I’m Barefoot and Hopping Mad

 

I just finished reading the excellent post by @richardeaston on Affirmative Action in Inventions, about the burgeoning movement to rework history. Not by acknowledging that, in many cases, the contributions of minority workers, including women, in scientific and mathematical fields have been overlooked or ignored (which would be a fair statement of the case). But by assigning influence far beyond what such sterling efforts actually merited, even so far as to assert that in some cases the minorities and/or women actually did the inventing themselves, and then that the credit for doing so was stolen from them by (wait for it… ) patriarchal white men who didn’t deserve it.

It seems perfectly timed to go with a far less consequential, and somewhat amusing (as I reflect back on it in tranquility) experience I had yesterday, which seems to me much of a piece, and which I’d like to share.

As many of you know, I’m an avid knitter. I’ve been knitting for over half a century. I’ve lost count of the number and type of things I’ve knit and for whom, and I’ve probably knit thousands of miles of yarn, some of which I sheared and spun from my own sheep or Angora goats. I’m really quite knowledgeable about the craft and history of knitting, even if I say so myself.

I enjoy the company of other knitters. I’m not really a “mingler” in crowds of strangers, but I’ve often thought I might enjoy a knitting cruise. There’s something reassuring about the thought of hanging out in the company of a bunch of most-likely-braless, and unmade-up, middle-aged ladies in their organic natural-fiber muumuus, padding around in their Birkenstocks and debating the merits of the Turkish cast on versus the long-tail, or the best way to do a left-leaning double decrease. As you can probably intuit from the foregoing, though, I’m well aware that, in a nautical sense, the majority of knitters heave firmly to port, and I’d probably need to take along a couple of sane and seaworthy friends (calling @susanquinn, @katebraestrup) to sit on deck with me periodically, enjoying an adult beverage and getting our minds A.J. Squared Away for the remainder of the voyage.

I do belong to an online knitting and crocheting community called Ravelry. It’s an invaluable resource, first for instant access to millions of searchable and downloadable patterns, either free or for easy purchase through PayPal. It’s also a social network, a knowledge resource, and a place where you can go to find that one particular color of yarn you suddenly realized you don’t have enough of to finish your project. It’s great. I love it. Over the years, I’ve downloaded dozens of patterns from Ravelry, and other than the rare, and very much appreciated errata update, I’ve never been contacted by one of the vendors for any reason at all.

Until yesterday.

Several years ago, I purchased a pattern for a nice pair of knitted slippers, quick to make, knit out of thick yarn, with a geometric design knit into the leg part. Nice, comfy, easy, and warm. Yesterday, I received an email from the folks who sold me the pattern that went as follows:

We’ve changed this pattern’s name Mukluks to Dogwood Slippers.

We are sorry for the hurt our pattern has caused. We are not part of the indigenous peoples from whom the word Mukluks originates nor are we part of the First Nations whose knitting traditions inspired the design.

We have changed the name to Dogwood Slippers. This pattern is part of a print book so we are not able to take it down, but we will no longer financially benefit from it. We are currently researching charities to donate all proceeds of this pattern to (as of Feb 15, 2019).

“Mukluks,” for those of you who aren’t familiar with the term “are a soft boot, traditionally made of reindeer (caribou) skin or sealskin, and worn by Arctic aboriginal people, including the Inuit, Iñupiat, and Yupik.” The photo at the top of this post gives you an idea of the mukluk shape and is pretty similar to the shape of the knitted slippers.

I laughed the first time I read the email from Ms. X. Then I got rather annoyed. The email arrived at a bad time on a bad day, and I’m afraid I responded:

Dear Ms. X,

Glory be. I can’t believe your email about your “mukluk” pattern. There. I said it. The word. I’ll say it again. Mukluk.

Are you “hurt” that I said “mukluk?” Of course you are not. Neither is anyone else. Mukluk.

You pattern caused no “hurt.” Words are not actions.

Someone should remind “First Nations” that their “knitting tradition” was appropriated from the white settlers, and was given to them in the nineteenth century by the Sisters of St. Ann Missionaries when the Europeans introduced wool sheep into their lives.

