One Good Reason

One of the movies I watched for a documentary film class I took in college was a piece called Blood in the Face. The filmmakers, Kevin Rafferty and Anne Bohlen, spent a great deal of time interviewing the members of a group of white supremacists in northern Michigan, and in these interviews the members of the group argue their point for the inferiority of non-Caucasians, non-Christians and non-(insert majority group here). Their arguments were the usual combination of rewritten history, Holocaust denial and half-baked evolutionary theory——including the notion that black people are inferior because they can’t blush (“show blood in the face”), and therefore have no sense of shame. Because their arguments were so typical, so predictable and ridiculous, all of the members of this group looked and sounded like a bunch of idiots.

During our discussion of this film, one of my classmates objected to the filmmakers’ presentation of the group’s members. She wasn’t agreeing with any white-supremacist philosophy, but she wondered if Rafferty and Bohlen intentionally focused on the most ludicrous and embarrassing interviews, and edited out any footage that might have presented some of the members of the group as intelligent and articulate. If they’d included such footage, my classmate said, then we’d be more likely to take their threats seriously, and less inclined to laugh them off.

I thought about this question after reading through the comments to one of Knit and Tonic’s recent posts. The post relates an incident at a summer school program in which a number of mothers turned their sons away from an opportunity to learn how to knit:

“I even witnessed one mom turn her son away from the cove of pleasure——and then when he asked about the sewing room as an alternative——I swear, I saw her eyeballs roll back and beads of sweat form under her nose so fast, my neck is still sore from the impact.”

The comments that follow the post are appropriately indignant, and quite heartening. What I’m wondering about, though, is the other side of the issue. Why don’t those mothers want their sons to learn to knit? Is it just fear that the boy/girl line is more flexible than we’re comfortable with? Are they afraid of their sons getting beat up on the playground? As a white, liberal, male, non-parent, there are entire perspectives that I don’t have access to. What’s behind the urge to keep boys from knitting?

If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably not someone who has had this urge. . . but if you are, I’d sure love a comment. Feel free to use a false name if you want to (email addresses don’t get published). I’d rather hear from you than not. Let’s see if we can get a conversation going. I don’t edit or delete comments.

25 Comments

  • Mary says:

    Dear Jesse,

    I was never confronted by my son wanting to knit, but I did have at least one incident while raising him which frightened me inexplicably that I’m thinking of in relation to this post. I was in a store with my son and my daughter and there were some pink, slippery, silky nighties on display which he was interested in and I think actually said he wanted…maybe she was getting a new nightie and he said he wanted one too or something. I was anxious and embarassed about his interest and request, even though I could see why a person would find these soft pretty things attractive and even though, if he wanted to smell pretty with perfume, or play with a doll, I wouldn’t have been upset. In fact, if he had wanted to play dolls I would probably have been proud of my non-sexist mothering that allowed him to express nurturing family-play. I think in my situation, perhaps the sexiness of the nighties was scary. Upon reflecting on this little scene, I think my reaction did have to do with my own values and fears. Certain things I had accepted as a-sexual or acceptably pan-sexual. This particular thing challenged my openmindedness and my picture of my son and what I imagined for him and his future and his manhood. It was an instantaneous, gut response…had he insisted, I would have afirmed his right to wear what he wanted…to be himself, whatever that was, but there was that moment of fear and shame.

  • kelly says:

    I am a knitting-mother with a three year old son. He (& his dad) are already very athletic. He’s also very charming and charismatic… and he’s definitely all boy (very rough & tumble, etc.). I beleive that it’s these qualities that people will base their opinions on later in his life, not whether he knits or not. not only will I allow him to knit if he chooses to, but I plan to insist that he at least learn some of the basiscs of knitting & sewing. These are important life skills that teach us much more than just how to make a scarf or sew on a button.

    My grandfather is a total stud. He learned to sew while serving as a Navy Frog-man during the Korean War. If the Navy can teach their very real men to sew, then I think I can too. Whether a boy (or man) can knit, sew, cook, crochet, etc. is not what eventually makes (or breaks) his manhood. I guess I can maybe understand the initial reaction of a mother to discourage her son to knit, but ultimately, I think you just can’t worry too much about what other people might think. You raise them to be good men. To be strong and compassionate, respectful of women & their elders, to have good manners & good common sense… and to understand that it’s silly to worry about what other people might think of them if they choose to do something like knitting.

