In the Winter of 2010, I was on a train crossing the Hawkesbury river on the way to my job in Sydney. I had my headphones blaring (I would have been listening to either Neil Young’s Comes a Time or Hold Time by M. Ward, as those were my train riding albums) and I was knitting an iPod cover in the shape of a crocodile. Every now and then I’d look up from my work to check on the journey’s progress and enjoy the scenery out the window. Once when I looked up, the old lady sitting across from me mouthed something and smiled. I’m a terrible lip reader so the headphones came out to sit on my lap. She was saying something along the lines of “It’s so lovely to see a young man knitting.” Sadly her husband continued to stare out the window and didn’t add to the ensuing conversation.
One of our awesome bloggy neighbours, Raynor from The Shy Lion, was in the paper over the weekend. It was an article all about people who do things that defy gender stereotypes. They interviewed Raynor because, like me, he is a man who knits and crochets. Reading the article got me thinking about being a man and a crafter, and it reminded me of the friendly old lady and her less friendly husband.
It’s really interesting to see people’s reactions when I tell them I knit and crochet. Women usually love it. I’ve had mothers tell me I should sell knitted items for babies and I’ve even had old ladies ask me for help with their technique. Men tend to have more mixed reactions. Some guys think it’s cool (though perhaps a little bit quirky) but in my experience, the older the gentleman, the less comfortable they are with the idea of a guy who does something so… “feminine”. A good friend of mine once said “you’re pretty gay for a straight guy” and I think that sentence sums up a lot of people’s attitudes pretty accurately.
I find it strange how certain activities are considered to be either masculine or feminine. People always assume that Katie must have taught me to knit and crochet when in fact, it was the other way around. Despite the fact we are supposed to live in a time of gender equality, it seems many of us still base our perceptions of people on an outdated model of “male” and “female”. Knitting and crochet are seen as feminine activities (even though as little as 600 years ago, only men were taught how to knit!) and I like the fact that when people find out I crochet and knit, it makes them question their judgements, stereotypes and assumptions a little bit.
It makes me sad to think that these gender stereotypes, so deeply ingrained in our society, may hinder people from pursuing activities that they might really enjoy. I think the worst time for this is when we’re teenagers and we so badly just want to fit in. My Nanna taught me to knit when I was just a kid and I’m thankful that she got to teach me those skills before I became too self conscious about doing something that others might not think appropriate for “a big strong man.” I’m also really glad that Katie has always thought it was awesome, rather than girly or weird. Knitting and crocheting has become a massive part of who I am and if it hadn’t been for the supportive and open-minded people in my life, I may have been too afraid of judgement to try it.
It’s really encouraging to find other men who knit. It turns out, there are lots of us out there! Websites like Ravelry have made it a lot easier to find men who share the same hobby (such as my favourite man-bloggers Raynor, Robbie and Tony) and I hope that as time goes on, we’ll see more and more men in the craft world. After all, as Katie just pointed out to me, knitting as all about taking the fleece from a wild animal and using nothing but your bare hands and two sticks to create things for keeping yourself warm. What could be more “manly” than that?