I don’t see anyone complaining about that bit of historical revisionism and cultural appropriation

And it is equally absurd to claim that somehow, using the word “mukluk” in your pattern, or incorporating a design that looks like some sort of butterfly, or perhaps a snowflake, or even a flower, in the leg of your slipper is any sort of insult or offensive gesture or thought towards any culture or race.

I wonder how much of the campaign of abuse directed against you by those members of “First Nations” triggered by your harmless, and very nice knitting pattern, was conducted through email? Since, as far as I’m aware, there is no “First Nations email tradition,” and no member of “First Nations” invented email, I choose to be offended that they have culturally appropriated my own culture’s “email tradition,” and I suggest they return to a form of communication that is more organically associated with their own history: smoke signals.

What utter drivel. Don’t bother replying to me. I’ve spent almost my entire life in countries and cultures that are not the one I was born in, and I don’t need a lecture from some historically illiterate and spineless outfit that caves at the first sign of pressure from politically-motivated and money-hungry grievance-mongers.

I’m deleting your pattern from my Ravelry library, and won’t be patronizing you again.

How absurd. Grow up, please.

Kind regards,
Ricochet She

I haven’t heard back. I hope I don’t. Because, frankly, I think I’ve already taken my best shot. Not sure I’ve got much left.

How [redacted] ridiculous.

P.S: Lord. I hope someone doesn’t take offense to my description of myself as “Barefoot” in the title of this post. No reference to Chief Barefoot of the Sioux is intended or should be inferred. All I meant was that I’d removed my mukluks. Oops.

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  1. tigerlily Member
    tigerlily
    @tigerlily

    Atta Girl!

    • #1
  2. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    I invented a no fat, no  Cholesteryl ,no calorie Swiss Cheese. I was disallowed from getting a patient. I am still very upset about it. I think there was collusion between the US and  Switzerland . Neither country would agree that just eating the wholes  qualified as a option  for my product. I still think I am on to something.

    • #2
  3. Nanda "Chaps" Panjandrum Member
    Nanda "Chaps" Panjandrum
    @

    Both RAH! and HUH-WHAT? This makes my brows knit in puzzlement…

    • #3
  4. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    She: I hope someone doesn’t take offense to my description of myself as “Barefoot”

    You left off “and pregnant,” as women are supposed to be.

    • #4
  5. Kay of MT Inactive
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    My sister knitted “Muklucs” for all her other sisters back in the 1950-60s for Xmas every year.

    • #5
  6. She Member
    She
    @She

    My sister and I exchange little gifts at Christmas and on birthdays (and I do mean little, light and must pack well, the cost of postage between the UK and US being outrageous).  Pro Tip:  If you want to send something larger to a friend or loved one in another country, check to see if it’s available on that country’s Amazon site (in my sister’s case, amazon.co.uk)–your US Amazon login credentials and payment methods will be honored internationally–and then have it shipped domestically from the gift recipient’s country.)

    One of the things she sent me for Christmas (she found it at a knitting show) was this little medallion:

    It rarely backfires on me.  Yesterday, it almost did.

    • #6
  7. She Member
    She
    @She

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    She: I hope someone doesn’t take offense to my description of myself as “Barefoot”

    You left off “and pregnant,” as women are supposed to be.

    That would be as medical miracle in more than one way.  Trust me on that.

    I’m only hoping that “Chief Hopping Mad” never existed anywhere.

    • #7
  8. She Member
    She
    @She

    Kay of MT (View Comment):

    My sister knitted “Muklucs” for all her other sisters back in the 1950-60s for Xmas every year.

    You family of cultural appropriators, you.

    • #8
  9. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell
    @JimMcConnell

    Hilarious! And a very appropriate response to the vendor.

    • #9
  10. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Send your mukluks to Kyrsten Sinema.

    She needs all the help she can get.

    • #10
  11. JustmeinAZ Member
    JustmeinAZ
    @JustmeinAZ

    I really, really need a deserted island to retire to!

     

    • #11
  12. The Scarecrow Thatcher
    The Scarecrow
    @TheScarecrow

    God I’m still laughing.  You sound like me going off. Rock on!

    • #12
  13. The Scarecrow Thatcher
    The Scarecrow
    @TheScarecrow

    When I think of “rant” I think of Charles Haid. It runs from 1:50 – 2:25:

    • #13
  14. KentForrester Coolidge
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    She, your letter is the best.  Sometimes I think that you could crush the Left single handed.  

