Yarn Boy and the Sneetches

I’ve been thinking lately about Dr. Seuss’s story The Sneetches. For those of you who don’t know, there are two kinds of Sneetches; ones with stars on their bellies, and ones without. The star-bellied Sneetches are always having all kinds of fun; barbecues on the beach, baseball games, and many other seaside activities. They’re also in the habit of excluding the non-star-bellied Sneetches, who mope around on the beach, doing nothing except wishing they had stars on their bellies.

Then, one day, along comes Sylvester McMonkey McBean, an intrepid entrepreneur who, for the nominal fee of three dollars, offers the non-star-bellied Sneetches a trip through his star-making machine. They jump at the chance, and a short while later every Sneetch on the beach has a star on his/her belly. The appalled star-bellied Sneetches (the original ones) realize that they can’t tell their social classes apart anymore. McMonkey McBean is prepared for this. He introduces his star-removal machine with the promise of guaranteeing societal order at ten bucks a pop.

Chaos ensues. Stars are removed, stars are applied and it’s not too much later that the Sneetches are sitting in an exhausted heap, unable to tell each other apart. Sylvester McMonkey McBean leaves town, dollars spewing from his truck/sled/thing, declaring that, ” . . . you can’t teach a Sneetch.”

The reason I’ve been thinking about this story is because I realized that, with Yarn Boy, I’m pulling the same stunt as Mr. McBean, albeit with gender distinctions, and not with something so simple as green belly stars. True, I’m not exactly raking in the bucks, nor am I taking advantage of those expectations for nefarious ends, but it does make me realize that when it comes to gender roles, we’re still pretty much in the dark ages. Only two Fortune 500 companies have female CEOs; women’s average salaries in 1999 were 84% of men’s; when we ask whether Hillary could really make a run for president in 2008, we’re not really asking about her politics. And further down the list, a male knitter is still a big deal.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the attention. I’m having buttloads of fun with this website, and I know I’m only pulling a small McBean. Exploiting gender expectations for a knitting web site isn’t on the same level as emphasizing race distinctions so you can sell guns to gangs, say, or playing on religious differences so that you can start a war. At the same time, wouldn’t it be nice if, one day, the reaction to Yarn Boy was, “So what?”

But enough of that. I just finished knitting the hand warmers from Stitch and Bitch Nation:


  • Rose says:

    Alright so I’m commenting first in regards to the inquiry you posed awhile ago about whether I could help with a forum or something for the writers camp website. Unfortunately I haven’t yet really broached the world of PERL and PHP on my own, a dear friend helps me, but I recently found an excellent script server who provides guestbooks, poll, and forum scripts for free. The address is thus: http://www.proxy2.de/
    Maybe you’ll find what you’re looking for. ^.^

  • Rose says:

    Second commenting on your gender role/Sneetch ramble. It strikes me especially because today I just wrote my final essay for my Honors English exploring the mediocre roles of women in literature. It was something that I’ve thought upon before but it’s still quite fresh in my mind. It’s astounding how backwards “media/political” America is. Today I heard that South Africa has mandated that gay marriages be recognized as legitimate marriages. There it is, South Africa, the country who suffers from suffer post-apartheid mortum, barely 15 years gone, is more foreward thinking then the country who invoked the civil rites movement, close to 50 years ago. Back to women in literature, it starts with the Greeks who felt that since women were missing a certain external part, they also were missing a part. In literature they played three roles: seductress, witch, and helpless victim. As I was examining the evolution of their role through medieval, renaissance, hebrew, victorian writing, I saw little to no change. In fact in looking at Hollywood, even in chick flicks, the women serve a sexual purpose and pretty much only that. Strange how little these sorts of things change in 2,000 years…

  • Zoe says:

    Forget about politics…my butt looks totally good in that picture.

  • pipandtom says:

    You ARE like a sneetch. And you’re right, you shouldn’t be.

    I knit with a man twice a week, and it’s good to know there are more of you out there. He’s the best knitter I know!

  • Noah Loesberg says:

    Its funny that you percieve the ‘entrepreneur’ as the villain in the story. I always thought of him as a sort of trickster; basically neutral, with equal disdain and disgust for everybody. And it seems that everybody deserves it, too. So the fool separated the real fools from their money.