  • sarkasmo says:

    Gosh, that’s a tough one. Wouldn’t you rather just talk about yarn?

    I’m a 33-yr-old woman who doesn’t have kids. I think my husband and I are good parents…to our cats. Neither of us wants kids, though. So, without a mommy hat of my own to put on, I can only feel bad for the kids that were publicly rerouted from the knitting rooms. Even if they weren’t told why or no scene was made, the kids are going to remember this. I can practically read their future blogs from here.

    My perspective is biased to see the worst in this example, though. I’m discounting the possibility that a mother is an avid crocheter, for instance. Or that she knits and would rather teach her son to knit by herself. I really hope that there’s a less close-minded explanation for not letting a son take a simple knitting class than “’cause it’ll make him gay.”

    I have a cousin who was overtly effeminate from day one. His parents enrolled him in soccer, but he was a fullback and spent the game doing roundoffs and cartwheels back by the goal. They enrolled him in gymnastics and he wanted to do snazzy dance floor routines instead of the rings and those horse-things that the boys were training on. Grandma had Star Wars action figures and HE always got to be Princess Leia. Long story VERY short, his parents weren’t accepting of any of this and short story shorter, he ran away from home in 1989 to become a male prostitute. We didn’t hear from him for 10 years, and when he finally did contact the family again, he told us that he’s living with HIV now.

    So when I hear or read stories like this, I tend to see the saddest outcome possible.

  • Melissa says:

    I guess this isn’t the perspective you were looking for…

    My Dad is a surgeon, a Vietnam Vet, and the most manly man you could imagine. My little brother was delicate, sensitive and sweet. Dad was always pushing my brother away from playing dolls, acting like a “wimp”, etc. But sewing was another matter. “A man should be able to take care of himself anywhere,” Dad said. That included fixing a shirt, knitting a hat, generally being self-sufficient. Dad taught my brother to sew using suturing stitches, but was also quite happy when Mom taught him more conventional sewing. He tried his hand at knitting and crocheting, didn’t like either, but tried.

    Just interesting in this case because my dad IS homophobic and conservative to the extreme.

  • AntsMom says:

    I am a mother of a 1 year old boy. I knit. My friend gave me a onesie that says “someone teach me to knit!” When I showed it to my husband he said, “you’re not going to let him wear that are you?” I was taken off guard because my husband and I up to this point have agreed on how we are raising our son. He couldn’t really answer me as to why he wasn’t comfortable with our son wearing that outfit. But I knew. He didn’t want people to think our son was a girl. I’m in my (very) late 30’s and this is our first (and only) child. I know that some decisions we make in life can make things hard(er) on us. But I also know that most decisions are worth it. It’s all about perception. And everyone “sees” differently. If my son wants to knit, I will teach him. (If he wants to wear pink nighties – see above comment, I will let him.) Along with that will I have to teach my son that because of his choices people will make instanteous decisions about who he is? Of course. That is life. Do I like it? No, but hopefully I can teach my son that just because people make judgements in a blink of an eye, that he doesn’t always have to. I know I probably haven’t answered your question – there’s a lot more I would like to say about the way I raised and things I wished I could have done and didn’t. But that requires more coffee and a different venue! Thanks for opening up this discussion though, it has given me much food for thought.

  • Kathy Kathy Kathy says:

    I am an elementary school teacher. Every year I have an after school knitting club for 3rd through 5th graders. Speaking only about the 3rd graders, each year almost all the 3rd graders are interested and take a form home for parent’s permission. Out of, say 15 to 18, boys I usually get 4-5 who show up, whereas I get 10-12 girls of the 15-18 girls. By the end of the run of knitting club I usually have about half the boys and half the girls left who signed up. In 4 years I’ve had 3 boys return after 3rd grade and one who stayed through 5th. The drop out rate for girls after 3rd grade is lower. Just sharing.

  • Faith says:

    I am a mother of two boys, 2-1/2 and 1 year. They are both very masculine, love to play with balls and trucks, think that growling at each-other is funny, love hanging out with their Daddy and want to do everything he does, etc.

    The 2-1/2 year-old has been expressing a desire to learn fiber arts lately (I put the link for my blog post in the “website” part of this form), which my husband and I are comfortable with, and encourage, along with any other artistic, or sports, or academic thing that he might show interest in. I don’t see those things as contributing to — or taking away from — manliness.

