Knitting as subversion

[First order of business – here is one of the photos I promised of Anatolian socks. More later.]

Subversion: 1: the act of subverting : the state of being subverted; especially : a systematic attempt to overthrow or undermine a government or political system by persons working secretly from within; 2: a cause of overthrow or destruction

Technically speaking, I am not currently promoting any overthrow of the government by secret knitting activities. Just to clarify.

Neither am I personally attempting to overthrow the government, nor am I in a position to do so from within. However, we all function within a certain system, and some healthy questioning is always in order.

Ann said today on her blog:
I’m not all that interested in knitting as museum piece. I’m fascinated about knitting as a means to community. ACK! I’m starting to sound like a damn museum catalog. All’s I’m saying is that knitting is a humble, simple act, best enjoyed in the company of other like-minded addicts. Lay your politics on top of it if you like–and it’s legitimate to do so–but the fact is that somebody started knitting because they needed some CLOTHES.

As I commented over there, I have been known at times to take myself too seriously, but recently I read a commentary on consumerism that posited that craft was one of the most subversive actions one can take in this day and age. Imagine, in a world in which we are constantly bombarded to purchase goods and services that we don’t really need, to turn it all off, sit down, and MAKE SOMETHING.

This idea links back to the subversion by way of some convoluted reasoning thanks to my current online class (African Political Processes and Economic Development – relevant article here). Bear with me.

If democracy is tacitly linked with the market, and we view success of democracy as exemplified by success of the market, including its polarizing effects on a global level (more resources in the hands of fewer at the top), then we are supporting a system that is not truly of the people. Democracy is a process and requires action by the people on behalf of the people. I know I will sound socialist here, but democracy is not truly successful if the collective good is ignored.

So, I find it a bit difficult to swallow when, for example, following 9/11, our country was told to heal through consumption (HEY – IF YOU BUY A NEW SUV, THEN YOU WON’T HAVE TIME TO GRIEVE OR EXAMINE YOUR POLITICS! Shhh, you’ll be in debt but we’ll be rich!)

If we believe in a true democracy, we cannot continue to tacitly support globalized capitalism and our own capitulating consumerism without examining it. For me, to examine means to step back and perhaps even not participate.

So, back to knitting.

[Yes, we are still consuming goods – lucky for the people who have made their living on marketing these goods. However, many are small business people and well worth supporting. And as we consume in this way, we must stop and think about creating. Yes, people knitted because they needed clothes. We have the luxury to knit for enjoyment, but we are still creating.]

Anyway, as I was saying before I interrupted myself. Subversion in its more relaxed interpretation means challenging the dominant paradigm. I challenge it by making gifts rather than going to the mall. I take my books out of the library and choose purchases judiciously rather than taking home each book on the bestseller list. I don’t have a TV, so you can cross DVDs and video games and more commercial consumption off the list. I sit home and create or get a coffee and create with others, using that time to talk with people, perhaps even sample some of their farm-produced fiber, soap, cheese, eggs, rather than spending time shopping or paying for manufactured experiences. I see it as an opportunity to simplify and humanize and connect.

If that isn’t challenging the expectations of the opportunities brought to us in our current democracy through the barrage of advertisements and options for conglomerated corporations to eat my paycheck, then I don’t know what is.

Stick THAT to the man.


4 thoughts on “Knitting as subversion

  1. Are we letting ourselves off the hook too easily? Lots of knitting blogs seem so focused on showing off their latest fiber acquisitions, which sets off a feeding frenzy as other knitters rush out to buy the same thing (witness the hand-dyed sock yarn madness of the past year or two). And many of our stashes would belie the anti-consumerist angle.

    I don’t think knitting itself is sticking it to the man. I think subversive knitting is a conscious process — more Elizabeth Zimmerman, less buying into the latest trendy project and spending $150 on yarn from a not especially admirable company.

    Your knitting is subversive because that’s how you approach it. But I don’t think knitting is subversive on its face.

  2. hi- i think i have to throw in a little with the previous comment about intention being the key. EZ was one of the first to really advocate for knitting without rigidly adhering to a pattern and being original- and being original can be subversive if a goal is making “the system” better and different. however, how much does one need to avoid products from big companies to lay claim to being subversive? what kind of corporate citizens are some of the big yarn companies and where could such info be found?

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