Sunday, March 25, 2007

The View from my Soapbox

Let me start by saying "Life is Good.” Don’t think I’m a misogynist or anything like that. I’m just annoyed.

Before the Napoleonic Wars, all fiber arts were a chore. Just like washing dishes, sweeping floors, prepping the house for festivals. House servants had quota for amounts of fiber to spin between the other chores. Village women couldn’t *just* carry the load to the market, they had to knit while they walked. Artists often included knitting in images to symbolize the *feminine* virtues of industry, domesticity, and frugality.

Then came the change, the industrialization of fiber arts. They became the time filling recreation of wealthy women. There is a romantic story of Prince Albert reading to Queen Victoria whilst she knit. The Arts and Crafts Movement led to more elaborate fancywork as hobby.

Eventually feminism swept “domestic arts” under the rug. Looking at old spinning books from the 1960s at my library, I look at the people and think *ick, I don’t want to be them.* (Don’t get me wrong, I am certain they were lovely, caring people. Just a little too crunchy for me). But even these books have a faintly apologetic air to them. As if being interested in fiber arts were vaguely naughty.

Getting to my peeve….
Recently at work the topic of my *wasting time knitting* came up. The complaint was made that it was frivolous to spend my 4 minutes waiting for images to transfer from one machine to another by knitting on a sock. Apparently my time would have been better spend playing sudoku on the blackberry, dozing in the back exam room, flipping through a magazine, or even just staring into space converting oxygen. The implication being that because I chose to spend my *waste* time playing with string, I should not be taken as a serious professional. You will note that on our campus it is acceptable to take 7 minutes 4 times a day to go smoke, but one should not use those same 28 minutes to turn a heel. (Before I get bombarded with hate mail, I don’t have anything against smokers, unless they are also litterers, pick up your butts people. Otherwise: Smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em). This complaint especially chaps me coming from people who can stretch 45 minutes of work into 2 hours.

The fact that TAO can get winter socks at the store doesn’t make my pastime meaningless. Fine motor skills and the discipline to see something through a complex series of steps make me a more proficient worker, not a less valuable one. Additionally, knitting hones my problem solving skills. Pattern errata, the shape of my 40s cheesecake body vs the androgynous model, and the ability to see when something is off course all build my situational assessment skills. Finishing projects and having them be useful gives positive re-enforcement that is lacking in work environments. It’s a confidence booster.

Do I want to go back to the times when women carried an entire faggot of wood on their back? No. But I do want to be taken seriously, regardless of what I do to fill the down time.


miss ewe said...

Give 'em hell, Elysabeth! Perhaps you should go stand out with the smokers and knit to prove that point. You have something useful and beautiful at the end of your break, while your co-workers have only proven that they can count to 9 repeatedly.

Jennifer said...

Yeah, that sounds very irritating. You have every right to get mad!

ChelleC said...

We all know a sock is more fun and productive than wasting the "down time" in any other pursuit. You're singing to the choir here!