    However, last week I was wearing a skirt, and when my toddler asked me if he could have a skirt to wear too, I said no. There are certain lines that I will not cross. He’s only 2-1/2. He doesn’t know that he’s asking to dress like a girl. He just sees that my skirt is cool and that I can twirl around in it, and he thinks that might be fun. Because he doesn’t know what he’s asking, I can’t honor the request, because he’s my little guy to train up to be a man, and for now, I need to make the decisions for him.

    Knitting is knitting. It’s an artistic, creative, a-sexual endevor. Wearing a skirt — or a slippery pink nightie — has distinctly nothing to do with that.

  • Dympna says:

    My son is 15. I live in San Francisco. I taught him and his older sisters to knit many years ago. My son does not knit on a regular basis. He will go into a yarn store with me, he will go clothes shopping with me. As long as he has his psp he is happy to go anywhere with me.
    My daughters and I taught him to not let what people think about you to bother you or influnce the way you think or act. So far he seems to be listening to us.
    His highschool is small. There is a mixture of everyone there. They have to learn to get along otherwise your day is awful.
    My only hope in bringing up my children is that I’ve taught them tolerence and the joy to explore everything they want to experience.

  • Marce says:

    Jesse,

    I was moved by this piece. I’m a black, 30 year old mother of 2 girls, married to the manliest of men 🙂
    I’ve been knitting like a crazy person for the past year, and suggested as an aside that he should try it one day and that I would teach him. He didn’t even laugh it off, he actually scowled! Then gave me that “are you insane??!” look. I was so caught off guard by this, mostly because I also work and travel quite a bit and he is Mr. Mom. He stays home full time with our girls and is fabulous at it. Cooking, cleaning, dance class chauffer and mommy and me activities are part of his everyday routine. Our gender roles are reversed from the norm in this way, and that suits us perfectly. But knitting??! Never that! Just made me realize what conventions sometimes seem immovable.

    I like the fact that you tied in the film as an introduction to the subject of perspective. Very well written
    I really love your halfdome pattern too. Good that you keep that cranium warm; you’re obviously putting it to good use.

  • kathy says:

    hiya!
    my 8 year-old son is learning to knit, so is my 9 year-old daughter. we found your site through knitty (hooray knitty!). nolan is working towards the white scarf with the ghostie skulls on the end, chloe’s working on a purse. my kids are very close together in age and they do everything together. baseball, karate, swim team, and now knitting. nothing has been labeled “boy stuff” or “girl stuff.” i’m all for social confines such as “we don’t run in traffic”, but … i don’t know. i was just thinking about what i’d do if nolan donned his sister’s pink nightgown. probably giggle, since that is surely what he’d be after, but even if he were 16 and going out with friends in that same pink nightie, well, it’s a pink nightie. if there’s pink lip gloss and platform heels with the pink nightie, at the end of this hypothetical day, he’s still just nolan. clothes don’t make the (hu)man.
    sorry for the tangent.

  • Sam says:

    This is a very interesting issue. I am the mother of a boy and a girl, ages 8 and 3, respectively. I noticed when reading the comments the need for many to say how manly their sons are. Yes, teach them to be men, but isn’t being a man, as some commented, much more than sexual orientation? Why do people worry so much about such things? Last year, I taught my son the knit stitch. I bought him a pair of needles made for children. As hyper as he is, it was hard for him to sit still. I know he wants to learn more and he is interested in what yarn I will use to make him projects, but, he isn’t quite ready to learn to knit. It has nothing to do with gender, but more to do with interest. I hope he eventually will take up a hobby I am so fond of. If not, I can live with his decision.

    I think whatever fears people have about teaching their sons to knit has nothing to do with public opinion. I think they think it will make their sons gay. There, I said it. Many people think that if you are male and you knit, you must be gay. What a croc, really!!! I don’t think we have any way of controlling who our children find attracted to. I really don’t believe that knitting or any other activity, such as cooking or sewing will turn our male children gay. I think, if anything, it would make them more well-rounded, more compatible with women. Think about it ladies: wouldn’t it be nice if you came across a man who you not only love but can pick out yarn with? Isn’t more in common a good thing? I know my husband finds it absolutely sexy that I yell and scream during a basketball game.

