Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Political Tuesdays: Ravelry Gag Rule and the Knitting Witch Hunt

For my previous blog post about the Ravelry Gag Rule, see No Yarn for You!

Funny thing about Ravelry, as the crackdown on Republicans who knit is almost 3 months old now. I don't like it as much as I used to when I added to my queue far beyond my life expectancy and spent hours browsing patterns and projects. I still love the genius of the pattern database and the ability to track projects, but I have serious qualms about whether my personal data is safe there now. I know for a fact that my kind is not welcome there, and they have no proof that I have ever violated their terms of service. So they have not been truthful in their suspension and continuing punitive actions against me. But I'm also concerned about their handling of personal and financial data. A week or two after the purge, Casey, the site owner, responded to a woman who wasn't banned but didn't want to financially support a site that is biased against her by buying patterns on that interface. He responded in the GOP group, the only conservative group left on Ravelry after Conservative Knitters was forced to close. It is an open group; anybody with an account can read or comment on anything, and trolling, open or anonymous, is a way of life. Contrasted with "Stitching Liberally", "Atheist and Agnostic Knitters," "Lazy, Stupid and Godless," "Rubberneckers", "Wingnut Watch" (started as "Sarah Palin Must be Stopped!" back in 2008) ... it's a pretty small and quiet group. And they aren't really allowed to talk about anything. Anyway, Casey responded to this woman, who was, in my opinion, legitimately upset about funding a knitting site that engages in political blacklisting and censorship, with the comeback, something to the effect that "I looked it up and we've only made about $5 of profit from you." Now supposedly this was to underscore that boycotting the site would only punish the designers who sell their patterns on the site. But if site owners have access to your shopping record and private financial records, don't they have the legal obligation to keep that information confidential? Can we trust them when they say they are not punishing Republicans, when, in fact, they are punishing Republicans? The woman he interacted with is no longer on the site. Apolitical groups like "Christian Knitters" are now having their members harassed by the trolls.

I was getting pretty depressed about the fact that despite purging my profile of any political content, and asking nicely... twice...they still have not restored it. So all you see when you go there is a gray outline person, no pictures or personal information about me at all. Kind of defeats the purpose of "social" networking. I've posted a few times in chat threads but the fun is gone. However, a few weeks ago, after my second request, I looked up Casey Forbes, just to see if he had made any further statements or was acting less like a fascist. I found a tweet that is both terribly depressing and yet explains everything, and I realize that the ownership of Ravelry have bigger problems than the fact that they aren't inclusive or honest at all.

"Friends, I'm trans. My pronouns are she/her/hers. My name is Cassidy. Cassidy is actually my birth name, aren't I lucky?"

I was sure at first it was a weird joke, like many that Casey has made in the past. But no, apparently not. And it does explain a lot. Let me say (I can say this, can't I?) that Casey has been married to Jessica for over 12 years and is the father of a school-age daughter.

This YouTube interview with Kathrine Jebsen Moore, a Scottish writer for Quillette, is worth the listen. In it she describes - back in February - the witch hunt that began on Instagram, against knitters who were not sufficiently "woke" for the social justice warriors. I now understand some of the background behind the spillover onto Ravelry. Kathrine is a good account to follow on Twitter if you are intrigued by the phenomenon which is being called "cancel culture" of bringing social and economic pressure to bear on people you disagree with, to disenfranchise them and force them to assent to your viewpoint.

You can find the first of Kathrine's articles here: A Witch Hunt on Instagram
She wrote a second in early June, even before Ravelry dropped the boot: Instagram's Diversity Wars Revisited
And at the end of July: Knitting's Infinity War, Part 3

The witch hunt may have started a long time ago, but it is still ongoing if you do not pay lip service to BIPOC knitters and their concerns. (Black, Indigenous, People of Color. The fact that I had to look up the acronym is proof positive for these people of my White Fragility. But I won't be reading that book, so there.) Caitlin Hunter, the talented designer behind Boyland Knitworks, seems to be the latest object, because she didn't speak out strongly or penitentially enough when challenged to be more inclusive. She had the audacity to publish a new knitting pattern instead, and hence, in these people's demented mentality, she was fair game for gaslighting and abuse. So she has hired a consultant to increase her diversity awareness and promised to try to do better. SHE DID NOTHING WRONG! Somebody needs to say it. It is the social justice warriors who need to apologize, but won't.

From back at the end of July, a long and depressing "Daily Covfefe" video on the phenomenon of intolerance and abuse in the knitting community, using the Quillette articles as a starting point. Caution... quite a bit of language.

The language aside, this is a disturbing trend. People are being financially, socially, physically and psychologically abused, and these are not just isolated incidents. Nor are the victims universally white, conservative, Christian, or otherwise "privileged."

Yeah, I used to think Twitter was a scary social media platform, and Ravelry and Instagram were the friendly places. I'm not at all so sure anymore.

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