Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Free-Range Thinking

This year, one of my resolutions is to read more. I didn't read nearly enough books last year, though one of the ones I did read was Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's Free-Range Knitter. I enjoyed it because it overlaps with things I've been thinking...but she's a real writer who spent the time to flesh out her ideas.

In "Ken" she takes on the phenomenon of the crafter y-chromosome. You know, how the media covers them more or their towns put together shows for them, or in her example, how women swoon all over them like the male knitter is "a valuable racehorse." She extends her critique of our low expectations of men to women who gush when men "help" with the housework or "babysit" the kids. She concludes,
The next time you see a man knitting, try to treat him like he's not exceeding your expectations or walking on water, even if you are sort of impressed and really have to fake it.
Remember if you can do it, so can he.
I think when I start writing about this, the top of my head gets all explode-y. (I remember Maggie...have I told you this one? When the dude and I were living with my cousin and commuting three hours a day, Maggie and my aunt came to take care of my nieces while my cousin and her husband were out of town. I would come home, and to help my aunt out, I'd make dinner for the adults. After dinner, the dude would do the dishes. Maggie says, "I hate to see a man do the dishes. He worked hard all day." Um, hello? Maggie was the only one of us who hadn't worked hard all day, but don't mistake what she said for an offer.)

In "Knitting Self-Esteem" Pearl-McPhee posits that we have individuals and whole cultures trying to undermine our self-worth, and that knitting takes us to a place where we are good enough simply because we knit.
When I knit well and make beautiful things, it reminds me that I'm a winner* and a person who gets things done...Knitting could be a phone line that rings straight into the kitchen of your inner self and says, 'Hello? I just wanted to call and tell you that you're wrong about me. I'm great, and I have the socks to prove it.'
I think that's what the marquoir does for me. In fact, the marquoir reminds me of writing my dissertation. It was a huge, unfathomable project that I got done by sheer perseverance--sometimes writing every day, sometimes leaving it to languish for (gasp!) years. I didn't get my dissertation done in the "average" time, and I haven't gotten the marquoir done on the schedule of the designers (16 months). But in the end, I (will) get it done. In some ways I'm more of a long distance runner; I certainly have endurance. Certainly there are times when my tiny self esteem worries that we'll never reach the finish line.

I had to return the book before I could flesh out all my ideas about it, but it's worth picking up if you haven't read it yet.

*In the pre-Charlie Sheen sense.


pandy said...

Sounds like a very interesting read! I remember reading an article about a war vet with his cross stitch he did while a POW. Where are all the works the women did during the same time? Male privilege undermine everything, and I am really glad that slowly (ok, very slowly.) things are starting to change.

An interesting read about girls in nerd culture http://www.doctornerdlove.com/2011/11/nerds-and-male-privilege/ can be applied to pretty much everything. replace nerd culture with whatever you want.

Maggie said...

How funny you should mention this book, i was browsing Amazon before leaving work today and found 'All Wound Up' by the same author, i read the preview and raced home to download it to my kindle! Even in the first page i read i was thinking, yeah, that is so true, i'm glad i'm not the only one who meets people like that! - can't wait to get started on it.

(What Maggie said about the Dude doing the dishes sounds like something my mum would say,lol)

doris said...

Oh, I was just looking at this book after I found out about Stephanie's blog. I'm definitely gonna have to read it, so thanks for confirming my choice for me.

I've been catching up with your holiday shenanigans and plans for the new year, and I'm excited to see your surprise list of projects. The other thing I have to respond to is your incredible patience with the nemesis in your old lady stitching group. You are a woman with some serious self-control. People like the nemesis provoke me to think of how it would feel to slap them. I don't, of course, but I want to. People like her (and there's always at least one in every group, it seems) help me remember why I stitch at home ... alone. And now I will return to kinder thoughts ...

mainely stitching said...

That will be my mantra tomorrow. I'm great and I have the socks to prove it. People will be puzzled (because of course I will say it aloud), but I'll be buzzing along happily. :)

Silverlotus said...

I really enjoy her books (and not just because I live in the same city as her ;) ). She has a way of thinking deeply about knitting, showing us all that it is so much more than sticks and strings. And what she says can apply to any craft, or anything, really, that we choose to do. Creating things is wonderful. Magical even, and the Yarn Harlot celebrates it.

Anonymous said...

When I lived in Mexico I would see entire families at work knitting on the plaza on the way to market. Mama, papa, and the ninos all knitting lickety-split without a pattern and making sweaters with the most beautiful designs. The men weren't worried about their masculinity, they were making something they could sell and, thus, feed their families.


raised by wolves who love to stitch said...

My eyebrow perked up when I read the sentence, "Remember, if you can do it, so can he." hahahaha I've seen many exceptions to that rule. ;-)
~ Lorraine

Jo who can't think of a clever nickname said...

It reminds me of the quote from Ginger Rogers about Fred Astaire - "I do everything he does, but backwards and in high heels!"

Happy New Year!

Needle Nicely said...

With your new vow to read more, you might want to check out http://www.chunksterchallenge.
blogspot.com about reading long books. They also have an internet book discussion group. I just discovered this site and thought you might be interested. Mary Agnes