    A final comment: about the wearing nightgowns of pink or doing things that are traditionally reserved for women: I think it is o.k. to tell a child that a garment is made for women. This is fine. For the woman whose son wanted to wear a skirt-get him a kilt. Men wear kilts and people are less likely to tease him. We all worry about our kids fitting in to
    society. We want our children to be accepted. I want that for my kids too. If my son wants to knit, I am here waiting to teach him. If my daughter or my son turn out to be gay, it won’t be because of the knitting or lack thereof. Again, I will still love them. Do I want them to be gay, no, I don’t. If they turn out to be gay, I won’t reject them and I will love them no less. Isn’t that what the fear is here, that our kids will be gay? Stop worrying. I don’t think playing with yarn and two sticks will turn your kids.

    I apologize for my outspoken nature. I am sure I’ve written too much. Thanks for reading my feedback. I really love the dome hat. So does my son. It is sure nice to see men knitting and blogging about it. Knit On, brother, knit on!!

  • Chelle says:

    Hello..I would very much encourage my son to kit if he wanted. He is only 9 months old as I write this but I have a very
    open mind to the way I want to raise him and how his father wants to raise him. My mother is an Alaskan Native from here in Alaska. I didnt know this but her father taught her how to knit. When I asked her why grandpa knew how to knit she told me that my grandmother wasnt around and my grandpa knew how because he was a fishman and knitted he nets and hats they wore out on the sea. I was inspired to knit when I was pregnant and have made a few decent items. I will continue to learn in my knitting journey and if my son wants to come along he is more than welcome to! 🙂

  • Christine says:

    I’ve been somewhat involved in this debate, but for teaching my peers how to knit. This started around grade 11 (17 years old) and has continued (I’m 20 now). I’ve had a couple of guys be fascinated by my knitting, but shy away when I offer to teach them, because it’s just not really a guy thing to do. I’ve probably taught as many guys as girls how to knit, this has something to do with me being in a math & science oriented high school programme (guys:girls :: 2:1) and now in engineering. One of my friends was told by his mother that he oughtn’t knit at work. (This was an engineering co-op. Standing out really isn’t a good idea, so I think she had a point. However I also believe that she was just worried about his masculine image. I really don’t think he had one worth speaking of, so she was a bit late).

    I taught my boyfriend how to knit, and I don’t believe he’s received many comments on it being too feminine an activity. However as he’s 1.95m most people leave him be. And with his long hair, I don’t think that him knitting is going to increase the comments he gets on that.

    I’ve found that a lot of guys will say that knitting is too girly for them, and if pressed they will admit that the guys who do knit aren’t the most masculine. (Knitting isn’t blamed for that though, it’s seen as an effect, not a cause). But I don’t know anyone who has received any negative comments just out of the blue.

    There is a lot of “wow, a guy who knits!” out there though. I tend to consider that sort of comment to be negative, as I don’t appreciate “wow, a girl in engineering!” comments. A classmate of mind recently told me he thought it was impressive that I, being female, was into geek humour. (BOFH, nothing that you actually need to know a lot of computers for). His justification? Apparently it’s impressive when a guy decides to knit. So obviously, despite the fact that no one I know will admit to thinking any less of guys because they knit, there’s some form of stigma. Or perceived stigma, which I believe is the same thing.

  • callie smith says:

    One thing that nobody has mentioned is that “masculinity” is acceptable for both genders, whereas femininity is not. There are a great many women who were “tomboys” as children, and might still be “masculine” in their mode of dress, their interactions with other people, their business transactions, etc. etc. Somehow, it’s OK for a woman to be this way, even an adult. However, when a man exhibits a “girly” side, it’s incredibly important that he look “masculine” (read all of the above posts, women talking about their “manly” sons who just happen to deviate from their “masculinity” in a few ways). Until society accepts the William Scarletts of the world with the same open embrace (ahem)as the Condoleeza Rices, we are going to fear for our “feminine” sons.
    I really hope to be able to create an environment for my yet-to-be-born children which will promote “masculine” and “feminine” as personality traits along the same lines as “talkative” and “creative”.

