Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Strangers on a Train

Typing this morning from LaCrosse, Wisconsin. I'm here to speak tonight at the town's annual Knit in Public Day. As the place is just close enough to Chicago to make it practicable, I came up by train.

Barring bandits or cows on the track, the trip is about five hours. We chugged along smoothly and I got a shocking amount of work done. Of course, there's not a lot to look at on a train and so five or six passengers, in passing by, stopped to ask about my knitting.

The most interesting conversation was with a woman who looked to be in her early twenties, and who began our dialogue in the usual manner.

"I've never seen a man knitting before."

To which I gave my standard reply, which I always deliver with wide-eyed surprise.

"You haven't? How odd."

She blinked. "Well, no. I mean, it's something women do, right?"

I smiled. "Not in my house."

"Oh," she said. "Well, I was brought up old-fashioned."

"So was I."

"Well, it's just surprising that you would do it in a public place."

I opened my mouth to say that, by coincidence, I was en route to an entire assembly of public knitters, but she went on.

"Don't you think about how it might look to the kids?" She indicated a few who were seated nearby in the coach.

"I don't follow you."

"Well, it might confuse them. The boys especially. A man doing something a woman does."

"I don't follow you."

She laughed. "Forgive me," she said. "I'm in the ministry, so it's second nature to me to minister. I'm always thinking about setting a good example for the young people."

I wondered if the window next to my seat could open, and if I could throw myself out of it.

"And you know,"she continued, "I have seen for myself that young boys need grown men to be role models of strength."

We were, figuratively speaking, at a crossroads. I could a) ask her why she felt a man peacefully doing something creative was not a strong role model, or b) feign narcolepsy and hope she'd go minister to the lady across the aisle.

Before I could do either, she asked, "Do you ever stop and talk to Jesus, and ask what He would want you to do?"

"I'm a Buddhist," I said. "Jesus and I don't usually go to the same cocktail parties."

"Oh," she said, stiffening. "Well, I guess there's nothing I can say to you then, is there? Have a good trip."

And she walked away.

Now, before some of you (you know who you are) start kvetching about Christian missionaries, let me ask you (firmly) please to not do that. We don't bash anybody's religion in here.

And as it happens, I have been just as annoyed on many occasions by Buddha-pushers who feel I am insufficiently Bodhi-fied because my practice is Zen and not Tibetan or Vipassana, or because I eat meat, or because I reflexively say "God bless you," when somebody sneezes. No single theology holds the monopoly on faith-based douchebaggery.

No. I wrote this conversation down because lately I worry (as you well may) about how we're ever going to climb out of the mess the world's in if folks won't talk to each other. Or rather, if folks won't listen to each other. Here was a textbook example of this large problem, shrunk to fit two people.

Missionary Lady and I had quite a chat but in the end, she didn't want to hear from me and I didn't want to hear from her. If we had kept talking, I doubt I would have been able to keep my cool well enough to be persuasive rather than combative. The end result: stalemate. If she and I can't speak and listen, how are opposing politicians and entire countries going to reach accord?

I hope you're not expecting a tidy wrap-up to this post, kids, because the heck if I can figure it out.

On the other hand, I did finish the knitting. So that's something.

459 comments:

1 – 200 of 459   Newer›   Newest»
knitandputt said...

this is all to sad, so closed minded.

hokgardner said...

Living here in the bible belt, the religion thing doesn't even phase me. I get preached at on a regular basis, whether I like it or not.

It's the idea that a man knitting sets a bad example for young boys. I was thrilled as punch when my son picked up a spare of knitting needles yesterday. I was picturing teaching him to knit and what kinds of projects we could work on. Then he snapped me back to reality by trying to stab his big sister with one of the needles.

Anonymous said...

Well, the next time (and there's bound to be a next time), tell the person that knitting used to be a guild to which only men could belong. Or remind them that sailors used to be required to knit their own stockings.

I'm sure you could expound on that theme...

Judy F.

duchessnyc said...

the religious aspect had nothing to do with it. she was close minded no matter what belief she subscribed to.

in her mind, old fashioned means women cook and knit, and men chop wood and hunt. or anything along those gender lines. and that has nothing to do with the ministry.

Mrs. Spit said...

I think, were I inclined to continue the conversation, I would have asked her what sorts of manly things she thought you should be doing?

MX said...

Unfortunately I've become accustomed to hearing comments of this nature on a daily basis here in Hickville. I'm glad to report I've NEVER gotten used to it!

yarnpiggy said...

How very sad. I wish I could come up with something more profound, but that's all I've got at the moment.

Gale said...

What a shame that's the way your journey began. It's too bad some people cannot let other people alone and need to force their stuff on others.

shannon said...

it's incredibly sad that she would even say those things to you, religion aside.

you are a great role model for more people than she probably even knows. and wouldn't teaching kids patience and kindness and creativity be good?!? because knitting is all those things to me (i give most of my knitting away to friends...hence the kindness).

Ann said...

What a shame--that could have led to a really interesting conversation about gender roles and gendered activities. But then, I'm always eager to "minister" on that topic, so there you go.

Anonymous said...

My grandfather taught me to knit (I'm female). He knit in the trenches during WWII. He was also a sharp-shooter for the local sheriff. He also made a quilt out of all the dresses I wore, once I grew out of them, and crocheted my purse for the prom. In my universe knitting has always seemed pretty damn manly. Feel free to join me here...

Renée

Jo said...

I think I might get this tattooed somewhere on me:

"No single theology holds the monopoly on faith-based douchebaggery."

Genius.

Meredith said...

What I find particularly amusing about this story is the hypocrisy of her conviction in support of "traditional" gender roles while she herself is taking a traditionally male role.

Now, I'm all a fan of recognizing the differences between the genders (because no matter how much anyone says they don't, they really do exist), but that's a long way from insisting that the only acceptable gender roles are those stemming from a misogynist patriarchy.

So, along with learning to listen to each other, how do we learn to look at someone and see a person and not just a collection of prejudices and ideologies?

Geek Knitter said...

But what were you knitting?

Hey, at least she left before you had to try jumping out the window!

rhea said...

agreed with meredith, and: what was she doing outside the kitchen anyways? i suspect i too would've just simply ended the conversation rather than butt heads.

Dayna said...

I don't know of any religion that would think of a man as being weak just because he knits! I tried to teach my son as well as my daughters how to be self sufficient. That included knitting, crocheting and sewing as well as cooking and cleaning.
Sadly many think of knitting as woman's WORK when it is a craft to be enjoyed by all.

Valerie said...

I got the greatest email from my niece who has an 8 year old son, smack in the middle of two sisters.

The title of the post was "Pins and Needles". The first picture was Jack executing a "pin" of his opponent in a wrestling match. The second photo was Jack sitting at the breakfast counter with size ten knitting needles and chunky yarn.

I would love to have blogged it, but didn't want to put Jack on public display without his permission.

The sisters?...off playing Hannah Montana. I think Jack will be the most well rounded of the three.

Miss B said...

Wow. Just WOW. I'm not sure how I would have responded to that. Definitely no tidy wrap up here...

Marie said...

Wow.

Dawn said...

That is so ridiculous! I hope the rest of your trip goes way better than that!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I agree that we should not bash each other's religion. Isn't that why the world has been fighting wars for hundreds of years? There are too many people in this world that have religious zealous and want to minister to others without listening to what others have to say in return. Ministry is a two-way-street. That is something that this young woman may someday figure out...if she is lucky. I think all we can do is pray that people learn to listen as well as talk.

Anonymous said...

"Well, I guess there's nothing I can say to you then, is there?"

Huh? So she only preaches to the choir?

-Jean K.

Anonymous said...

I have never commented on a blog before, but I have to respond to this! I'm a minister, too, and I'm pretty appalled that someone in my line of work would have said something like this. I am the pastor of a church, a follower of Jesus, a student of Buddhist meditation, and I'm currently teaching my sons to knit. (In fact, there are two men in my church's knitting group!) Don't judge us all by this one bad apple!

knittergran said...

Well, there just aren't words....
Good grief!

Gerrie said...

It is funny to me that you had this conversation recently. On Sunday some of us were talking about knitting and whorehouses and it reminded me of you learning to knit in prison (wasn't that it???)

Anyway, I know I have a lot to work towards because I would have fled the car but the Buddha and Jesus would have taken her to the party with them.

