The regular post for today, a review of knit.wear's Spring 2013 issue, led to my having a very enlightening Twitter conversation with one of this blog's readers. Her Twitter handle is Bunny Knuckles, so I'll call her that. Bunny Knuckles told me she enjoyed my blog but what she called "the CONSTANT body policing" in my pattern reviews had made her decide she needed to stop following it.
Well, I was taken aback, and I tweeted back that I was surprised that she considered me to be body policing, that I expected knitting designs to flatter the figures they go on regardless of what those figures are like. Or words to that effect that fit into the 140 character limit. (I hate Twitter. It's not only the ugliest social media venue on the net — it's like reading code — it's next to impossible to have a coherent and intelligent conversation on it.)
But then I had another look at the review, and found to my horror that Bunny Knuckles had been right. I had essentially told my readers that one particular design, a snug, short, knitted dress, was only for young, svelte women. And I found some other comments that I thought were definitely over the line. So I got back to Bunny Knuckles, saying I thought she had a point and that I had done a hasty edit of some of my comments.
Let me be clear here. When I write knitting magazine reviews, I feel it's part of my job description as a reviewer to help knitters assess whether the patterns will flatter their particular looks. I also write from the standpoint that, regardless of what your proportions are, you deserve a wardrobe that make you look your very best. And if this is true of clothes you buy at the mall with your hard-earned dollars, it's all the more true of clothes you're going to spend not only money but a considerable amount of your valuable time and effort making.
But, you see, my task is a problematic one. The fact is, no one looks good in every style, no matter what his or her figure is like. If I'm to provide honest and helpful guidance on choosing flattering styles, sometimes I do need to say categorically that style X will not suit figure Y. It can be difficult to say that without sounding like I'm shaming people for having figure Y, even though I didn't mean that at all and instead intended to suggest that figure Ys thumb their noses at the unflattering style X and go look for a good design in style Z, which will look fabulous on them.
As much as I want to give knitters useful advice about what will look good on them, to help them choose styles that work best on their figures without making them feel that their figures are the problem, it's a fine line, and it upsets me to think that despite my best efforts it's one I'm probably going to cross occasionally. In the case of that snug, short dress design, for instance, what I should have said originally, and what I have edited my comments to say, is that if the wearer-to-be won't feel comfortable in something so snug and short, to just make the dress a few inches longer and a few inches looser. There are specific styles that simply won't ever work on specific figures (don't even get me started on how an empire cut looks over my D cups), but there are also going to be many more cases in which a design only needs a little tweaking to be perfectly wearable for most people. I need to do a better job at distinguishing between the two. I need to be clearer that I'm critiquing the knitting patterns, not people's bodies. I'm also trying to use more gender inclusive language, but that's another conversation to be had on a day when I don't already have a headache.
So I propose that my contract with my readers will be this: that I will be more vigilant about not crossing the line into body policing, and you are welcome to let me know, via comments on this blog, email, messages or wall posts on The Knitting Needle and the Damage Done's Facebook page, or in a Twitter conversation, when you think I haven't succeeded. I'll do my best to respond promptly and will edit my blog posts if I think you're right.
And then we can get back to ridiculing and critiquing the knitting patterns, because, hoo boy, that's one snark flag we can let fly.