  • Jessy says:

    Ok I’m a little late on this one. I’m 2o yrs old and I don’t have any children. I can say that I would have taught my newphew how to knit if given the chance (he passed away this spring 1 1/2 yrs old). He was a very quiet sweet and artistic boy. But back on subject. My 28 yr old boyfriend, sews, cooks and gives me fashion tips all the time. He’s an excellent cook, and is getting pretty descent with the sewing now that he just bought himself a new machine. I’ve never thought of sewing as sexy untill I met him! My opinion is that mothers fear their sons becoming gay,but I wonder why thats such a big deal? If a boy wants to sew, or knit, why not? Many men are artists with the paint brush and pen. Why not with needles and yarn? I havn’t convinced my boyfriend to learn to knit yet( he expressed some intrest when I joined a knitting group started by his female friend). But I think hes just too into sewing. He does however help me pick out yarns and cute patterns. And whats wrong with that? If a girl these days can join her schools football team (which they can around here) Why can’t a boy pick up a needle! Open your minds and let them knit!

  • a.susie says:

    I came on this discussion through, “Faith”, who is my niece. Having spent my whole adult life involved with textiles I just wanted to add one word of perspective: For thousands of years in various cultures the men of the society have been the weavers, whether it be fabrics, tents, rugs, blankets, fishing nets, art, rope, adornment, or whatever. Why would knitting be any different? It’s a skill, not a gender tag.

  • Belle Knits says:

    Where to begin?
    First, I suppose, with a personal anecdote:
    Last year I was invited to teach a knitting class to a group of home-school students and was delighted to hear that I had 12 students sign up. While I was not surprised to discover that I had 12 students ranging in age from 6 to 13 (grades 1-8) I was amused, to say the least, that 10 of my 12 enrollees were boys. My own son (who was 11 at the time) didnt take the class; not wanting to be held back by the beginners or look like he was showing off, as he has been knitting for about three years. (And his stitches are so neat and even he puts me to shame.) What challenged my perception was the demographic of the students (and their parents) who comprise the majority of the schools pupils. Unlike many of the home school groups in California, this is not a group of modern thinkers looking for an alternative education for their children to allow them the opportunity to express themselves in creative ways and not be stifled by pre-fab boxed curriculums. There are a few of those families represented of course, but at least 90% of the families are farm people, old school, salt of the earth, fire and brimstone Christians (except for a few of us radical Catholics) and decidedly NOT liberal in their thinking. Most of the students are enrolled in the home-school program because they live in remote regions and cannot make the daily commute to school or are needed at home during the daylight hours to help work the farm and do their studying at night. Many of them travel and show animals or take whatever farm product they sell to market, just like great-grandpa did, and need to home-school for that reason. But these traditional parents brought their sons once a week for 6 weeks to learn to knit. These were, by the way, the most well mannered children I have ever worked with; attentive, polite, appreciative, & boys knitting. It gave me hope; hope that somewhere out there acceptance is being nurtured in the most unlikely of places, in the rural farming communities of California. If these traditional farming folk can allow their boys to learn to knit without fear of it turning them gay then maybe someday the progressive lands of San Francisco and New York will take a lesson from them and who knows? Maybe acceptance will break out all over the country.
    Now that I have shared my story of hope I need to unload a couple of thorns from my paw.
    Tolerance is a dirty F-ing word. Tolerance is not a great gift bestowed on the gay community by the straight world. I suffer from migraines and at a recent Dr.s visit I was asked if my headaches were severe or tolerable. I had knee surgery recently and was told that if the pain passed a tolerable level to take one of these. Tolerance is being able to put up with or suffer through something painful or wrong. Tolerance is not acceptance, recognition, and certainly not embracing every person with love and guarding each ones dignity. Until we can accept and embrace each other across gender boundaries, this kind of ugliness will continue.
    In reference to the comment from the mother who said, Do I want them to be gay, no, I dont. If they turn out to be gay, I wont reject them and I will love them no less. Isnt that what the fear is here, that our kids will be gay? Stop worrying. I dont think playing with yarn and two sticks will turn your kids, there is no turning. Can your brown eyed child turn into a blue eyed child, can your 61 daughter grow up to be a proper 56? Children are born with certain biological traits and chromosomes cannot be turned no matter how hard we try. Case in point: when I was pregnant with my son my daughter prayed that he would be black because she thought black babies were cuter than diluted Native American babies; when she discovered she couldnt have a black brother she did everything she could think of to have a gay brother, including dressing him up like a Barbie doll at every opportunity. No dice, he is what he is, a chick magnet, and glad of it.
    As for the manly comments, I am not certain whether to laugh or cry. Why is there the (mis)perception that gay men are prissy, feminine or unmanly? Manly is self aware and self assured, willing to accept personal responsibility, and possessing a great sense of humor. It is not about bench pressing X # of pounds or playing pro sports; if it were many of my gay friends would find themselves suddenly straight. And as for the Marines, a recent survey noted that 30% (+ or 4.2%) listed themselves as homosexual or bisexual
    Yes, I too worry about my children fitting into society. My greatest worry in fact (after their health and safety) is that they will fit in. I hope that they will never grow up fitting into a society that finds it acceptable to drag men behind trucks, gang rape women, or burn churches, just because their victims are black, lesbian or Native American. I hope my children never fit into a society where these things are not cause for horror, as seems to be the case today.
    And I hope above all that my children will grow up to love themselves and others with kindness, compassion and understanding and without the need to label or prejudge people based on their biology.