Really, she must have been jealous that no one is knitting for her. I think that's it.

Simone said...

I admire the way you handled the minister and I am so looking forward to your class on Saturday at the Loop in Philly.....

Jaimee Drew said...

You are simply lovely (and more levelheaded than I).

Knit on, and when confronted with someone like that you can always ask how exactly you are supposed to be shooting things, mowing the lawn or drinking beer on the train. A man's gotta keep busy, after all.

Idle hands, right?

Lynne E. said...

What a bummer! That conversation sure would have ruined my train ride, because for the rest of the trip I'd have gone on thinking about what I might have said that might possibly have penetrated. (Hopeless, of course.) Your experience makes mine--with the lady on the train who wanted to show me how to knit differently--pale by comparison.

JellyDonut said...

Wasn't that a movie--Throw Missionary Lady from the Train? Sorry, simply couldn't resist, since I'm already destined for Hell anyway...Wonder how she feels about publicly lactating mothers.

I have not yet been able to get to a place of understanding and sympathy with people like Missionary Lady. I won't until I can get beyond my anger with them, but that isn't going to be any time soon. Franklin, you make me want to try harder, however. Thanks for the reminder that I have work to do on my side of the fence too.

And just were you knitting on the train?

Jennifer said...

I wholeheartedly agree with Jo...faith-based douchebaggery is GENIUS! You are .....

duraknit said...

You also did not wrap said knitting around her neck. I think that qualifies as another victory.

--Elizabeth D

Laura47 said...

It's so sad when people lock themselves into gender roles. Besides showing an abysmal lack of knowledge of the history of hand crafts, it displays a profound lack of understanding of just what a strong role model is.

And both sexes can be guilty. My dad, for example, was a brilliant classical pianist, but was a lifelong disappointment to his father because he didn't enjoy playing baseball.

You were much more patient with that woman than I would have been. But the important question still remains to be answered, as others have asked: Just what were you knitting? Pictures, we want pictures!

Mini said...

I, too, am often confounded by what the appropriate reaction to unwanted ministering is. I am a Catholic, and fully respect anyone's religious preferences, but when this is offered as a reason to those who would choose to minister to me, it's not enough. Why can't "I choose to be X and you choose to be Y and that is what our nation's based upon" be enough? Of course, I was raised in Massachusetts, where as a Yankee, you keep your nose out of other people's bedrooms, churches and lives.

Recently a family member (gay and 'married' with a daughter--- I was raised to treat my cousin's 'wife' as such) was with her daughter and wife. They were celebrating a milestone and they kissed. Someone approached them and asked about the effects of this behavior on their daughter. Well, having two parents who love each other for 30 years, who love each other enough still to smooch in public, who have raised a wonderful child ... this is a bad influence? And merited a comment from a stranger?

We are openly accepting of all non-evil people in our home. And, with no kids, we have a toybox for visiting children that contains girl and boy 'appropriate' toys... it always amazes me how many of our 'accepting' friends steer their boys from the barbie dolls, or move their little girls from the toy trucks. It baffles us! Our very religious (but outwardly "accepting") friend's son stays over now and again; his favorite activity is wearing my heels around the house and having tea. He's 4 and loves trucks,but he thinks high heels are funny to walk in :) And, he loves to 'help' me knit.

undyedyarnpire said...

Interesting that she equates herself being a Christian minister with traditionalism.

I was impressed by your non-confrontational responses. My response would have been, "Oh yeah, It's so much more productive to be [some sitcom stereotype of useless people]." But that would have been judgmental and I'd feel bad for my reaction later. At least this way you do not have to wonder if you could have handled it better than you did.

The cocktail parties bit was rather amusing too.

[also, happenstance has my captcha saying "joikes"... which I hear in an exaggerated New Jersey accent as agreeing with your premise.]

Anonymous said...

Hey Franklin!

I think your cocktail party response was perfect--funny, non-violent and effective (since you got rid of Pastor Cuckoo!). How sad that people are still using religion to justify their own private prejudices. Maybe the good pastor should READ the Bible, instead of just THUMPING it!!

joyknits said...

Not bringing it to a "tidy wrap up" left it open to further discussion, and what a great discussion!

Jane said...

Goodness. What an experience. I find this woman's stance totally rude and disrespectful. Even if Jesus didn't pick a pair of needles, there's no way He would have questioned your doing so.
Hey lady, walk the walk, don't just talk the talk!

Kate G. said...

Franklin, that was beautifully written. You, as always,
are much the gentleman.

There's not much listening you can do to someone that sets out to shame you. I had thought this kind of gender thing had died down. I stand corrected.

Phro5gg said...

Oh my goodness! What will the world come to if little boys start playing iwth knitting needles instead of toy guns? Next thing you know women will start wearing pants!

L. said...

Well, that is a total drag, and I'm really sorry it happened. At the same time, I am so impressed by how you handled her and about how you wrote about the incident here. A lot of people would have taken it as license to wrap things up very tidily indeed, or to bash a certain religious group. The thoughtful comments here reflect your approach.

Sueby said...

I think that the real shame here is that she didn't realize what a fabulous role model you are for children (and adults) by being self aware and comfortable enough with who you are and what you enjoy, that you are willing to enjoy those activities in public, rather then being ashamed of enjoying them, and hiding away in secret. Your attitude is exactly the type that I would love to have as a role model for any children that I might have. You also remind me that I need to keep working on being non-judgmental and forgiving...Something I think I would have found hard in the incident you described!

Joyce said...

hmmm I seem to remember Jesus hung out with a bunch of fishermen. Net weaving and repair is not far from other crafts such as knitting, tatting etc.

BTW, I'm a Christian married to a Zen Buddhist and our sons and daughter had toys without regard to gender roles.

I hope the rest of your trip is much better.

Jeremy said...

Franklin, darling, bless you for your diplomacy. You handled that much better than I would have. And all the while on your way to the armpit of Wisconsin. I lived in La Crosse for almost 7 years. My condolences...

One Sock Short said...

Franklin, I really appreciate your take-away from that encounter. It does seem to be impossible for many people to have a real conversation about differing opinions and beliefs. Everything has to be an argument with clear winners and losers. I *like* hearing what other people have to (respectfully) say. And I like it when they listen to what I have to (respectfully) say. The person on the train missed out on what could have been a great conversation. Her loss.

Anonymous said...

As a Christian I'm pretty sure I've never come upon traditional male roles in the Bible. Interesting she can't separate knitting from religion. Men do knit in my family. And hunt. And cook. I say just ignore ignorant people.

shyknitter said...

It seems to me that up until recently (maybe the past 40 or so years), it was culturally acceptable for men to knit. It also seems to me that until recently, the majority of pastors (if not all of them) were men.

It is unfortunate that this woman is not aware of her own gender's progression in acceptables roles, while she is suggesting to limit those for others.

shyknitter said...

It seems to me that up until recently (maybe the past 40 or so years), it was culturally acceptable for men to knit. It also seems to me that until recently, the majority of pastors (if not all of them) were men.

It is unfortunate that this woman is not aware of her own gender's progression in acceptables roles, while she is suggesting to limit those for others.

Hazy said...

Never seen a man knit? What would it look like to boys? Well, to the boys in my DH's school, they would think you are pretty cool. Over 30 of them were taught to knit so they could make squares to be made into blankets for the local pediatric unit. A couple of weeks in and they are desperate to learn how to do more. Yup, you'd be real cool to them!

Stickfantomen said...

Oh dear, oh my. How up dated, yet so backwardish and really to my heart a saddening experience.

Going to the West Coast island Groto, just outside Gothenburg , Sweden, this weekend for the “Knit Fest in (the)West 09” I almost feel up to cross dress and makeover so that I could test the opinion on men knitting in public, whilst on a train in this part of the world. Not a bible-belt part of this country, but still. Just to check attitudes amongst people.

I too ask where we will end. Who am I to tell sbdy else that their faith is wrong, or that their God is not a God at all. Religion is meaning bearing systems, some say man made, that ought to be revered as such with respect for otherness and other meaning bearing systems.

In my world, before as I was round 20 I did not know that men could knit. I know this now. But Whaah! You even knit some things better than us. Good Luck with the speech and have fun at KiPD. Take Care.

Cosmo DK said...

Wowsers.

