It’s no secret or a surprise that knitting is a gendered hobby. Most knitters are women, there is nothing offensive or factually incorrect about that statement. While knitting as hobby is growing, and there are more men and boys participating in the craft, it is still primarily women that pick up the needles and work with yarn.
Issues of difference have always been vary important and fascinating to me. I focused on studying prejudice and social norms during my psychology education in college, and specialized further in grad school within a Women’s Studies department. I focused on norms and how they related directly to sex/gender, race, sexuality, and religion and are represented in popular culture that primarily attracts a young, female audience.
What does this have to do with hobbies? A lot. I was a bit overloaded on the academic world, and over-analyzing every aspect of my life with a gendered, racial, etc, etc lens was an emotionally exhausting task. To be honest, it hasn’t really been on my mind until lately – this was the first Halloween that I had friends with kids old enough to state opinions about what they wanted to dress up as. One of them recently lamented to me that while her son could find action figures, books, and costumes, her daughter could either be Cat Woman or the Black Widow. And that was it. There weren’t any other superheroes, all of her other options were gender-neutral ghosts, ghouls, animals, and inanimate objects, or the time-honored princess. Even Brave‘s Merida is a princess. Her daughter dressed up as Captain America this Halloween. This isn’t new: princesses are to little girls what Marvel and DC Comic characters are to little boys. They’re the majority of the gender-specific market share.
But it got me thinking about hobbies, and kids, and how parents connect with their children. When I was a little girl, I played on the boys’ t-ball team and on a co-ed soccer team. I painted, crocheted, read books, and threw mud. I also played with my brother’s chemistry set, and he played with my Barbie dolls. It is never as black-and-white in lived family lives as it appears to be in the pink-and-blue isles of Target and Toys R Us. I connected most with my mom when we sat on the couch and read together, and most with my dad when we make cookies in the kitchen.
How am I going to connect with my kids? Obviously I’ll teach them how to knit. Like any good parent with an obsessive hobby, I’ll force it on them until they make me admit defeat, or until they learn to love it. If I have boys, I’ll knit with them, just like if I have girls. I’ll play video games with them, but only if they are gender-appropriate or gender-neutral. I’ll bake with them, and walk the dog with them, and make sure they enjoy reading as much as I do.