Feminism, activism, and knitting

“Domestic crafts such as knitting have experienced an upsurge in Western popular culture as of late. This point might be painfully obvious if you live in a medium-to-large-sized city in North America, where yarn shops have been springing up, or springing back to life, since the beginning of the twenty-first century, due partly to the popularity of the publication Stitch’n Bitch: The Knitters Handbook (Stoller 2003). This book, with its ironic tone and kitschy visuals, and the flurry of activity on the Internet (in the form of weblogs, websites, and netrings devoted to knitting) shed some light on the complicated relationship third-wave feminism has had with feminist politics and traditional femininity.

Popular third-wave discourse, exemplified by Debbie Stoller, who is co-founder of the third-wave magazine Bust as well as author of Stitch’n Bitch, aims to celebrate and reclaim the domestic arts as a way to fuse fun with politics and her belief in women’s community building through do-it-yourself (DIY) culture. Valuing the craft of knitting is a feminist act in itself according to Stoller, because the denigration of knitting correlates directly with the denigration of a traditionally women-centred activity (9). This type of reclamation has faced scrutiny from those who argue that the celebration of the domestic arts is neither politically effective nor feminist; rather, the resurgence in the popularity of knitting is merely an extension of a trend that supports individualistic, apolitical consumerism, as yarn prices certainly reflect a tendency to sell to upwardly mobile women with considerable disposable income.

While I agree that the celebration or reclamation of a craft is not an end in itself, Stoller’s position warrants further examination, especially as it offers an avenue to examine what I call ‘feminist knitting practices,’ which include active and purposeful knitting projects used in the spirit of feminist goals of empowerment, social justice, and women’s community building.”

— Pentney, Beth Ann (2008). Feminism, activism, and knitting: Are the fibre arts a viable mode for feminist political action? third space, 8(1)m 19 pages. Available from: http://www.thirdspace.ca/journal/article/viewArticle/pentney/210

~ by artpoped on February 16, 2009.

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