Saturday, August 20, 2011

HuffPo Blogger Says Knitting and Gardening are For Girly Weaklings!

Sensational enough? You'd think that the blogosphere would have caught on to the fact that you don't diss women with pointy sticks and sharp tools without having to duck and run for cover, but this blogger on HuffPo apparently hasn't got that message yet. Now, normally I stay away from the "comments" section on news sites and such, but this time have a look as knitters around the world eviscerate the author after the Yarn Harlot (one of those specifically held up as an example of "::scoff!:: Girly! Weak! Un-feminist!" tweeted about the article, followed soon by gardeners as the women of Garden Rant picked up on the brou-ha-ha.

Memo to Peggy, author of this atrocity: The women you picked on are NOT women you want to anger.

The author's main point seems to be that feminism has lost its edge. Women aren't "tough." They're blogging about gardening, cupcakes, knitting, and cats, all weak and girly subjects. What they should be into are manly things like shooting guns and hotwiring cars and practicing survival skills being executives and stuff.

Hel-LO, knitter with a Ph.D. here. Knitter who is a college biology professor. Knitter who could survive a helluva lot better with my spinning, knitting, gardening, canning, wild plant foraging, and food drying skills than this cupcake will if the best she can do is hotwire cars and break into bomb shelters. You ever see the remains of Cold-war era supplies that still linger in some bomb shelters? Ew.

What cheeses me off most about this article is this: Author, did you really mean to say that traditional women's pursuits are baaad, and the only worthwhile things a woman can do are traditional men's pursuits? So to be a feminist, one must try to be like a stereotypical man? What a narrow, limiting, outdated idea of feminism that is! While there are many flavors of feminism, my take on the whole subject is that feminism, in addition to advocating for social justice and basic human rights, is about rejecting the command of "Conform!" Telling women that they must give up one set of activities and take up another is just another command to "Conform!" Not feminist. Not pro-women. Entirely misogynist if it says, "What women like is bad."

So, joining bloggers across the blogosphere, allow me to roll up my sleeves, don the lab coat, sharpen my scalpel, and dissect this mess.

What happened to our hard-won bad-assery? All those years of being suffragettes, bra-burners, free love artists, corporate queen bees, supermoms and women-who-wanted-and-got-it all? ...Maybe "having it all" was a silly fantasy that ultimately made women feel exhausted and inferior. Maybe we just wanted to sit on our asses and knit and eat cupcakes in our Hello Kitty jammies.
 Wait, wait, wait... putting suffragettes in the same barrel with free love artists and bra-burners? Honey, get your history straight. Suffragettes were brave, bold women to be sure. I admire them and honor their memory by voting every chance I get. Bra-burners, however, are nearly a myth. I remember the late 60s/early 70s, and believe me, there weren't people running around burning bras, which has nothing to do with social justice or freedom of choice. It was one sensational news photo of one incident that got iconized. Free love? Societies for free love started in the swingin' Victorian era, and while it was entwined with feminism, it did not define all that feminism is. As for "having it all," having all what? This assumes our only choices are "corporate queen bees, supermoms and women-who-wanted-and-got-it-all" and "sit on our asses, knit, and eat cupcakes." Succeed in everything, or give up. No, no, NO. This is NOT all there is to the choices that the feminist movement has given us.

And now that so many women have seemingly retreated from our reign of awesomeness to immerse themselves in the feminine past-times of yesteryear, it does indeed appear that we've lost sight of what it means to be a badass, strong, tough woman. 
HahahahahahahHAHAHAHAHhahaha! Oh, dear, oh, dear. While the author does throw out this sop:

Not that our pioneering foremothers were not bad-ass... have you seen Meek's Cutoff?

she goes on assuming throughout the rest of the essay that gardening and knitting are frivolous girly pursuits, not the utterly necessary survival skills of yesteryear. It was all those badass women who spun, knitted, wove, sewed, gardened, preserved, kept chickens, milked the cows, and all that other girly stuff that kept the family alive, warm and fed.

From there she gets into the meat -- or meat-like texturized soy protein substance -- of her argument:

Maybe being called "tough" makes some women uncomfortable (sorta like being called a "bitch," right?). Well, too bad! There are tough times ahead, and we need to be tough bitches to face them. Growing vegetables is useful; but so is learning how to shoot a gun, hot-wire a car, and manipulate our way into a bomb shelter.
In the post-apocalyptic world, if ever we face one, you know who's gonna survive the best? Not the "tough" people hotwiring cars in some urban alley. That's only going to last until the gas runs out. The best survivors will be the Amish who can -- you guessed it -- spin, knit, sew, raise chickens, grow crops, milk cows... you get the idea. As for tough -- listen, cupcake, succeeding as an Amish farmer, or any kind of farmer, is not a job for sissies. I'm guessing the author hasn't spent much time in the country.

