eruthros: Ivanova from B5 saying "boom boom boom boom" to Londo -- angry icon!! (B5 - Ivanova boom)
[personal profile] eruthros
1. [personal profile] helens78 sent me a bunch of knitting books that she was done with, some of which are pattern books and some of which are books about knitting. Mostly I have been flipping through pattern books and going "ooh" or "hmmm." And so I was flipping through one of the prose-and-patterns books called The Joy of Knitting and noticed this, partly because it's right at the beginning of a chapter:

    From prehistoric times, knitting, like most other fiber-related activities, has been women’s work. [...] [E]arly human societies could only afford to rely on women for those forms of labor which were compatible with childcare, since breastfeeding routinely continued until children were two to three years old. Women’s work was whatever could be performed without danger to small children, what could be interrupted and resumed easily and without damage. Thus spinning, weaving, knitting, sewing, and most other tasks connected with clothing were women’s work, as well as most aspects of food preparation -- but not, for instance, hunting, mining, or smithing.
Yeah, seriously. And that’s in the chapter titled "A Feminist History of Knitting." As if rigidly defined gender roles that explicitly link gender to sex are feminist. Gender essentialism = totally awesome!

And also as if anything should start with "From prehistoric times..." -- freshman who try that in the openings of their essays get cranky comments.

2. I only just now got N.K. Jemisin's Hundred Thousand Kingdoms -- I’m never really good at getting new-releases when they’re, you know, released. And so I was reading happily along, enjoying the worldbuilding, when all of a sudden:

    "Sky is both very large and very small, Lady Yeine. There are other fullbloods, yes, but most of them waste their hours indulging all sorts of whims." He kept his face neutral, and I remembered the silver chain and collar Scimina had put on Nahadoth. Her perversity did not surprise me, for I had heard rumors of far worse within Sky's walls.
... and later it turns out that the people who indulge in all sorts of whims are also rapists. Oh, and pedophiles. 'Cause those things always go together!

And it’s not like that’s exactly new or unusual in fantasy -- fantasy novels often mark the villain as evil because zie’s kinky, or enjoys pain too much, or whatever. Perversity is evil, and evil is perverse. (I read more fantasy in high school, and at the time my friends and I used to refer to a whole genre of fantasy novels as "everyone wears leather, but the villain likes it.")

So it’s not that it’s uncommon. It’s just that I was unprepared for finding it here, in this highly-reviewed best-selling popular-in-fandom fantasy novel. Both because it’s fucking lazy broad-strokes villainy and because it’s that you-don’t-belong-here slap in the face.

Oh, and btw, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms? If there isn’t a same-sex relationship in the novel other than the one that turns jealous and possessive and starts a war that kills billions? Yeah, I’m going to be pissed.

Date: 2010-11-08 05:13 am (UTC)
theleaveswant: text "make something beautiful" on battered cardboard sign in red, black, and white (Default)
From: [personal profile] theleaveswant
I have spent about two hours looking at this post, trying to comment, deciding that indignant sputtering is not constructive, wandering off to do other things, coming back, sputtering some more, wandering off . . .

People tell me all the time--because apparently being a young woman knitting in public is almost as big an invitation for strangers to talk at you and touch you or your stuff without permission as travelling with an animal or a small child or being pregnant--that they wish they could knit. Sometimes, if I like them or if I'm feeling polite, I will ask why they can't, though quite often I won't have to (they'll tell me). Very rarely my interlocutor will have an actual good reason (pain or limited mobility in hands, for example); more often it's a poor excuse like "I don't know how" or "my grandmother tried to teach me a hundred times but I never practised." I feel no sympathy when I hear this, just boredom and irritation. One "reason" that I don't hear often but that makes me sad and angry when I do is, "I'm a dude." That's bloody absurd. Neither gender nor sex should have any bearing on a person's ability to knit. "Historical" arguments like the one in that book are ridiculous in so many ways. First, while people may have been knitting for longer than we can prove (taphonomic factors; absence of evidence is not evidence of absence), we cannot extrapolate from contemporary biases in the gendered division of labour (or leisure) to presume who was doing the crafting. As other commenters have pointed out, this varies significantly across cultural contexts. And then, even among contemporary craft culture, we have this bizarre hypocrisy where there are plenty of men employed as knitwear designers or in publishing knitting magazines and proportionally fewer (but still a respectable number of) consumer-practitioners, but the overwhelming bulk of the commercial and "peer-to-peer" media I see is not only addressed to "teh ladeez" but assumes that these ladeez will be knitting for menz and babbies and small furry animals and quaintly decorated homes while the little bit of knitting that men are believed to do is supposed to be for themselves (or very occasionally for their pets, homes, or beloved inanimate objects). How often have I seen the suggestion, "here is a sweater for you ladeez to knit for Your Man?" and how NEVER have I seen this balanced by "here is a sweater for you anybodies to knit for a woman you like"? Even worse, the insistence by so many professional and hobbyist designers that every pattern must have a gender--I mean yeah, particular bodies feel comfortable in and are flattered by different things and gender is only a tiny part of that anyway--but FFS, socks! Toques! Scarves and mittens and electronic gadget cozies! And that "men's" patterns are the specifically marked ones in Ravelry searches while "women's" patterns are the assumed default . . . I suppose in some ways that's a refreshing change of pace, and it makes some sense as a search filter given the number of patterns in the database, but it still annoys me every time I see it.

As for whether the (false) proposition that knitting is, always has been or should be "women's work" is feminist . . . I can agree that reclaiming activities which tend to get ignored or looked down on for being feminine is still valuable and necessary (and that doesn't have to simplify to blunt essentialism). But feminism can't end there! I would have less objection to the quote above, though I'd still roll my eyes over "from prehistoric times" and frown at the conviction of the language and the vagueness with regard to time and place, if the book had then gone on to interrogate the suggestion that, whether or not the hypothesis that the origins of knitting were somehow linked to gender via childcare practices holds any water, knitting should continue to be thought of as "women's work" . . . but I'm guessing from your annoyance that it doesn't. Then again, that's the feminism I'm growing up in now; I don't know how old the author is, but she may be holding on to a more limited understanding of the concept? I think I'm still failing at articulation, here.

This comment is too long and I haven't read the novel, so all I have to say about that part is: UGH. That is obnoxious and tiresome and hurtful and it really is lazy writing.


eruthros: Delenn from Babylon 5 with a startled expression and the text "omg!" (Default)

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