Those yarn Trump supporters! I’m sick of their incessant needling. They’re causing a real stitch in my side. If I had a bolt of cheesecloth for every MAGA slight I’ve had to endure, I’d be Kiviette. I’d kick them all in the crotchet, sew hacked off I am with them. I couldn’t give a button about the consequences.
Have I made my needle point yet? Perhaps I’ve yarned the pun too long. Forgive the indulgence, which I unspooled for too long. (Ok, ok, I’ve reached the end of my selvage.)
It all started with the infamous pink “Pussyhats.” The online sewing community has been coming unsutured by what Michael Oakeshott called the “surest sign of a general decay in a society: a general interest and preoccupation with politics.”
The New Yorker recently profiled the popular warp-and-weft online community known as Ravelry, and its unraveling over acrimonious political debate, specifically the former president with his trademark sandy skein of hair. Once an apolitical forum for sharing knitting designs and techniques, Ravelry devolved, like most social media portals, to partisan bickering.
The frequently dubbed “Facebook of knitting” boasts 9 million registered stitchers (yet America has ceded its entire textile industry to China, why?) but has made the conscious decision to alienate its prime demographic: stay-at-home, well-taken-care-of women who, between child-rearing and meal-prep, pursue the weavist Wissenschaft. Back in 2019, when the calamitous presidential election was beginning to reach full buffoonery, Ravelry cut the thread on MAGA-inspired knit designs, prohibiting any and all Trump talk. This banishment came despite the forum popularizing the fuschia pudendum-political headwear that was a staple of female-led, anti-Trump resistance circa 2017.
Ravelry’s proprietors—the Boston married couple Jessica and Cassidy Forbes—were being inundated with requests to remove Trumpy patterns from the site, including “Make America Great Again” and that really racist and hateful slogan “Build the Wall.” According to Jessica, “Our community users came to us and said, ‘This kind of rhetoric is actually hate speech.’ We have to believe that.” Well, Pussyhats off to the Forbeses for taking the histrionics of their knitty residents at face value. That’s hardly how a business should be run, of course: just because the self-checkout kiosk rings up a bushel of bananas doesn’t mean the shifty shopper is boosting a PS5.
But for the woke, priors are easily confirmed. And like good “very online” wokechumens, the Forbes couple thought it best for business to listen to a minuscule part of its user base and punish a larger sect because of the latter’s political opinions. The loudest, shrillest customer is always right—especially when they scream in capital-D.
But like the French Revolution, the guillotine had to cut even more. The Forbeses weren’t content silencing the political opposition on a non-political hobby hub. They had to add insult to injury. In the announcement on Trump proscription, Ravelry staff added: “We cannot provide a space that is inclusive of all and also allow support for open white supremacy. Support of the Trump administration is undeniably support for white supremacy.”
If you really want to make someone feel uninvited, there’s no better congé than slapping on the Aryanist label.
Backlash, predictably, followed. After Ravelry made the New York Times for the ban, MAGA trolls did what they do best: rained torment down on the site. Non-knitting right-wingers signed up for Ravelry only to post forbidden pro-Trump messages, spamming threads and creating hell for moderators. A short-lived #RaverlyExodus campaign casted on.
Then the whole thing tapered off, with nothing but resentment and mutual ill will. The user Deplorable Knitter, who helped lead the MAGA crusade against Ravelry, admits to missing the platform. “You know, Pinterest and Google searches or whatever is my new go-to” but “it’s not as fun.”
Meanwhile, the Forbeses are still tying themselves in knots in trying to define what’s “inappropriate content” under the new no-Trump rubric: “We went through some pretty crazy rabbit holes: ‘Ok, this is an eagle, but it isn’t really the Nazi eagle. Or is it?’ It’s just, like, ugh.”
Well put, ladies. The perfect interjection for self-righteous thought policing: ugh.
In the end, what was a completely innocuous, even quaint, hobby got caught on the nail of partisan politics. It wasn’t enough to take a vivre-et-laisser-vivre approach to a site trafficked by yarners looking for a unique floral intarsia pattern. No, Trump had to infect it, like everything else. Saul Bellow was right when he called politics a “buzzing preoccupation that swallows up art and the life of the spirit.” He should have included good, old-fashioned congeniality.
The Ravelry ruction is a microcosm of politics’ befouling nature. Whether it’s woke capital canceling dissident employees, or evangelical mega churches worshipping a golden president, or a Nextdoor thread about dog walking getting corrupted by partisan debate, politics is rearing its ugly mug into more facets of unpolitical life. The resultant misery is good for nobody. It saps creative energy and breeds mistrust.
Looking past political differences to engage in mutual cooperation is the very definition of civil society. Pardon the final knit metaphor, but trust is the warp-and-weft of a free society. Antagonistic politics only rents the social fabric. If crocheters can’t get along without subjecting one another to wrongthink inquisition, what hope is there for the rest of America?