crafty politics true life 2019

Ravelry’s White Supremacy Ban

(Updated to correct spelling and embed Twitter post)

Ravelry is a fiber arts website with over 8 million members worldwide. I’ve been a member of the site for…a while.

Close-up of my Ravelry profile showing I joined on November 13, 2007 as user #37,249.

I’m also one of the forum moderators for a wonderful, silly, kind, and utterly bonkers group on the site. Our group is dedicated to discussing pointless topics such as the logistics of pouring cake batter into the waffle maker, bacon, chocolate, coffee, and dinosaur erotica. One of our forum threads, titled “Fred,” is rounding in on 1,750,000 posts of pure, unadulterated nonsense. Alice would take one look at that place and run the fuck back to the relative sanity of Wonderland. Our group prohibits anything with a point to it, particularly anything about politics or religion. We even prohibit discussion of knitting needles, because, well…they have points.

Now, to be crystal clear: I’m a terrible moderator. That’s not fishing for compliments, that’s the honest-to-Bob truth. Most days I log on, make sure no one is on fire, look at the moderator reports that have been addressed and closed by the responsible moderators, root around in the refrigerator for some snacks, and then shuffle away. And yet.

Even in our silly little corner, I think we’re all painfully aware of the racism, homophobia, transphobia, and a host of inequalities which our peers battle on some of the other forums on Ravelry. We also know that even when we do encounter them, they do not impact us equally. The drama in our group is rather banal, honestly (let’s keep it that way please) but other groups haven’t been so lucky. Other forum moderators have shared examples of ways supporters of regressive policies use avatar images to intimidate or harass even when not posting specifically about political issues. And forum participation isn’t the only way that users can be subjected to bigotry – this is a much larger issue than forum participation.

Two days ago, Ravelry announced that members will no longer be allowed to post support for the Trump Administration on the site.

I responded to their announcement with a tweet of support (which I stand by and don’t regret) and went on about my day.*


Screencapture of my tweet supporting Ravelry’s decision, which enraged Trump
supporters who feel they are the Real Victims of hate speech.

The announcement brought out the very best in angry people who don’t knit and have never heard of the site. Many want to explain in great detail how they aren’t bigots by hurling racial epithets for emphasis. Fun for the whole family! Knitters of color are dealing with a much greater onslaught, as they juggle the outright hate of Trump supporters with Black best friends AND the tears of White ladies who are so sorry for what seems maybe like casual racism but isn’t really because their best friend in college was Black.

What’s really exciting has been learning how many Trump supporters have Black Best Friends and Trump supporting Black Gay Jewish kids! I feel like maybe some of the messages I’ve received aren’t entirely true. But I digress…

This turned into a big story, and Buzzfeed, NPR, the Guardian and many other news sites weighed in. Even Stephen Colbert had things to say last night:

As delightful and hilarious as Colbert’s piece was, the underlying issues are incredibly serious and this VICE article is an excellent overview of some of the reasons this situation came to be. “The Real Reason Ravelry’s Ban on White Supremacy Is Surprising.”

There’s been the predictable rending of garments (presumably store-bought) and gnashing of teeth – primarily from non-crafters who’d never heard of the site before the announcement went up – but the response on the site has been largely positive and energetic.

Donations to the Ravelry to assist with fortification against bots and trolls and generally to show love and support for what Jess and Casey have built has been impressive.

*I do regret that I inadvertently replied to both Ravelry and another twitter user, because she then got swept along in some vitriolic replies directed at Ravelry and/or me.