Ravelry has banned support for President Trump and his administration on their wildly popular fiber arts membership website, because “support of the Trump administration is unambiguously support for white supremacy.”
Ravelry’s unapologetically discriminatory policy does not mince words. “New policy: Do not post in support of President Trump or his administration,” reads the title of the document detailing their intention to silence the artists and presumably advertisers with whom the social media site’s owners disagree.
“We cannot provide a space that is inclusive of all and also allow support for open white supremacy,” it says, in Orwellian prose. “Support of the Trump administration is undeniably support for white supremacy.”
A number of other fiber arts businesses and online networks quickly expressed their support for the incendiary Ravelry statement. Here’s one example.
View this post on Instagram
Yesterday we shared the news in our stories of Ravelry taking a strong stand against aggression and racism by banning Trump support. However following the extreme reactions from some in the yarn world we wanted to publicly state that yarnpeople is wholeheartedly standing with @hi.ravelry on the issue of creating safe spaces both online and in the real world. No-one should have to fear reactions, name calling, attacks or other aggressive behaviors. It breaks my heart that the founders have had to make their accounts private as a result of this statement. At yarnpeople we will happily assist and help those who don’t understand and want to do better, we will not accept any form of aggression or insidious comments. We do not shame others and will not allow this in our communities or online spaces. Our hearts go out to the team at Ravelry, who we got to know better as they were all interviewed in Issue 2 of yarnpeople. P.S. as I can’t moderate in my sleep comments will be turned off.
Ravelry’s advertising guidelines boast 7 million users in “nearly every country in the world” reaching 5 to 6 million daily page views. SimilarWeb ranks the site first in the hobbies and leisure crafts category, and estimates 13.59 million monthly visits, 56 percent of which are from the United States. As this article was being written, 5,204 “revelers” were surfing the site. There, they share, buy, and sell patterns for everything from crocheted shawls to felted sculptures with, of course, the site’s owners taking a cut of the financial transactions.
Ravelry’s decision to openly display their political biases definitely netted an upside—it was trending on Sunday and Monday on Twitter. Perhaps, however, its leadership underestimated the downside—a substantial portion of crafters are not keen on being served a side of politics with their knitting patterns.
“That’s defamatory and really unfortunate,” responded knitter Harmeet Dhillon in an interview on Sunday afternoon. “I’m an immigrant myself and am not white. [Ravelry’s new policy] is offensive and inflammatory.”
Ravelry member and attorney Harmeet Dhillon, California’s Republican National Committee committeewoman, is an immigrant, a woman of color, and a Trump supporter— characteristics the 7 million-member platform’s founders, Jessica and Casey Forbes, may be surprised to learn co-exist.
Despite unconvincing doublespeak such as “we are definitely not banning conservative politics” and “we are not endorsing Democrats nor banning Republicans” in Ravelry’s policy notes, it is quite clear that the only people welcome at Ravelry are those who espouse liberal, progressive views.
Curiously, Ravelry also emphasizes in its policy notes that “you can still participate if you do in fact support the administration, you just can’t talk about it here” (emphasis added). This “don’t ask don’t tell” spin seems somewhat hypocritical in light of the organization’s open support for LGBTQ+ people.
While banning users from Trump-supporting speech, the website openly fosters anti-Trump speech and activity. Ravelry provides patterns for the infamous anti-Trump p-ssy hat along with a social group with which to interact about politics while creating it. Nearly 13,000 of the now-iconic, pink chapeaus have been made by Ravelers so far. The hats made their famous appearance on the National Mall in Washington D.C. during the Women’s March following President Trump’s inauguration in January 2017.
If the p-ssy hat is too tame or passé, Ravelry members may prefer one of the variety of currently available “f-ck Trump” patterns. They include hats, scarves, socks, and even a dishcloth.
The “Donald Trump Voodoo Pincushion,” apparently, does not constitute a violation of Ravelry’s prohibitions against hateful speech and imagery in their Community Guidelines. Versions of the voodoo doll featuring Theresa May and Boris Johnson are also available from the same seller.
Since the announcement, Twitter has been replete with cheers and jeers of those reacting to the new policy. Take this sick burn gushing with fiber arts-related puns from TechCrunch’s Catherine Shu: “For anyone giving Ravelry grief about this: may your stitch count always be off, your circs come undone constantly and your FOs pill into eternity. Frog yourself.”
For those not in the know, FOs are finished objects, circs are a type of connected knitting needles, and “frogging” is a means for undoing stiches.
For anyone giving Ravelry grief about this: may your stitch count always be off, your circs come undone constantly and your FOs pill into eternity. Frog yourself.
— Catherine Shu (@CatherineShu) June 23, 2019
Shu added in a second tweet that “. . . There is no way you can separate the political and the personal-even hobbies now.”
Here’s the thing, though, Catherine. You most assuredly can—and often should, for the sake of sanity—separate the political and the personal. Here’s why.
“They may have misread their customer base,” said Dhillon. “My impression is that there is a handful or minority of militant leftists who are louder than the larger population of people. And if I had to guess, I would say the vast majority of women who are knitters and spinners and people who are crafting with their hands tend to be more conservative than average, not liberal.”
This winter’s “reckoning with racism” within Instagram’s knitting community, as leftist media outlet Vox described it, did not resonate with Dhillon. “I don’t really view the world through that lens,” she said of complaints that the knitting community was too exclusive and that non-Caucasian people were not featured enough in advertising or designs. “It seems like an unnecessary announcement; an unnecessary rule; a solution in search of a problem.”
Dhillon aptly summed up the feelings of many Ravelry users: “It’s unfortunate to politicize what is a very apolitical, creative world.”
Despite the current social media furor over the policy change, Dhillon doubts Ravelry will face substantial, sustained blowback, noting that she is opposed to “boycotting and politicizing everything.” So because conservatives are less likely to practice the left’s polarized politics, leftist business owners can often afford to spit in conservatives’ faces.
“I don’t go [to Ravelry’s site] for politics, so I’m not going to stop going there because of politics. . . It’s probably not going to impact my user experience,” she said, adding that she realizes some conservative crafters may react more indignantly.