    And why are there ads for ambulance chasers and such right here? And shit, it knows where I live, I hate that. I think I ate too many cookies.

  • yarn boy says:

    My summary of the story does make the entrepreneur out to be the villian, and as such I think I’ve probably oversimplified it. But he’s only neutral insofar as he’s willing to take money from both sides, and this kind of neutrality hardly qualifies as moral neutrality.

    The most important detail that Dr. Seuss left out of his story, though, is genuine oppression. At the beginning of the story, no one is stopping the starless Sneetches from having their own parties. If Dr. Seuss wanted to be more realistic, he’d have the star-bellied Sneetches beating up any non-star Sneetch who tried to have any fun.

  • Noah says:

    Precisely true. If the non star sneetches were truely being oppressed, then mcbean would be a reprehensible carpetbagger. But as it stands, I’m not sure we should be shining the morality spotlight on him at all. You don’t want a trickster advising you on business decisions, but if he benefits from your poor decision, you can’t really blame him. Is it imoral to sell make up, for example? A simple fun thing, you can dress up and look different at will, but its still a class signifier, and isn’t that part of the allure?

  • nicole says:

    i loved this entry — it really is true. i can definitely say though, that i am one of the people who does go “so what?” when the fuzzy line of gender and social order is crossed. i mean, shit, i grew up in a town where hookers were drag queens and my parents best friends were flaming gay, but hard-assed construction workers at the same time.

    All it takes is exposure time. if people like you and those of us that are “different” from the norm speak out on what we really like and MAKE IT ok, then it WILL be.

    Glad that your blog is here, it’s great to see what you have to say every entry

    Oh yeah, love the handwarmers too, i was gonna make some in a solid color with cables on em. happy holidays!

  • tevana says:

    It’s not so much that you’re a boy who knits, it’s that you’re a straight MARRIED boy who knits…there are very few of you around, and as I read about the stuff you’ve knit I wondered if there were others out there like you…..

  • Lisa says:

    At the same time, wouldn’t it be nice if, one day, the reaction to Yarn Boy was, “So what?”

    Actually, that has always been my reaction, to most things, but also to your web site. I just like the way you write, the layout is clean and nice to look at.

    My significant-other-boy knits too. He knit a Frankenstien blanket for his cigar humidor, using left-over yarn from a Dr. Who scarf I knit for him. He’s not ashamed to admit that he can knit. My co-worker and I knit in the office together all of the time. He’s also a Maaaaaauhn, in the very manly sense, and our co-workers that see us knit, but don’t knit ask for lessons.

    So you see…not everyone cares. I would wager that most people don’t care, and if they do, then maybe they are bored with their own knitting/life/blog/whatever.

    I work with many men. Most of them don’t care that I’m female, nor do they care that I am their boss or that I make more money than they do. And if they do care or that bothers them, then I don’t care – I say: “so what”.

  • Ruth says:

    Hey, it’s always great to find someone with similar interests regardless the gender, but could you please divulge the directions for the handwarmers? Also, must say ImagiKnits is my favorite yarn store!

  • yarn boy says:

    Ruth, you can find the handwarmers in “Stitch and Bitch Nation” by Debbie Stoller. A cautionary note: the stitch guide for the pattern, as it appears in the book, has some big errors in it. I found corrections by googling “stitch bitch nation pattern corrections”

  • yarn boy says:

    Whoa. Thanks, Nara! That goes in the same category as these hand-knit naked suits:

    http://www.lizabetholiveria.com/…altz/ maltz.html

  • Jennie says:

    The stigma of men knitting is crazy. People are always blown away to find out thay my greasy, aircraft mechanic of bear shaped husband cooks, sews, needlepoints, and learned how to knit along with his “manly” hobbies. I use him for colorway advice on a very regular basis.

    I do have to admit that you being a male knitter is one of the main reasons I visited your site. I find it fascinating that so many men through out history knit and it is being reintroduced in to the male culture again.

  • eyduck says:

    New York has actually recognized the disenfranchised male knitter and an all guy knitting night where manly men can gather to watch football and knit has ensued.

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/ 20060…ife_knitting_dc

    New York is so cool…

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