Remember our tough gal role models? They were strong, sexy, and took no crap. They wore leather and sang rock and roll. Chrissie Hynde, Joan Jett, Grace Jones, Courtney Love. They kicked ass in the movies: Sigourney Weaver in Alien, Sally Field in Norma Rae, Meryl Streep in Silkwood, Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich. (See, what's cool is, those last two films were based on real women.) They battled monsters on TV: Xena: Warrior Princess and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Those are your "tough gal" role models? Good Lord. Are you six? Rock stars and actresses playing (mostly) fictional characters? Here are a few of mine: Eleanor Roosevelt, Jacqueline Cochran, Amelia Earhart, Jane Austen, Abigail Scott Duniway, Maria Mitchell, Rosalind Franklin, Jane Goodall, Barbara McClintock, Rachel Carson, Ada Lovelace... I could go on, but you get the idea. These are women who did things in an era when women weren't supposed to do things. They followed their interests even when their interests were things that women weren't suppose to even be capable of. They kept on going even when life slapped them in the face. Some fought for women's rights, some spoke out for social justice, some made world-changing scientific discoveries. Hotwiring a car? Cute parlor trick. Winning the Nobel Prize? That's bad-ass. (ETA: I heard an interview with Joan Jett once. As she was doing housecleaning with the radio on, on her hands and knees scrubbing the toilet, one of her songs came on the radio and the announcer said, "And that was Joan Jett. ::leer:: Wonder what she's doing now?" And Ms. Jett thought, "Sonny, if you only knew...")
And really, glamor has limited practical value; do you want to be left behind when the revolution comes, back to the wall, crippled by your stilettos? Hell, no; you want to be on the run with a sackful of penicillin, Kruggerands and organic chocolate bars.
No, you don't. Glamor might not be much use, but neither will cosplaying your favorite TV show characters be of much use when "the revolution" -- whatever that might turn out to be -- comes. Sounds like the author been watching to much post-apocalyptic drama on TV.

In fact, all of the other "badass" women the author offers up as role models are characters in various television dramas. Here's a memo, author: those shows are fiction. Dressing up as a vampire and pretending to be capable of keeping " the peace with an iron hand and a heart of chrome"is all adorable I'm sure, but the tough women who are really holding things together right now are the everyday women who work inside or outside the home, juggle family needs with working lives, balance the household budget, write books, publish academic papers, take the kids to soccer practice, go camping with the Scouts, and, yes, knit, keep cats, and eat a few cupcakes now and then. That's real life, kiddo. Welcome to the real world, where the real heroines dwell.

By the way, who is this author, who snubs those who like knitting, cats, and... cupcakes? Hello, Peg Aloi! I see what you're doing there!


Katie said...

*standing ovation*

I bet she's never heard of The Change...

dianna said...

You are a writer.

She is not.

Well done.

Pooch said...

First thought on the HuffPost writer: This person is a forty-something or less, not to cast aspersions on everyone in that age range. Her basic premise is faulty which leads to a silly argument.

A: Using harsh, course language--according to some--does not advance your point. Furthermore, it does not aptly describe strong women.

B: Using fictional characters in movies and performers such as actresses and singers as role models fails to lay the groundwork of women as leaders. A few role models who come to mind are Golda Meir, Indira Ghandi, Shirley Chisolm, Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, Hillary Clinton, Geraldine Ferraro, Marie Curie, Edith Wilson, obviously too many to name as there are too many male role models to name.

C: Advancing the notion that women must be less feminine, must become more masculine, defeats the entire concept of who a woman is--what it means to be a woman.

What a silly bit of fluff is this article. How disappointing that HuffPost featured it. Good on you for bringing this to the attention of your readers. I hope there is a backlash, so this writer can learn about female identity in its most productive form.

laceandsteam said...

I do so love it when people get caught doing the very things they're getting on other people about. Perhaps she should take her own advice.

Karen said...

Actually, I see her as someone much younger, possibly an urban young woman who has spent a lot of time in front of the TV admiring fictional characters and very little time near farm communities. If she were older, I'd expect a whole different set of role models, or even television references.

YarnKettle said...

Way to be a tough woman and a girlie one too!

Amy said...

Thanks for reading/commenting on my blog! Came over to see your post about "the article" (dun dun DUN)- bravo. Beautifully written. I know which one of you I'd want on my side once this "revolution" she's so all fired up about comes. I'll take the woman who knows how to provide for herself over the woman who thinks Buffy's coming to save her any day.

choperena said...

I completely agree with her sounding young. Like a young 20-something that is about to graduate from college with some art degree and a penchant for slacktivism. Someone that is still young enough to berate the adults in her life for not Living The Dream because she has no clue what the real world is about.
Seriously? Joan Jett and Courtney Love? Yeah, because a crack addict that can't get her life together, is blamed for her husband's suicide, and has a teenage daughter that will do anything to live a better life than what she's been dealt is a magnificent role model. Hell, I'd chose Francise Bean from that sentence any day.


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