    You are a font of good sense and common.  Those are personal qualities that are as toxic to the Left as garlic is to a vampire.  Lefties shrivel up in their presence. 

    • #14
  15. She Member
    She
    @She

    The Scarecrow (View Comment):

    When I think of “rant” I think of Charles Haid. It runs from 1:50 – 2:25:

    That’s excellent.  I’m not sure it measures up to the genteel English bluestocking lady when she’s roused, but in the words of Farmer Hoggett:

    • #15
  16. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter
    @JimmyCarter

    She: We’ve changed this pattern’s name Mukluks to Dogwood Slippers

    Another response could be, “How dare You name Yer ugly ass pattern’s name after a tree many, if not most, people find beautiful. Me and My Tree find this very offensive and demand that You drop the name or else.” Or something like that.

    When will it end?

    • #16
  17. GLDIII Temporarily Essential Reagan
    GLDIII Temporarily Essential
    @GLDIII

    I believe you can add Amy to your band of knitters when you take that cruise. My wife stopped knitting decades ago and moved more into the finer gauge threads with needlepoint and quilting.

    I just took me 20 years to get her to divest of her horde of skeins we have been stowing since adolescence.

    • #17
  18. She Member
    She
    @She

    GLDIII Temporarily Essential (View Comment):

    I believe you can add Amy to your band of knitters when you take that cruise. My wife stopped knitting decades ago and moved more into the finer gauge threads with needlepoint and quilting.

    I just took me 20 years to get her to divest of her horde of skeins we have been stowing since adolescence.

    You only think she’s divested herself of them.  Trust me on that.

    • #18
  19. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    PHCheese (View Comment):

    I invented a no fat, no Cholesteryl ,no calorie Swiss Cheese. I was disallowed from getting a patient. I am still very upset about it. I think there was collusion between the US and Switzerland . Neither country would agree that just eating the wholes qualified as a opinion for my product. I still think I am on to something.

    Swiss cheese holes.  In a can.  In a spray can!  With nitrous oxide for propellant.  I can smell your cooking now.  Mmm.  (I feel giddy. Hm)

    Thank you.  It’s my own recipe, I call it Swisscheese Breeze ™.

    What’s in that other can?

    Pizzaroma (c).

    • #19
  20. Tex929rr Coolidge
    Tex929rr
    @Tex929rr

    Somewhere in my home there is a pair of these stuffed into an old B4 bag.  USAF issue mukluks. I’m sure the government tag on them says something like “Boot, extreme cold weather”, but they were universally called mukluks.

    • #20
  21. Amy Schley Moderator
    Amy Schley
    @AmySchley

    GLDIII Temporarily Essential (View Comment):

    I believe you can add Amy to your band of knitters when you take that cruise. My wife stopped knitting decades ago and moved more into the finer gauge threads with needlepoint and quilting.

    I just took me 20 years to get her to divest of her horde of skeins we have been stowing since adolescence.

    Actually, I’ve never had much luck with knitting needles. Crochet is more my style. 

    • #21
  22. GLDIII Temporarily Essential Reagan
    GLDIII Temporarily Essential
    @GLDIII

    Amy Schley (View Comment):

    GLDIII Temporarily Essential (View Comment):

    I believe you can add Amy to your band of knitters when you take that cruise. My wife stopped knitting decades ago and moved more into the finer gauge threads with needlepoint and quilting.

    I just took me 20 years to get her to divest of her horde of skeins we have been stowing since adolescence.

    Actually, I’ve never had much luck with knitting needles. Crochet is more my style.

    Still sounds like a yarn to me…..

    • #22
  23. She Member
    She
    @She

    GLDIII Temporarily Essential (View Comment):

    Amy Schley (View Comment):

    GLDIII Temporarily Essential (View Comment):

    I believe you can add Amy to your band of knitters when you take that cruise. My wife stopped knitting decades ago and moved more into the finer gauge threads with needlepoint and quilting.

    I just took me 20 years to get her to divest of her horde of skeins we have been stowing since adolescence.

    Actually, I’ve never had much luck with knitting needles. Crochet is more my style.

    Still sounds like a yarn to me…..

    I don’t know anyone who’s equally at home with both; there seem to be “knitty” people and “crotchety” people (no comment).  Don’t know if it is a brain thing or a fingers thing.  Crochet certainly isn’t my thing, other than occasional trim or decorative bits on something I’ve knitted.