I've known Marines that knit. Wonder what the minister would think of that...

All in all, you look perfectly normal to me, knitting or not. And you can come over to be a role model for my son any day.

Mo said...

How I admire your restraint. I could not have been as tactful even if I were sitting a few rows away and overheard you.
Have a better time in Wisconsin. :)

(formerly) no-blog-rachel said...

Faith-based douchebaggery. I love it (the name, not the concept).

It is sad though - a man doing something peaceful and creative isn't perceived as strong?

debd94 said...

What a wonderful post! I admire your strength and calm, as well as your comments in the blog post. How right you are...we all need to listen more to each other, in order to understand each other better, which I think is the heart of inclusivity and celebration of diversity.

laura gayle said...

Franklin, I hope you were knitting lace, and confusing her even more (a man making a beautiful and difficult item!).

Lovely, tactful and thoughtful responses. However, what if Jesus, Buddha, and the other deities did attend the same cocktail parties? Perhaps that would put the rest of us to better behavior. ;)

What's that saying? Minds are like parachutes -- they operate best when open?

Love your post and the resulting discussion!

Tsarina of Tsocks said...

I wouldn't absolutely bet on them not going to the same cocktail parties... I spose they'd both have to be invited, though. At any rate, you did do one other thing besides finish the knitting: you set a great example for "the young people."

And yeah, I too want to know what you were knitting. Maybe you'll show us on Sunday?

Amy said...

Oh, when you first said you were looking for a window seat, I thought it was going to be so that she could sit down and you could really have an interesting conversation and talk it out! But I suppose I'm a bit accepting of proselytism since I'm not exposed to it much. I think that most Christians think that all us Iowans are mostly all happily Christian, for the most part.

Except for Iowa City. Our entire city has been picketed by the Westboro Baptist Church! Though that doesn't say much, since my undergrad Lutheran college orchestra was as well.

I think for the most part I'm perfectly happy to listen to people spout off whatever opinions they have, as long as they keep me interested and keep up a good conversation. But on a train it'd be harder to leave if you got bored, so I can see where you turned that one down.

Angie said...

In my opinion you were doing the listening, not her. My nephews (10and 7) play with cars and trucks, they watch Star Wars, they play baseball and hockey, they fart and burp and can actually shoot a pretty good game of pool. But they also like to cuddle with their stuffed animals, sit on grandma's lap and kiss her (or their mom, dad, uncle, aunt, grandpa) and OH MY, asked me to teach them how to knit! Are they not getting the strong male influence? BAH!! Besides, didn't knitting start out as a male activity?

PS: I agree, this has nothing to do with religion. She just dragged that into it as an excuse for talking to you.

Rana said...

I have a feeling that this woman would have been disapproving and pushy even if she were an atheist - she's just decided - subconsciously or deliberately - to slap a label on her behavior and declare it ministry instead of what it actually is - nosy-parkering.

This doesn't strike me as a failed conversation between two different worldviews - it strikes me as a failed attempt to proselytize (and I mean that in a wider sense than just religious).

One _can_ speak across such divides, but it requires both parties to be willing to hang out there in space and _listen_. In your conversation you gave her ample space to think about what she was saying and to reconsider her position AND to explain her position to you.

At no point does she do the same - in every sentence there is an implied "you are wrong and I am right".

That's the problem right there - not the differences, but the insistence that there is only ONE Right Way and that nothing else one experiences can lead you to rethink your view of the world - dogmatism, in other words.

Maybe she's just young?

Beth said...

I would have offered to belch, scratch, and condescend to her if that would make her feel better, as that is the male rolemodel that I grew up with, LMAO. But then, I am snotty that way and you handled it with ever so much more patience than I could have. ;) Muah!

Jo said...

Words fail me. I can think of thousands of things to say about this, and can't sort through and pick out the most relevant.

Basically, she's teaching her children to be bigoted and you're messing it up. And I'm absolutely positive that she is totally unaware of it. I say that sadly, not angrily.

By the way, there are many people who believe that the lost years of Jesus' life were spent learning Buddhism, and that it colored Christianity to a large extent.

I've had some conversations like that (mercifully for me, very few), but never about knitting. It's a matter of belief, and no logic in the world and no proof is going to change their opinion.

Another by-the-way: Knitting was originally something that MEN did. Women were not allowed to do it. So was being a secretary and/or typist.

Women weren't allowed to do these things until men lost interest in them and quit doing them. Then the women picked up the slack.

Sorry, that's the way it's been historically.

I'm glad to see that you're one of the ones picking up the slack, like the rest of us.

Sharon Rose said...

Option A was the way to go! It's an excellent question.

Natalie Servant said...

How would it look to the kids? Hmm, kinda like her being a minister, it would look like they can do whatever they want to do regardless of other people's ideas of what an appropriate activity/job for their gender might be.

Your conversation might have benefited from a technique I recently re-learned from my daughter's TV show: Stop & Think.

And I'm sure that Jesus would want you to continue to knit such beautiful lace.

Jo said...

In a bizarre kind of way, this reminds me of a story the Yarn Harlot told on her blog.

She was knitting a sock on a train, and a woman started talking to her, and informed her that she was crocheting!

Steph could not convince her that she knew what she was doing and it was KNITTING.

The woman was very sad that Stephanie was so deluded that she actually thought she was knitting when she was really crocheting.

And she was as convinced of the truth of what she was saying as the woman you met.

Anne said...

Maybe the thing is simply that the two of you had a 'civilised' conversation. (One of you [yes, I mean you!] may have been somewhat more civilised than the other, but hey.)

Even if she was totally baffled/frustrated/hurt by your attitude, even if she was left full of self-righteous indignation at your lack of compassion for 'the children', she will have had to think even for a little while. Just possibly other encounters with knitting men, or other men who don't conform to her 'traditional' stereotypes will reminder of that guy she met on the train, and a little chink of light might enter her closed mind.

We can hope.

(You know, Obama's ocean liner, not a speed boat thing.)

amy said...

Oh, dear. Last week my 7yo son knit in public and I was SO PROUD. I mean, really really proud, like I could feel it building in my chest and I knew I was beaming.

Hmm. Nope, I'm still proud.

throughthebackloop said...

Apparently no single theology holds the monopoly on rude either.

Miss Knotty said...

Along with everyone else here, I sincerely applaud your grace under fire, and I also appreciate your diplomacy in not taking potshots against her here on your blog - that's so much more dignified than I (think I) would be. I don't consider myself a vindictive person, but someone like this needs a thorough setting-down, by someone who can adequately shame her for her actions against you. Her behavior toward you indicates that she wouldn't take you seriously, which is extremely unfortunate for her -- doesn't she realize what a celebrity you are in the knitting world?! (how could she not?! /end gush), but perhaps someone that she listens to can get through to her that what she did to you was so completely NOT okay. God bless you for being awesome in the face of ignorance and sexism.

Friends of Troy Chapman said...

I know... it's so hard to keep your cool and try to "be the change you wish to see in the world." I'd love to be able to lead myself and someone like that through an enlightening dialogue, but invariably I just start sputtering. I recently had a strange experience where a Bill-O'Reilly-lovin' conservative co-worker pulled me into a political chat. I started out defensively and felt under attack even though he hadn't attacked me. And when I finished spluttering for a minute or so he just kind of nodded and said, "Mm-hmm." Nonconfrontationally. As if he'd take what I said under consideration. Disarmed and embarrassed at the same time, I changed my tone, and wondered how the supposed "peace-lovin', open-minded liberal" (me) had ended up starting out so ready for battle.

I'm not saying you were being confrontational... I'm not sure what I'm saying. I would have been as hard-pressed as you to come up with a way to steer the conversation toward some mutual understanding. I would say that this culture doesn't give us a lot of models for nonconfrontational dialogue. (And the minister certainly boxed you in... not too many people could have interrupted her obvious agenda.)

Thanks for just putting this out there without trying to make some neat conclusion.

Liza said...

Well, my daughter thinks that only women, for example - her mother, read newspapers, since she has never seen her father pick up any of the three newspapers we get at the house. LOL.

Love me a good train trip too, just always be careful you have brought enough wool to knit, my fear of travel, not getting lost, running out of yarn. Blah.

Liza the Blogless

knittinghooker said...