  • Sid says:

    I have enjoyed reading the above comments. I am a mother with a 3 yr old son. He likes to bake cookies and cakes, pull out my eyeshadow to put it on, loves when I paint my toes, and certainly likes the bright pinks and purples and glittery appliques of the little girls clothes. He even wants to know what tampons are for. Should I be concerned that he is curious about typically female interests? No, I’m pleased, although sometimes surprised by his curiosity. Should we teach our sons that typically female pursuits are wrong, or off limits for them? Maybe this is only teaching them that what women are interested in and accomplish is irrelevant or frivolous? What I believe is the crux of the issue is the tension that exists in society between the comfort people feel with establishing and maintaining a majority status quo and allowing the creative, non-conforming minority to bring fresh insight and progress to society. While it may feel uncomfortable to allow our sons and daughters to move beyond the mainstream because it feels easier to conform, it is necessary to allow non-conformity for positive change.

  • Tori says:

    Interesting, I guess I never thought of this as an issue….My Mom was a Girl Scout and Cub Scout leader. Many times my brother would be interested in the projects the girls did and I interested in what the boys did. My Mom and Grandma taught my brother how to crochet. I got to make a pine derby car. I have a daughter of my own but can honestly say I’d teach a son, or any of my friends sons 🙂 how to knit or crochet if they wanted. Think of all the skills they are learning! Eye had cordination, math, patience….. Anyway, my brother doesn’t knit or crochet as a grown up, but then I don’t make pine derby cars anymore either.

  • Christine says:

    I must say that Belle Knits made a good point – the big fear that a guy not being “manly” means that he is/will be gay has always struck me as one of the stupidest things around. I know more straight guys with feminine traits than gay ones (as percentages). What is the general opinion: is the fear just that they don’t want a son who has “girly” traits, or that the “girly” traits will be taken as a sign that said son is gay? (I’m leaving aside the question of why they’d worry about the perception of the latter).

  • Mary says:

    Hmmm. This discussion just goes on and on!! I’d like to make two additional comments. 1)My husband has several ‘feminine’ traits that make me the envy of all my girlfriends. He loves to go clothes shopping, he loves to cook and he loves to decorate our home or shop for furniture, plumbing fixtures and the like. This makes him a great companion for me, but honestly, limits the number of males that share his enthusiams in his age group (60’s)
    2)What I found in raising my children, now 31 and 27, was that opinions and ideals aside, there were incidents that occured that triggered deep, unintellectual prejudices and fears in me. We happen to talking about gender here, but it could be violence, sex, or race. (I have a race story too) In trying to understand why someone might have negative feelings about boys kintting, I think it’s those cultural templates that were forged in me before I knew there was a choice that need to be acknowleged. I have feelings and experiences in common with people who’s actions don’t like. I understand them on that level.

  • Gail says:

    I’ve been reading several entries and have some comments.

    First, my background: Raised in an affluent commuter town where most fathers travelled back and forth to NY City. They were executives and people associated with the arts. My father was one of the biggest bigots I’ve ever met as far as generic groups of people. He did, however, have a great deal of respect for individuals in the groups he hated.

    I’ve raised two children, one boy and one girl, who have now married and have families of their own. Each has children of both sexes.

