A Thing happened the other day. It was not a major, serious, bad, life-changing event, but it was more of an additional drip on the drip-drip of everyday sexism that forms the backdrop to one’s life and occasionally drips loudly enough for me to respond with “srsly, why?”
A week or so ago (I’ve been mulling) I took the train to London to visit a friend. I’ve got several friends in London. If I didn’t visit you, it wasn’t you, rest easy. The offender in this tale wasn’t my friend, nor were any of his friends who I saw that weekend, you can all breathe easily. I quite like taking the train by myself. I don’t have to worry about getting seats with my travelling companions, I can knit or read or write or code or snooze or gaze aimlessly out the window without having to explain myself about what I’m doing or how long I’m doing it for. I appreciate that that could be read in a way that makes me sound grumpy and as though I don’t like being with people, including ones related to me. This isn’t necessarily the case, I just enjoy my alone time when I get it. Suffice it to say that generally I am so enjoying the freedom of solo travel that the presence of other people who I don’t know is generally not troubling.
I got through all of the journey there and a lot of the journey back without incident. On the return journey Euston to Crewe I was sitting across the aisle from two couples who were travelling together. They were about my age. Maybe a little older. In my head I’m still in my late 20s, maybe early 30s when in fact I’m in my mid-40s. These folk were kinda late 40s-early50s. They had brought snacks (the subject of some discussion – it’s so hard to know what to get when you’re buying for other people, apparently) and discussed holiday plans – they were on their way home from a mini-break, it transpired. All pretty innocuous, and one couldn’t complain about conversation because we weren’t in the quiet carriage. So I had my earphones in for quite a lot of the time. As we arrived in Crewe, it transpired these four lovely people and myself were all getting off. I was knitting at the time (Wheaten, by Brooklyn Tweed) and of course was knitting up to the last possible second in order to finish the row I was working on. I don’t cope well with stopping half way through a row, as my children will happily tell you – one of their most-heard lines over the years has been “just let me finish this row”. Even with circular knitting. Yes, it’s a problem, just one I choose not to address. So, party-of-four are on their feet sorting themselves out, I’m frantically racing to the end of the line before I start to see platform signs sliding past, when one of the men from the party leans over to me and says:
“I hate to tell you, but you dropped a stitch a few rows back, there.”
From the many possible responses crowding into my head, I chose:
“Thank you for bringing that to my attention, I’ll deal with it later.” I may have preceded it with an “Oh, really?” in a tone of genuine surprise and curiosity. Then he asked me what it was going to be, which I answered “a scarf” – I’d have shared the pattern name with him, but I suspect he didn’t care.
I am now filled with regret over the many other responses I wish I had given, for example…
- how can you tell? You’re too far away and my knitting is kinda scrumpled up
- how can you tell? This pattern has many yarn-overs in it that may look to the untrained eye like dropped stitches, however are completely deliberate
- who made you the knitting police?
- did I, where? (with panicked look in eyes)
- why didn’t you say so earlier?!
- no, I didn’t
- hard stare, followed by no response
- what are you knitting at the moment? You’re clearly an expert, so I’m guessing you have several WIPs. Oh, what’s a WIP, you ask?
- Did I really? Or are you just saying that because you’ve heard a dropped stitch is a thing in knitting and you want to show off that you’ve recognised that what I’m doing is knitting?
- Is that a pick-up line? Because saying something negative about something I’m doing isn’t going to work and, dude, you’re wife’s *right there*
- why would you say that? That’s just mean
- please come home with me and be my dropped-stitch-spotter for ever
- actually, this is crochet
- I haven’t dropped a stitch in about five years, mate, you must be on something (this isn’t actually true, but then neither was his assertion, so who cares, eh?)
- Oh, that will probably have been on one of the cables I did without using a cable needle – yes, I’m properly living on the edge
I appreciate that on some levels I’m over-reacting, here, however, it feels completely in line with patriarchic behaviour to attempt to pléasante me by pointing out that the thing I’m doing has a mistake in it. Why didn’t he say “I’ve been watching you knit. That looks awesome. What’s it going to be?” or something equally positive? Why belittle me, and what I’m doing?
I’d say he doesn’t get out much, but clearly from the conversation I’d overheard, he does. Maybe he belittles everyone he comes across in some small, unconscious way.
I just felt like it was an opportunity missed. Both on his part – he could have spread positivity instead of negativity, and on mine – for acting like a weak, subservient being, who granted that he maybe knew better about an activity that, with all due modesty, I’m really quite good at. Why have I labelled this (in my mind, and in my opening paragraph) as sexist? Because I can’t imagine that if I had been a man knitting on the train that he would have said anything to me, much less something that implied that he knew better than me the success of the thing I was doing. I’m willing to lay money on he also wouldn’t have spoken to me if Steve had been with me. Maybe I’m over-reacting, and maybe he would have done, but I have no way of finding out. I’ll just pick out my favourite line from the list above and hold it near the front of my brain, waiting for the next time this happens.
In conclusion, and just to put my mind at rest – can you check for dropped stitches on the pic below, and let me know if you see any?
ps. this is an on-request for the boy. I made a mustard gold-yellow version for step-mother’s birthday and he said he wanted one just like it… only in teal. Luckily, I like knitting this pattern 😀