To bad you didn't have on your "I learned to knit in prison" t-shirt. You could have opened your dress shirt to that and say that the boys on your cell block learned along with you and they thought you were a strong enough role model for them! You should add another one that says,"I learned to knit in prison...with Jesus!"

nosenabook said...

Outrageous comes in many guises. Dolores is not the only flavor.

Marcy said...

How completely hypocritical and strange! What religion did she think it traditional for women to be in the ministry? Was she Wiccan?

Lynda the Guppy said...

OMG that's hysterical. I don't know why, but I found this conversation to be incredibly funny. I guess it's a laugh-or-scream reaction, and I'm taking the high road.

I have to admit I am surprised when I see men knitting. Not because I think it's odd that men knit, it's more like seeing a zebra when you expect a horse. It's lovely, and surprising because it's so rare. But living in L.A., seeing men knit or do other more traditionally female things is not quite so uncommon.

chellebelle said...

"No single theology holds the monopoly on faith-based douchebaggery."


I read this twice.. and loved it. I happen to belong to the Friend's Church (Quaker) and our services, happen to inclued at least 20 minutes of quiet, meditative time. We have a school there in the building where all the children, girls and BOYS learn to knit, crochet, sew, etc. Gentle-ness, kind-ness, creative-ness, all are qualities of great men, and women. Gaundi spun fiber, and encouraged millions to do the same.. Was he not a great man? Does God really care about the name of your religion? I certainly beleive that he (she, whatever) is wiser than human kind!
And my verification word is "saring" really close to "sharing" and that is what we have to do in, and on this world!

ali said...

Bless you, Franklin, for being mindful and loving. Something I as a Christian might not have done faced with a similar situation.

As for missionary lady blessings on her, too. Maybe you moved her a bit and she hasn't realized it yet.

tinebeest said...

Franklin, the way you wrote that conversation you couldn't get a word in edgeways!

But how dare you set such a bad example for the young boys. Shouldn't you be all manly and swearing and drinking in front of them instead?

DJ Hamouris said...

Franklin, you have truly honed in on the important question: if we can't talk and listen to each other, staying with the uncomfortable feelings of conflict, how can we expect our leaders to do so? How can we go forward as a culture? I applaud your attitude and willingness to take the questions with you after this exchange. Bravo!

PatQ said...

Luckily you are a man. Because, if it was me, a woman, I would have hauled off and punched her. After that I would have given her a good lecture on how to keep her beliefs to herself. You exhibited perfect male behavior.

Carol said...

So, men should never do what women do. How does one decide which is what? I mean, typically, women cook. Just as typically, women knit. So, if you are a man, you shouldn't cook, since it might corrupt the youg 'uns. So, you should starve? Because you are a man and men don't cook?

people should do whatever they liek to do. If women do men's things and men do women things, then ummm, doesn't the whole problem go away. Not that it is a problem. My grandpa used to sya "there is no women's work or men's work. there is only work. Now shut up and start working"

Anonymous said...

Pied-Piper-o-Yarn said:

~ Franklin,

phew ! that conversation takes the cake. You VERY politely responded to her VERY closed mind.
closed like a locked suitcase. yikes !
..... and I thought my family was dysfunctional, :O ..........I wouldn't want to even know who her role models were.
Sadly, the Midwest has some very strong conservatisism, which I've been battling for years.
A tidbit. "I'm homeless" because I ride my bike year-round. Yes, that was actually said to me. Even when I politely corrected that no, I'm not homeless, I choose NOT to have a car and I enjoy riding my bike. I've done so for at least 25 yrs. This person insisted that I WAS homeless because she had seen me with several bags on my handlebars !!
I've taught knitting to children, BOYS & GIRLS for nine years in AfterSchools and clubs and because I carry, oh my, its scandelous, BAGS and BASKETS of YARN on my bike, in many creative ways, I might add, so that automatically means I must be homeless.
~ I am the Pied-Piper-of-Yarn and it will be brought to ALL the children, regardless of what others think. :)
I have taught many, many boys, as well as girls to knit and enjoy being creative.
I sincerely hope that I may be chipping away at the iceberg of conformity here, but its a very large berg.
Always the artist/oddball to most adults ~ yet, to children and the time I've spent with them learning to make anything they wish,.......priceless. I'll be an artsy-oddball forever, thank you very much.

~ Ben Y., a ten year old boy, who was a knitting student in a class with four other BOYS said: "knitting is my life."
mine too.
~ Go Franklin !
I absolutely hope the rest of the Knitting & Humor Day is indeed, far more delightful and that you meet some of the oddballs like MOI, at the event.
I'd even offer to ride the train back to Chicago with ya, just to make your train ride a lotta more fun.
*** and what were you knitting ? ***
I'd like to take a train ride to California just so I could FINISH about a zillion projects !!
~Shell
a.k.a. Pied-Piper-o-Yarn

Marissa said...

I'm not sure how a man who was knitting is a threat either. In Germany, all children are taught to knit in school, as it's useful and something that will be beneficial to them for years to come.

I'm pretty sure my grandfather, a Korean War vet, would have taken offense if she'd asked him what he thought of his knitting too. Of course, he'd have been rude about it once she put that first foot in her mouth.

Sarah JS said...

Raising my knitting needles in support that *all* children need role models who are strong, who are gentle, who are wise, who are funny ... and the gender of the role model matters not.

As to a previous suggestion of wrapping your knitting around Missionary's neck ... nah. That would be a waste of fine knitting.

hbacmama said...

My seven year old went to knitting camp last summer.
Now that dad has left the home and life is really screwed up. He is picking up his huge needles and doing some knitting when his siblings are in bed. Calms his world a bit.
What a horrible influence this is having on him! And I realize that the true horror is that he has been taking dance classes for the last four years.
Yeah. I hope he grows up to be a better person than he 'role model'. I hope that knitting (and spinning, once he can remove his four year old brother from behind MY wheel) can give him some balance in life. 'Cause the 'role model' got himself arrested three weeks ago for some horrible stuff that I don't ever want to have to explain to him.
yeah.
role models are needed? Can I bring my boys to you? please?

HA! word verification was panache!

Betty said...

Forgot about the boys. You can be MY role model.

nikkapotamus said...

I love it!
I'm an art teacher who likes to knit in my down time; I always have a sock bag hanging off my arm as I knit away. The BOYS are always the ones who ask if they can learn to do that!!

Think about that, Ms. Role Model :)

Elizabeth said...

Maybe you could introduce her to the young folks on the bus from Indiana who asked if you learned to knit in prison.

Excuse me, but I have to swear now.

Un-fucking-believable the nerve of some folks. I could compose a mini-essay on your question, but ultimately, she invaded your space to lecture you. I'd say you gave her more courteous listening time than a lot of your readers would have.

Anna-Liza said...

I really doubt that Jesus would tell anyone that knitting in public is a sin ... being a minister myself, these things exasperate me no end.

Jennifer said...

Your interaction with her didn't surprise me much, but I am intrigued by your take on it. I would have said that you handled yourself quite well. You weren't rude to her even as she insulted you and your knitting. Yet you think there's more you could have/should have done? I must admit I can't see it. Having grown up a Jew in a very Christian Southern-ish town (in MD), I've never seen any use in trying to discuss things w/ missionary types. They think you're going to hell anyway; do you really think there's a possibility of having a meaningful interaction with them? I'd like to think there's more you could have done to have a meaningful conversation with her that would have ended in some sort of understanding, but I can't imagine that happening. Can you really?

jill said...

It strikes me that her comments had nothing to do with religion and everything to do with cultural notions that are completely divorced from religious thought or practice.

"What would Jesus say about a man knitting?" seems to be a way of putting someone into a box where they cannot respond vigorously or honestly without seeming to disparage Christianity itself.

Until your interlocutor can make the logical connection between her cultural beliefs and her religious ones, that sounds an awful lot like conversational bullying and not a discussion about religious belief at all.

I would probably have asked her for a textual reference to Jesus' teachings on gender roles. And trying to slide in Old Testament verses is cheating, unless you want to get into a sub-discussion about Old/New dichotomies such as "eye for an eye" and "turn the other cheek."

Bethany (yarnorgy) said...

Franklin, you are such a doll! Too bad she missed that about you! Cyber hugs to you!

Anonymous said...