    My kids were taught to value the individual rather than the fact that they were ________ (group description). I hope they will pass this onto their children as well. My son wanted to learn to knit and I tried to teach him but his attention span was too short to keep at this. My daughter got as far as cross stitch and finger crochet. They had “dress-up” clothes to play in and there was no problem in which clothes they wore – suits or dresses. I’ve never worried about their sexual orientation and if either were to prefer a partner of the same sex, it would be their choice, and theirs alone.

    As I’ve aged, I find myself becoming somewhat critical of someone’s appearance – but it is more “Didn’t they look in the mirror before they came here wearing that?” thoughts. Some are silly looking, some sad, and some have made me uncomfortable as being the only person in the store without multiple body piercings – just one hole in each ear. I said I felt underdressed, and we all laughed.

    My parents would never tolerate the idea of their children or grandchildren being gay. They tolerated a daughter having affairs with married men and co-workers. I actually believe my grandparents (on mother’s side) would be much more accepting of different lifestyles and behaviors.

    I believe it is the individual’s personal values which influence how he/she accept the differences of others. Some people enjoy those differences and embrace the variety we have in this world. Others, perhaps because of the community they were raised in, are afraid of those differences and feel obligated to maintain a stereotype-whether right or wrong.

  • Charles says:

    I’m a straight, masculine knitter and have been for 28 years. My mother worried about me being gay till I was married. My father on the other hand bought me my first pair of knitting needles and skeins of yarn. He encouraged my knitting lessons. He built me a loom. All through high school I was labelled gay because of my interest in knitting and the arts in general. I hated the taunting, and occasionally hid my knitting interests for a while, but it just wasn’t natural for me to hide it, so sooner than later, I’d be knitting in public again. In my early 20’s I worked in a knitting store that was right next to a cafe. A straight waiter asked a gay waiter when he was going to hit on me. The gay waiter said, “Charles isn’t gay! There’s no ‘gaydar’ there!”. Go figure! Most husbands who came into the store would stand as close to the exit as possible looking at me with disdain. Occasionally when two men came in with their wives, they’d talk and oh so under their breath talk about me being gay. I’d happily walk over to them, and tease them about their narrow-mindedness. I used to get angry about the stereotype, not that I cared if I was labelled gay or not, but just at the mere thought that knitting should be a women-only domain…why should they get all the fun! I have both effeminate and masculine gay friends who refuse to learn how to knit; this really has nothing to do with sexual orientation, people! Now-a-days, I don’t get riled any more. I have a son who crochets and another who spins, knitting will be in their repertoire as soon as they have the interest or patience to learn it. When can we can all these stereotypes. Mothers let your sons knit, they won’t necessarily grow up to be gay cowboys, or how did that Willie Nelson song go? 🙂

  • DAemon says:

    I’m an openly gay, 20-year-old male knitter. I’ve knitted since before I knew that I was gay, and indeed stopped knitting for a few years when I came out because I thought people would think that I was a stereotype!

    My grandmother taught me to knit in England when I was about 8. She thought that household crafts and skills were incredibly important to a person’s development, and it is with her that I learned to churn butter, make jam, weave, crochet, knit, lay a fire and hoe weeds (something I still love doing).

    Now, 12 years on, I knit compulsively – on trains, trams and buses, in lectures, while watching TV, studying or at work. Anytime I’m cold or don’t have something to wear, my first impulse is to knit it. The joy I get from creating something drives me to knit, use my hands to create something awesome from a ball of yarn.

    So many of my straight friends have asked me to teach them to knit. Mind you, so have my gay friends. Many straight guys I know don’t knit because they think it’s effeminate or weak – but really, aren’t they missing out on being able to create something themselves?

  • Christine says:

    I commented on this post the first time around, but I’ve come to another realisation since then, and finding it from your pingback inspired me to post here. Even if the norms are pointless or slightly harmful, it can be important to make sure that kids know that it’s unusual for them to do this. I say this because I have Asperger’s Syndrome. Since I can’t tell what is normal and/or acceptable just by observation, I have gotten into heated disagreements where I attempt to explain something along the lines of “no, it is normal for guys to knit, and you’re really weird to not do so”. So, while I encourage guys knowing how to knit (even though my now-husband has given up knitting with yarn for knitting chain mail), some boys (who are more likely to have Asperger’s) will benefit from being told that they’re that much more unique because they knit.

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