Not My Needles: the Shutting Down of American Civil Rights

One Ring to rule them all,

One Ring to find them,

One Ring to bring them all

and in the darkness bind them.”

―J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Replace “Ring” with “Ravelry” and you have a less lyrical summary of Ravelry’s significance to its users. Twelve years ago, it began thusly:

Ravelry is a place for knitters, crocheters, designers, spinners, weavers and dyers to keep track of their yarn, tools, project and pattern information, and look to others for ideas and inspiration. The content here is all user- driven; we as a community make the site what it is.” ( About Us, Ravelry)

Ravelry created order out of the tangled skein of yarn and patterns for knitters and crocheters everywhere. One place to keep project notes, meet other knitters, ask questions about the fiddly part of a pattern, see what others made with this sale yarn I just bought, or find out if a pattern works with this yarn, different from what the pattern calls for. That was Ravelry. Beautiful, collaborative, a gift from the gods.

Last month, it all went to Hell in a handbasket:

“We are banning support of Donald Trump and his administration on Ravelry.

This includes support in the form of forum posts, projects, patterns, profiles, and all other content[…]We cannot provide a space that is inclusive of all and also allow support for open white supremacy. Support of the Trump administration is undeniably support for white supremacy.” (New Policy: Do Not Post in Support of Trump or His Administration, Ravelry)

The problem with the policy is not the ban on pro-Trump communication; it is the one-sidedness of the censorship, and complete exclusion of anyone with a political opinion Ravelry administrators do not like.

Ravelry only wants the “right” kind of members

It encourages users to become involved in special interest groups and get into the weeds on various topics to develop community. A few include Harry Potter fans (90 groups), Twilight lovers (25 groups), pattern designer fans, and socks-only knitters (850+ groups). I made a new best friend on Ravelry when she responded to my plea for a specific yarn to finish soldier socks. Instead, this new policy only tears us apart.

A better policy would be to ban all political groups and threads, not just pro-Trumpers. It would be a fair and honest policy.

Photo by on Pexels.

Freedom of Association

Ravelry’s owners, Christian bakers, Twitter, and YouTube have the right to run their businesses as they wish. However, knitters excluding knitters over politics is mean, small-minded, and anti-American.

In addition to freedom of thought and speech, Americans are guaranteed the freedom of assembly. This usually refers to the right to form groups for furthering influence, but this right also applies to freedom of association. That means even the KKK has the right to gather “peaceably.”

In “Does the First Amendment Protect the Freedom of Association?” Laurence M. Vance put it this way: “Freedom to engage in association for the advancement of beliefs and ideas is an inseparable aspect of the “liberty” ensured by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”

Muslims can worship as they wish. Nude sunbathers can form clubs. We are allowed to choose who we hang out with, worship with, and marry. It’s an important right long-associated with freedom in the United States, in comparison to governments which prohibit such associations. For example, China won’t allow Muslims to worship together; North Korea doesn’t allow anyone to gather for anything potentially threatening to the regime; Saudi Arabia will not welcome WWE’s women wrestlers to perform; and Iran would end a local LBTQX roller derby team.

But we do. The biggest reaction any weird group gets is an eye roll or a stare. We even have a saying reflecting American acceptance and openness: You Do You. That’s who we are. Live and Let Live-rs.

We need each other. We can’t let stuff like this get between us.

Illustration by de P. Vidal in La Vie à Montmartre, 1899.

Histrionics and fads

We are reenacting the Salem Witch Trials with a small group screaming, “Racist!” and “White privilege!” They writhe, screech, and convince weak minds that everything and everyone needs to be shut down, controlled, rewritten. Shame on judges, politicians, corporate leaders, educators, and everyone else who should know better. A fad started by hysterical girls is just a fad started by hysterical girls.

Silencing and excluding people over politics, religion, gender, or race, undermines American civil rights. Tomorrow, such capricious behavior could easily be turned against today’s finger-pointers.

Bye-bye, Ravelry

It was my Ravelry too. Knit bullies don’t own knitting or the internet. They also lack common sense. If Ravelry founders Jessica and Casey are going to turn away more than half of their American clients over politics, they do not deserve their business nor understand neighborly behavior. Hypocritically, Ravelry originated in a shared love of all things fiber. They should have stuck to their original mission and left politics out of it. Just like Team Jacob doesn’t hang out on Team Edward’s knit group, Trump haters can choose not to click on pro-Trump patterns, threads, or groups. They are adults with the ability to exercise their freedom of association. It’s their right as well as mine.

Image by Bruno Glätsch from Pixabay

What can I do?

  • Write the companies curtailing civil rights. Tell them why it matters to you. If they only hear from the hate-mongers, guess who they’ll believe. Your voice counts.
  • Write your local politicians and explain your views. They need to hear from more of us. Don’t be the good, quiet kid that sits in the corner doing as he’s told. Now is the time to speak up.
  • Write a letter to your local newspaper. The purpose of freedom of the press is to encourage lively debate while citizens hold their elected officials accountable.

Featured image by Noelle Otto on Pexels.

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