You could have told her you were transgender and knitting was totally appropriate for some who was born a biological female. That might have left her speechless. Seriously, though - knitting is part of the curriculum for boys and girls in the Rudolf Steiner (Waldorf) educational system.

nana said...

You probably know that knitting was firstly done by the mostly male shepherds who wanted something more portable than weaving?

To the matter of listening and not losing the cool there is this rosenberg guy with his book of nonviolent communication, it should be part of the schooling, I guess, it helps so much to not get misunderstandings in the way of seeing the human and not a "missionary field" of some sort or the other.

off of my soapbox now, and I wanted to say, I really enjoy your blog and the things you are creating.

Anonymous said...

The first person I saw knit in public was a young man at a Christian youth group meeting. He was knitting a beautiful cable pattern sweater for his sister. I learned two lessons from that evening, that anyone can knit anything they put their mind to, and that it was ok to knit in public. He had a huge impact on my knitting growth by showing by example that it was ok to try something new and difficult and that one could knit in public. Looking back it was not odd that he was male but that he was knitting cables which I loved but was afraid to try at the time.
But then I had a father that taught his daughters to hunt and fish and his sons to cook and clean. Pretty enlightened man for someone that just turned 80.

Thank you for being you and know that some young person is learning a valuable lesson from you that you may never knew you taught them.

LaurieM said...

I'm in complete agreement with you. And you can't change her, you have to start with yourself. So, if you live the example you want to set and you actually held onto your cool long enough to actually listen to her, what would that accomplish?

Perhaps it would increase your compassion for her and understanding of her.

Benita said...

I guess the thing that bothers me most is the fact that a young, 20-something person would get all bent out of shape about traditional gender roles. (And I would like to inform this person that knitting has been traditional a man's occupation in certain countries.) I had hoped that in today's world, those barriers were beginning to break down.

Also, I wonder how she would have felt if someone had pointed out to her that being a minister has been traditionally a man's role, and there are some denominations that never allow a woman to become a minister - simply because that's a man's job.

Seems like she needs to take a closer look at her own life before judging others people's lives.

rho said...

It was a perfect example to teach her the history of knitting - male knitting guilds, sailors knitting, soldiers knitting, etc. it is only relatively recently that women have taken over knitting in peoples minds

Samantha said...

Hmmm... you know, Jesus's message must have sounded pretty damn wussy to people living under *Roman occupation.* "I mean really, Mr. Christ, have you considered the example you are setting for our young Roman citizens with all of that twaddle about love and peace?" I now have this image of Jesus looking up from his knitting, puzzled, amused and faintly disgusted by the whole exchange.

Samantha

Cindy said...

Well, it hasn't been all that long ago that ministers were only men, in which case she would be setting a bad example for young women. So if she really has "old-fashioned" values, she needs to look in the mirror. :)

Knit on!

Rachel said...

Franklin, I think you need to write a book about male fiber artists. Seriously.

I own a spinning wheel and loom that were constructed and used by my great grandfather. A knitter, spinner, weaver and devout Mennonite.

My father learned needlepoint while recovering from an injury he incurred while flying fighter jets for the U.S. Marine Corps. He is also a minister.

KnitNana said...

No comment on any religious topic per your request (tho' I surely could)...

I'll say this: knitting in public is so much better than some of the things people do in public...picking noses comes to mind.

And you're very right. How on earth will we solve the world's problems when we don't listen to each other?
(((hugs)))

Droelma said...

Those are the fruit of putting that tush on the pillow each day.....
Congratulations!
You did great......
Even after 25 years of Zen and Tibetan Karma Kagyu Practice, I hope to do as well, when that lady crosses my path...lol.

sgt-majorette said...

Roosevelt (Rosey) Grier, giant scary Black football player, did needlepoint.

When I was in the Army, I was sitting outside a PX in Germany, knitting lace on a 36" circular. A woman came up to me and said "Oh. That's pretty good, for a man."

I looked at her, and then at the double-D's straining my field jacket, and then back at her again.

Obviously your train friend wasn't familiar with what the Bible wants women to do, or she'd have been spinning the hair of goats (Ex. 35:26) and not brawling and contending with strange me on trains.

knitsnwovens said...

OK, wha..??? I think you've got a magnet for "interesting people" attached to you somewhere. I knit in public all the time and the only people who've talked to me are the occasional older lady in waiting rooms being confused about a "young person" knitting. Yeah, I'm female, but still - really? I'm aghast at the people who find you! I can't for the life of me figure out how knitting would be a bad influence on boys - dangerous, yes (pointy sticks). Opportunity to be teased, possibly. Bad???

Well, hey, I say go with it. Take your bad-ass knitting and hit the town. See how many youngsters you can corrupt in your lifetime - I dare you!

Sorka said...

"The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway." -Kent Keith

And I would say act on it as well..anyway...

Susan said...

I thought that we, as a society, had come further than that.

When I taught kids to knit at school, I had girls and boys knitting. Parents were thrilled. One even sent me a note at the end of the year telling me how awesome it was that I could interest 7 year old boys in knitting enough for them to voluntarily give up recesses.

I only had one tiny problem with the parents of a six year old boy who expressed concern that the other kids might tease their son if he learned to knit. I sent a reassuring note back home that there were plenty of male knitters at school but they still resisted until their own son pleaded with them that he really, really wanted to join knitting club.

Exactly how does knitting make a boy or man less masculine? They are learning a set of skills that produce something amazing and they are finding a way to relax as a bonus.

We think we've come a long way as women in our society. How did the men not get included in the new mindset? Oh, I know that men are better daddies now and are involved with things that are traditionally seen as feminine roles. And I know that there are many of us who believe that there are no standard male/female roles. But this one incident shows us that there is still a long way to go.

Amber in Albuquerque said...

Making something, anything, with your hands is showing your strength. Doing it in public and remaining polite in the face of skepticism and bigotry is showing your strength. Jesus did it; he was a carpenter. Still, this here Evangelical Christian has a hard time believing that Jesus the carpenter ever made anything as beautiful, or with as much love, as that christening shawl.

Crazy Broad on train needs to re-read her Bible. Crazy Knitter on train needs to keep on keeping on.

Love ya Franklin!

Anonymous said...

whoa. Until I read the other comments, I was sure you'd made up the conversation and couldn't imagine for what purpose....but now there are other people saying that there really ARE psople like THAT ONE. Eeeeeeew. And I heard on the radio yesterday about the Full Quiver Movement...."Christians" who believe in ginormous families (regardless of the impact on our li'l planet) so as to have more people out there proselytizing. Eeeeeew. I'm pretty sure that's not a winning approach.

Cobbalicious said...

Obama always seems to reach above and identify what people agree on, doesn't he?

Hmmm. What do you and that young lady both agree on?

Heh. Not a whole lot, I guess. Still.

Tara said...

You know, I find it interesting that a WOMAN would comment on the... what? inappropriateness? of a man knitting in public. Especially a woman who chose to exercise a profession which is traditionally held by MEN (aren't most ministers men?).

And by the way? Your pondering whether you could feign narcolepsy to end the conversation had me shooting tea through my nose. No, REALLY. Too funny.

Arlette said...

"Do you ever stop and talk to Jesus, and ask what He would want you to do?"

He'd probably focus more on that whole grace, love and charity thing than on what you do to pass the time on mass transit.

If she's bucking tradition enough to be in the ministry, she might be feeling pressure -- maybe entirely internal -- to make up for it by being extra vigilant about proper gendered behavior. Poor thing. Hope she learns to think a little more critically, and to listen.

Jami said...

My brother always responds to knitting comments with a deadpan stare, followed by the comment that it was "a condition of his parole."

Tina M. said...

Oh the many, many times I have found myself in similar shoes (though in reverse). I get much the same nonsense when I am asked, quite pointedly "when are you having children." To which my answer is "Never, I'm a non-breeder/advocate for voluntary extinction."

"What do you mean you're not having kids? Isn't that selfish?"

*boggles* "No, selfish would be having children I don't want to make other people happy. And, no, before you ask, my husband is fine with this and I'm not robbing him of his future lineage."

I also get in similar theological impasse situations when Christians/Jehovah's Witnesses ask me about faith and I reply that I'm a Pagan. Oh the fun, it never stops.

You bring up a very good point, that we need to talk without rushing to anger. I think it would involve a lot of practice, and perhaps padded sword bouts to get all the inner angst out first, and then talking.