    • #23
  24. Patrick McClure Coolidge
    Patrick McClure
    @Patrickb63

    Madam I stand in awe of your eloquent anger.

    Edit: That is not supposed to be a link. Not sure how I fat-fingered that into existence.

    • #24
  25. Chris Hutchinson Coolidge
    Chris Hutchinson
    @chrishutch13

    This post makes me think of something a friend of mine posted on Facebook this morning that’s had me thinking about cultural appropriation all day. My friend’s name is Bart and he shared a video that his nephew had uploaded. The video was of his brother doing a Native American hoop dance on a local TV show in the 60s, and he was beating on a drum and also in Native American attire. As I watched it, beside being pretty impressed, I wondered if anyone would be offended by it.

    They’re not very well-known people with large networks so I doubt it will get many views but I will be paying attention if any negative comments come up either with cultural appropriation accusations or about his nephew using “Indian” instead of “Native American.” They clearly liked the culture enough to put in some serious time learning about it. When did imitation stop being the sincerest form of flattery? I genuinely don’t understand the problem with it.

    Coincidentally, She, nowadays Bart’s big passion is knitting. I bet he’d be interested in a knitting cruise and “debating the merits of the Turkish cast on versus the long-tail, or the best way to do a left-leaning double decrease.”

    • #25
  26. George Townsend Inactive
    George Townsend
    @GeorgeTownsend

    Good Post, She. I enjoy it. And I enjoyed your witty respond to that silly woman! I can only echo what tigerlily wrote: Atta Girl!

    • #26
  27. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    You go, girl! Woo hoo! I laughed and laughed. Of course, you probably hurt those poor compassionate and caring vendors who wrote to you.

    Re the cruise, don’t do much with cruises. But would consider a long week-end retreat, knitting our hearts out. Keep me posted!

    • #27
  28. Al Sparks Thatcher
    Al Sparks
    @AlSparks

    She: There’s something reassuring about the thought of hanging out in the company of a bunch of most-likely-braless, and unmade-up, middle-aged ladies in their organic natural-fiber muumuus, padding around in their Birkenstocks and debating the merits of the Turkish cast on versus the long-tail, or the best way to do a left-leaning double decrease.

    You lost me with Birkenstocks.  Also, I’m leery of hen parties of any stripe.  I stay away.

    She: “Mukluks,” for those of you who aren’t familiar with the term “are a soft boot, traditionally made of reindeer (caribou) skin or sealskin, and worn by Arctic aboriginal people, including the Inuit, Iñupiat, and Yupik.” The photo at the top of this post gives you an idea of the mukluk shape and is pretty similar to the shape of the knitted slippers.

    I’ve lived in Alaska for 30+ years.  And I’ve picked up that for some reason, the term, “mukluks”, when used by non-Alaska Natives, is considered a mild perjorative.  Maybe because the combination of the sound of the word to english ears, and that white people would make (probably good natured) fun of Alaska Native culture.  Of course, good natured fun of other cultures is not allowed any more.

    One other thing.  My response above is essentially about foot wear.  I find that I do judge people on their footwear.

    • #28
  29. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Chris Hutchinson (View Comment):
    . The video was of his brother doing a Native American hoop dance on a local TV show in the 60s, and he was beating on a drum and also in Native American attire.

    It was in summer 1963 that I first learned about Native American’s sensitivity to such things. I had just finished a year of high school next to an Indian reservation, but didn’t learn it there, although I did learn to respect my classmates. I didn’t know until decades later, but the very early 1960s had been a low point in many native American groups’ sense of cultural self-respect, and they have become more assertive since then.  It may or may not be coincidental, but the early 60s were also a low point for some of the indigenous groups in eastern Siberia. 

    • #29
  30. Barfly Member
    Barfly
    @Barfly

    PHCheese (View Comment):

    I invented a no fat, no Cholesteryl ,no calorie Swiss Cheese. I was disallowed from getting a patient. I am still very upset about it. I think there was collusion between the US and Switzerland . Neither country would agree that just eating the wholes qualified as a option for my product. I still think I am on to something.

    How dare you, you cultural appropriator. I bet you don’t even speak Swiss.

    • #30
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