article, knitting (along with, oddly enough, making cupcakes) is explicitly blamed for modern women's lack of toughitude. (Gun-toting and car-hot-wiring are apparently the skills that we knitters lack that would help us to achieve modern feminist womanhood. I don't think that the word "feminist" means what the author of the article think it means.)
Now, my first reaction was to foam quietly at the mouth. I thought long and hard about writing a post about all the reasons why this kind of thing makes me foam at the mouth, but Erica already did it for me, and did it beautifully. However, after taking some deep breaths, drinking some tea, and spinning with my lovely little office spindle (pttthhhbbttt!), I had calmed down enough for my inner linguistic anthropologist to take hold.
And my inner linguistic anthropologist said: Hunh?
I love "hunh" moments. I tell my students to watch for them. Because the moment you say, "Hunh. I wonder why that person did/said that, in that way?", in that moment, you've got a little string to pull. A little string that hangs off the whole fabric of a particular cultural world. And if you pull on that string, tug at it patiently, slowly but surely you can get to see all kinds of interesting things about how that fabric is put together. Just as dropping some stitches down a piece of knitting and then working them back up to the needles can teach us more about the structure of a knitted fabric than almost anything else, so can pulling a little "hunh" thread teach us about the world we live in.
In the end, it's all data.
So, hunh. I wonder what it is about knitting that makes it an index of anti-feminism? (And I should say that this is by no means the only place I've seen or heard this.) I mean, as something that is indexical of women, couldn't it also become a symbol of feminism? Is it a particular kind of womanhood that knitting calls to mind? (Come to think of it, is it a particular kind of knitting that calls unfeminist womanhood to mind?) And why knitting and cupcakes, of all things? Why are cupcakes particularly anti-feminist? Why isn't woodworking considered a backward-looking symbol of luddite masculinity?
So many questions. This is why I think the knitting community is worthy of study - we are clearly oversimplified in the mind's eye of the culture within which we live. And this is just more data, right?