Teresa said...

I'm in ministry too and, can I just say that I am teaching my 3 sons to knit?
I promise if I ever meet you on a train the conversation will be completely different and, hopefully, MUCH more pleasant.
Thank you for not bashing.
You're da bomb!

Knitting Linguist said...

This is so interesting. I can't figure out for the life of me what she thought you were going to do -- suddenly see the light and toss your knitting out the window? I appreciate the end of your post very much. I had a similar conversation with someone this weekend, although I think I said even less than you did, because I realized that, with regard to the topic that came up, I feel very strongly and have thought about it a lot and considered and talked and have come to a conclusion that makes the most sense to me and I was pretty sure I wouldn't change my mind. And it suddenly hit me that she (I am sure) felt exactly the same way: that she had considered and thought and researched and was confident in her opinion. And suddenly I could imagine what it felt like inside her head, because it was exactly the way I felt inside mine. So I let it lie. I just wish that she'd had the same revelation, too -- it would have made the conversation feel much less one-sided...

(Thank goodness it wasn't about gender, though; I have a LOT more trouble keeping my mouth shut about that one!)

KnitTech said...

"What would Jesus say about a man knitting?" - Hey, will you make me a pair of socks?

Sorry, couldn't resist.

Yvonne said...

Very close minded. :( Very sad.

M-H said...

Meredith has made an excellent point about the irony of this young woman's position. But I think the saddest thing about this episode is that she was so young. Hasn't she read the book? Young people are supposed to be radical, and embrace new ideas, and lead their society into new places, not back to the same old dusty corners.

I think she is new at this ministering game and is still needing to establish her identity everywhere she goes. Glad that you were big enough not to need to pop her one back. Sad to say it in such a middle-aged, resigned tone of voice, but she'll learn.

Anita said...

Maybe Jesus wouldn't approve because He crochets instead . . .

Sorry. I couldn't resist.

Silly Doodah said...

I'm a Christian, and am constantly having to apologize on behalf of the faith-based douchebaggery of my brothers and sisters. Please forgive them, for they know not what they do. Sigh.

Plus, Jesus would totally go to the same cocktail parties as you. He might even ask you to teach him how to knit.

Kath said...

"No single theology holds the monopoly on faith-based douchebaggery"

Full win right there. 'Nuff said.

Mary said...

You should have told her that you were knitting a jock strap.

B and the boys said...

I am just trying to figure out who has the master list of what boys should do and what girls should do? I would love to see a copy. I probably need one since I am raising 3 boys and one will be going to knitting camp this summer.

desdemona said...

I think the key part of the story was "in her early twenties". She'll grow out of it. At least I hope so.

I was approached by two guys last week and they asked me if I was interested in Jesus (you know the kind of guys, right, dress pants and shirts, nametag and a tie. I have no clue what religion they are, but apparently they have to travel for it.) Anyway, I love those guys! You tell them "Sorry, I don't do religion" and they smile and say "Have a good day" and that's it. No "But..." or anything.

So, what were you knitting?!

Steph said...

I find it odd that she couldn't see beyond gender stereotypes considering that she said she is in the ministry. When I was younger that was a traditionally male role... at least in my part of the world.

Does she not want the same respect as her male counterparts?

Roggey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Heidi said...

It's never really a conversation when one side comes in KNOWING they're right, is it...

Won't she be surprised when she gets to the other side--heh!

Roggey said...

Please don't take this the wrong way, but based on this?

"I'm a Buddhist," I said. "Jesus and I don't usually go to the same cocktail parties."

I love you ;)


BTW - what are you knitting?

Shan said...

And here I was thinking "a woman minister? weird."

Angie said...

#1 - I agree with Roggy
#2 -
#2 -
#2 - I can't put it into properly descriptive words. so stupid, so, do stupid

Thanks for sharing, we have a LONG way to go.

Carol said...

Wow. On the one hand I'm thinking, 'yeah, the world will never get along' and on the other, 'maybe each bit of conversation will lead to change.'

Artsy Reader said...

Do you know, rather than throw myself out of the window, I would have been sorely tempted to throw HER out the window.

But that's just me.

Good on you for keeping your cool.

Kristen said...

AAAAAARRRRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!

OK. I feel better now. {sigh} I don't suppose you could just smile sweetly and tell her that once upon a time knitting was a men-only occupation. Or whatever everyone else said before me.

I suppose she was at least civilized and wasn't whipping out her Bible to thump you with it.

benne said...

Narrow minded people are just that, no matter whether or not they ascribe to a religion. Their world must be very small and confining. Unfortunately, many of them think they must drag the rest of us into the box they put themselves in.

Jeanne said...

Do some people just not think before they speak? I was raised Presbyterian, veered off for 15 years into Wicca, wound my way back to some form of New Age Christianity-Zen combination, and I can't figure out how a person claiming to be in the clergy could behave in such a judgmental fashion. I wonder what she thought of women's power suits in the 80s?

Maria said...

Franklin, it's just sad that in the 21st century there are still people who think this way. My dad was a merchant marine and had to learn to knit his own socks. While mom taught me how to knit, he taught me (and my sister and two brothers) how to change electrical outlets and switches - just in case I married a guy who knew nothing about electricity. My grandmother believed that we should never stop learning and that both boys and girls should learn how to do as much for themselves as possible. As a teacher, I heartily agree!Don't let the turkeys get you down!!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for reporting this encounter.
I admire the way you handled it - I might have been tempted to put her through the window.
Look at the conversation your post generated. Given some of the suggestions by other posters, I'm even more in awe of the way to handled this person. But each person was touched (and some of us ashamed that all these various forms of bigotry still rear their ugly heads) by your retelling.
It helps us remember WE have a long way to go as a human race before we properly value each other.
That poor woman - her life must be a torment and you said she was young so she has a long time to suffer for her own narrowmindedness. \Pat

Anonymous said...

Hm. My first thought would be to say "Strength?! You want strength?!" and then lunge a size 0 at her jugular, but that wouldn't really foster understanding.

I suppose if I were in a calm mood, I'd rationally try to explain why I think it's okay for a man to knit, why people should have choices that aren't bound by one idea of traditional gender roles.

AnneB said...

I guess she's never heard of Bishop Rutt (as in Richard Rutt author of "A History of Hand knitting")). Poor young thing, she's gots so much to learn and it is probably not going to be much fun. I'm glad you handled her as gently as you did.

Anna said...

I guess I don't understand how she thought that knitting wasn't strong enough activity to show the youth. She must not knit. Or wear enough handknit socks.

Handknit socks would be enough of a ministration, eh?

Liz said...

I am just sitting here stunned, as a woman, a Christian and (I hope) a human being, that you had to endure this conversation.

[Although I've just experienced my first "fast knitting=lack of intelligence or possibly idiot savant" overheard loud speculative conversation from the group next to me on the way home this evening... Yay. Presumably they hadn't worked out that ear-splitting cut-glass voices do actually cut through knitting podcasts; or maybe they just didn't care...]

Just GAH.

Jenny said...

I have followed you as a lurker for awhile, but love your writing style (and your book!). I teach courses on communication and assertive techniques and always find it so strange that someone would choose to criticize a total stranger!
Good for you for not pursuing - love the Buddhist comment (I'm Jewish) and will "borrow" it the next time I can!

NeedleTart said...

Thank you for the perfect reply,
"He and I don't usually go to the same cocktail parties." Snort.
(BTW How about a man being strong enough to be who he is even if it is a little outside of the sports centric norm?)

Sheeri K. Cabral said...

Well obviously men creating and being peaceful would be an end to the world as we know it!

(but that would be a good thing).

As a 30-year old woman who's been knitting a few years, I occasionally get "you're too young to knit," and "oh, are you pregnant?" but the one that takes the cake, for me, is when I'm on a plane or waiting for a plane.

Invariably, the person sitting next to me says "wow, they let you get those through security?"

My default answer is "these are no more dangerous than a ball-point pen" (#1 or #2 dpns) but I really feel like saying either:

"No, I snuck them through, don't tell anyone!"
or
"Shoot, what the heck am I doing knitting, I could be hijacking a plane! Thanx for the tip!"

Lindsey said...

Must chime in on the cudos for being so diplomatic with Pastor Lady. I don't think I'd have had such self control, or had the presence of mind for the witty cocktail party joke. Once again, this reinforces you being my hero.

I'm still mystified how occupying yourself in a quiet yet productive manner could be a bad example for the wee ones, though. Since a few hours of indirect exposure to someone minding their own business on a train is such a corruptive experience and all...

Anonymous said...

Sometimes the stupid is just so thick in the air that you just have to let it ooze past you. If there is a God, she can't be too pleased with some of the nonsense done in her name.

KellyD said...

Sometimes its best to agree to disagree. I admire your self control. Me? It wouldn't have happened.

Anonymous said...

Well! I think you did perfect. I have had people treat me like you did that lady, when I was young (and drinking) and acting like said lady. What happened is their kindness and strength nestled around my cold arrogant heart, and when I imploded on my selfish self, I remembered their example. I hope that happens for that poor woman.

You have also provided the motivation I need to get my arse back on my pillow. I have been playing hookie for two weeks. : (

Janet McKinney said...

Ohhh it is not fair. Why can't I overhear those sort of conversations so I could have a wonderful belly laugh. (well I may have tried to catch your eye first to make sure you were ok with the laughter)

Of course Franklin - you have it all wrong - the issue is not whether or not you knit in public, the mistake you made was taking a train where people can stop and talk to you. Oh no - that is the good thing about taking a train isn't it.

Jeanne said...

My son, now 11, won a blue ribbon at the county fair for his matching garter stitch scarf & hat set when he was 8. He got a bunch of positive reinforcement from all the hippies out here in Northern California... He also got a bunch of weird, "are you sure you want to take credit for that?, boys aren't supposed to knit" stuff. That made me want to scream, because he was happy with his creative, coordinated self and his blue ribbon and his $5, and these close minded bleeps tried to take the wind out of his hand-knit sails.

I don't know how to educate the red-neck hicks of this world, and I wouldn't even bother trying - I just wish they'd stop trying to educate me and mine.

Marg B said...

Please tell me you made this up. It scares the crap out of me that this could be true. I sometimes wonder where people like this come from.

knitbot said...

I am never going to stop using the phrase 'faith-based douchebaggery.'

Anonymous said...

You did very well Franklin, as always. I am very proud of you. With your intelligence and genius, you could have easily ended the conversation quickly, but you gave her a chance, but she was not up for it. Btavo, your light is shining brightly. Etoile 7

Anonymous said...

I get to see you on Saturday in Philly. I'll be sure to leave my 18 month old son at home, locked firmly in his room with all the athletic equipment and firearms I can get my hands on.

aunty-del said...

She'd be laughed out of town if she came to my knitting group: attendees include a lesbian grandmother and her partner, a wife and mother who is a marriage celebrant with a passion for GLBT commitment ceremonies, an elderly gay man, myself (a bisexual agnostic unmarried non-mother in her 40s) and nobody with any respect for such old-fashioned gender roles. I also have a friend who is on his way to becoming a Uniting Church minister and knits Continental (although seldom and poorly), thanks to Finnish maternal relatives.

"What would Jesus want you to do?" He seemed to be a pretty rebellious and iconoclastic sort of guy, so I think he'd tell you to whatever you feel is right.

quinn said...

Aw Franklin, I'm sorry your trip turned into such a...
trip.

This kind of cross-purpose and unasked-for encounter always leaves me feeling rumpled and half-baked. And thinking, days later, of things I could have said that *might* have made some kind of difference in the experience. Very very sad.

But anon11:08 cheered me up considerably :)

LindaWD said...

Up in Canada, there used to be a kids show called Mr. Dress-up. He said it was OK for little boys to play with dolls because it taught them how to be good daddies. I mow the lawn, my husband vacuums. I wish we were past the girl tasks vs. boy tasks thing. Don't we all have things to learn from the opposite gender? BTW, my 12 year old Son is learning to knit - he doesn't quite love it yet... but he will! (I hope) In the meantime, he sings, does origami, makes jewelry, and I'm totally OK with that. That minister could use a God-loving kick in the rear.

Heather said...

If you ever figure out a way to listen and then respond calmly I'd love to hear it. It's one of my goals in life to have a real conversation with one of "those people" someday.

Amy said...

Coming out of lurker mode to say that "faith-based douchebaggery" just about sums up my feelings towards organized religion. Tie in something about hypocrites and you've got it in a nutshell.

But I digress, I'm sorry that you were presented with gender-biased douchebaggery. Any man doing something constructive is a positive (and strong) role model for today's youth.

Kristin said...

Ironic, didn't it use to be that the ministry was more of a boys club?

IMHO it takes a stronger man to knit (and in public) than not. Good for you for a)not losing your cool and 2)recognizing the situation for what it was at a stalemate. It's much more than most would have done.

Ann (yet another) said...

Well, you could have tried "I'll ask Bishop Rutt about that the next time I see him at Stitch and Bitch."

I was going to say perhaps "well, historically women weren't allowed to be knitters. I'm so glad the women's movement has allowed women to knit in this century." But that sounded a little feeble. Go with the Bishop Rutt comment next time. Because you KNOW there will be a next time.

FiberQat said...

For a minister she forgot to read the job description section on diplomacy. I hope you have a pleasant train ride home.

Anonymous said...

The Austin Lounge Lizards have a song called "Jesus Loves Me, But He Can't Stand You."

Carol said...

tell her you'll give up knitting (a man doing something which traditionally in the US has been done by women, although if she were better educated, she'd know about the medieval guilds) when she gives up preaching (a woman doing something traditionally done by men).

either that, or tell her to eff off.

Carol said...

Also, I give you major props for not responding to the question "What would Jesus want you to do?" by saying firmly, and with great certainty, "Jesus would want me to slap you upside the head."

trek said...

I'm betting that He'd gladly share his yarn with you! :)

Erica said...

And how ironic that it was on Gloria Steinem's 75th birthday.

I suppose this lady would be offended if I brought up my standard of the soldiers knitting the the trenches of war. And then mentioning the infamous Willie Warmers.

*sigh* such closed minds that are still out there.

Anonymous said...

You were entitled to a harrassment-free train trip. BTW, I found myself wishing you had told her that you learned to knit in prison! You'd think someone who is a woman preacher would know that a few years ago, someone would have told her she was a poor example to young girls. Clueless, annoying woman. I hope the dementors got her...

Whining Procrastinator said...

I've recently developed a come-back for people like her which, while not true, is insulting enough to make them think. In your situation it might be delivered something like, "Knitting is just like cooking. Men get paid to do what women are expected to do for free." As I said, it's not even remotely true. But just like pointing out that ministry is a man's job, it would make her think about her prejudices. And if she bothered to learn that you were telling her a tale, she'd still have to learn all about a whole bunch of women she wouldn't approve of, either!

madonnaearth said...

Same thing in my family. I'm not allowed to teach the youngest nephews any crafting because other family members are convinced it will make them flaming homosexuals and it will be all my fault.

And don't even mention Harry Potter. One of the nephews firmly refused to even look at the one in my room because his grandma went on a crusade to ban anything about the series from their fragile little minds. Can you sense my eyes rolling from here?

Katie K said...

Wow, so many comments, you've really struck a nerve!

How very forward she was! Talking to a complete stranger and criticizing him (you) like that. Not very traditionally feminine. So you both were breaking the mold, her manifestation showing her lack of development (not wanting to hear your answers), yours showing a small bit of how remarkable you are. I hope she evolves. I hope we all evolve, in fact. And I hope to meet you when you come to New York this Sunday.

Shiari said...

I've been thinking about this a lot lately: about how the heck are we supposed to work out the world's problems when we can't even talk about the simple things. I had a conversation recently with someone who thought it was odd I would knit a sock when it would be so much faster to go out and buy one. As if I knit because I have an urgent need for a sock.

It's not the knitting vs. not knitting or who should/shouldn't knit that bothers me. It's that gulf between people, between realities, that bothers me. I don't know how to bridge separate worlds. I don't even know if it's possible. And if it's not? What does that mean?

I just know that your blogging about it is important. I truly like knowing there is someone else out there who at least sees the issue. I don't know how that helps. I just think it must.

I'm glad you're around, Franklin. Keep writing. I hear you. So do a whole lot of others. That's no small thing.

dachsgirlknits said...

The world needs more creative men like you with the ability to share their genius with the world.

Contrary to popular belief in My-mind-is-closed-ville, Real men DO knit. Gender stereotypes are just soooo dated.

The Country Mouse said...

*sigh* I'm sorry she behaved so badly. But I admire you all the more for your restraint.

Anonymous said...

I'm the 173rd comment -- that speaks volumes to readers' reactions. While I'm a jaded NYer, who even lived down south for quite a while, I admit I'm still taken aback at closed-minded people, whatever their beliefs.

Anonymous said...

I love you, Franklin!

If I had kids, I would want them to spend all of their time around people like you. Someone who loves his niece as much as you do, someone who is creative, and has a delicious sense of humor.

That minister has a lot to learn.

RevL said...

sigh...jumping in w/my 2cents far too late in the conversation, but...I'm in the ministry too and a quick check through Christian scripture finds Jesus astonishingly silent on the topic of knitting (just like most cats).
but how 'bout this dose of bible for the knit in public crowd (Matthew 5, right after the beatitudes):
"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."
OK, so the Father bit won't do much for those not steeped in the Patristic tradition, but the rest holds water, to flog an absent metaphor.
on what I perceive to be an unrelated note I have 2 young children, whose impressionable little minds kick my tired old grey cells butts most days with insight and beauty and ignorance of prejudice. I find the same to be true of most children. I learn from them. May it ever be so.
Salt and light Franklin.

Sarah said...

I was delighted to read your big-picture take on this exchange. I hope to take this with me as I try to remember how I can do better.

swtrknttr said...

Next time look her straight in the face and say, "When I was growing up all the ministers were men. Isn't it nice we've moved past all that and now women can be ministers in public and men can knit in public?"

TheBunny said...

Oh, so much fun I can have with what she was saying. "What, being productive isn't a guy thing?"

"You are right, it probably would be better to be scratching or picking something."

"Stop bothering me lady, I'm recruiting here."

Paper Tiger said...

"Well, it might confuse them. The boys especially. A man doing something a woman does."

I'd hate to think what happens when she has to go to the ER and gets a male nurse.

ColorJoy LynnH said...

Wow. That left me without words for a bit. (I am never without them for long...)

I teach children to knit. In a 3rd grade classroom, I taught a boy to knit on his 3rd day in the USA. No doubt due to culture shock, he was not speaking at all (he knew English), but he took to yarn and needles like fish to water.

He is the best knitter there. Now the kids, both boys and girls, want to do whatever it is that he is knitting. Right now it is garter-stitch wristwarmers. He's the role model for them all.

Oh... his own wristwarmers are mauve (it was the only color we had in real wool yarn). In Africa, men wear every color. (When I was in Ethiopia, several schools had Mauve as their uniform colors for all children.) I told the other kids that pink is a boy *and* girl color in Africa, and there were no questions past that statement.

This school has kids from all over the world, and nobody flinches. They just all want to be as good as this boy is, and do whatever he does.

Score 1 for youth. They will change the world when we are gone.

Jack said...

It's like the story of the tower of Babel, all over again. Isn't it?

Christy D. said...

If I ever get a chance to attend one of your book sigings, etc. I'm totally bringing my son, because I think it's more manly to do what you love in public than to worry if you are doing a "man thing." I wonder how she would've felt if you were scratching yourself and reading Guns and Ammo or something.....

Michelle said...

Some minister. She finds out you're a Buddhist and immediately abandons her witnessing attempt? Epic fail, lady.

Set an example for the kids, Franklin. Next time you're out and about, do something 'manly' and build a bridge. That always helps pass the time when I'M on the bus.

LICraftgal said...

Sometimes its best to agree to disagree and leave it at that. How sad for her that she thought knitting wasn't manly or setting a good example. And how scarey is it that she is a minister!! You would think she would be the first NOT to judge, tisk tisk!

Anonymous said...

Yowza! What a great topic. You handled the situation very well and I admire you for it. I've knit in public for probably 25 to 30 years and have only had mild encounters of negativity. None religious based, thankfully. I have always felt myself a good role model for all the kids I meet, but that may be self delusion. However, I have only had a few youngsters comment on gender based notions, calmly replying with the historical stuff to say it's okay for guys to knit. I must say that "Jami" and "benne" both struck a chord with me. One for making me laugh and the other for the appropriateness of the comment. May you continue to be a great role model. Namaste. Joe-in Wyoming

Anonymous said...

I am blown away. Living in a very religious part of the country I have never heard of anything so bizarre. The Pastors comments had nothing to do with religion and everything to do with control and the desire to humiliate and destroy the self esteem and value of another person. I pity anyone within the reach of her "ministry".
I bet Jesus could do Faire Isle and lace with enviable skill.

Rudee said...

Sigh....I've written and rewritten what I wanted to say here, but feel like I'd be preaching to the choir. There are some people we'll never get through to-their beliefs are so strongly entrenched that nothing will change their minds. Nothing. When conversations like that happen, it may be best to feign a language barrier. At least that is close to the truth.

EGunn said...

I'd have been hard put not to laugh at her. In fact, I might have let that on, just a little, and asked why exactly knitting should be a woman-only job, and how it's setting a bad example for "the boys." The problem wasn't that you were unwilling to listen, or even to converse. The problem was that there was an expectation of conversion, not conversation.
My husband has a close friend that can't reconcile the fact that I'm a woman in science and a feminist with the idea that I knit, sew, and spin. We've had very interesting conversations, because he's not trying to convert me to a housewife, and I'm not angry that he's confused. In fact, I rather like my position as defier-of-all- stereotypes. =)

Anonymous, too said...

IF (and that's an if as big as the Grand Canyon) it had been me and I had been thinking, I think I would have:

a) asked her why she wasn't back home in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant;

b) asked -- almost demanded -- she set a spell and discuss gender roles; and/or

c) sprung Harry and the Ball Band on her to perform their renditions of "Lola," "John, I'm Only Dancing," "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?," and other gender-bending hits.

bkat said...

Franklin, I lived in Japan for many, many years before returning to the U.S. I am not Buddhist. One of the greatest teachers that I met was a Buddhist acupuncture doctor. He discussed the art of agreeing and always expressing gratitude, particularly with those with whom we sincerely disagreed or who irritated the hell out of us. This is such a fun practice--creative, innovative, welcoming, peace-giving, and reconciling. Thank you for reminding me about it!

the Lady said...

FUCK.

Act Four said...

Frankly I think Jesus knew how to crochet fish nets,
Buddah wove sacred scarfs, Confucius made embroidered quilts and Mohammed knit prayer rugs. If we could just discover their "patterns" three quarters of the world would be too busy crocheting/weaving/sewing/knitting to argue about anything else...or so I could wish.

Linda said...

What abigot she was. I loathe those stereotypes of what a strong man does. My father was a very old fashioned masculine man who did sewed great tapestry cushions.

Anonymous said...

Would she have thought you more manly had you stabbed her with your needles?

Your patience and restraint are admirable.

MJ said...

How old-fashioned the woman is. She mixes her religious message with her closed-in view of what a woman or a man are expected to do. And she's a minister. Fine example of expressing tolerance and love toward others.

But you know what, it doesn't blow my mind anymore. Isn't that sad?

Anonymous said...

Let me start by apologizing for this woman.. and compliment you on your cool
Many European grandfathers and boys today are taught to knit and I'm sure they maintain their manliness. What an ignorant woman hiding behind her religion/

KatinSpace said...

engaging in conversation further would have been an entirely complete waste of knitting time.

Anonymous said...

If you really wanted to zing her, you could ask her by what rights she claimed the male title of "minister." As a woman minister (Presbyterian), that's the role model nonsense I sometimes get.

Ah well. At least you didn't stab her with a knitting needle. It would have been a waste of a good needle. Buddha and Jesus both would have been proud.

GinkgoKnits said...

Not only was this a futile conversation with someone not willing to open their mind for a moment and listen to you, but it is also just plain rude.

Ms. Manners would not approve of coming up to a stranger to berate you (no matter how politely) for your behavior. There you were quietly knitting and minding your own business and someone had to interrupt to try to make you feel bad about what you were doing.

It really bothers me that people feel so entitled to their opinions that they go sharing them willy-nilly without censoring themselves for a minute.

We have forgotten how to listen, but we have learned how to over-share.

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