Friday, August 10, 2007

I am feeling a little upset right now. You could say I am feeling some of the knitterly discrimination that we all hear so much about. I have at many points in my life felt embarrassed of my knitting, I have felt that I looked a little geeky, or something like that. I have never experienced though what I am feeling right now.

I have just been asked by an important professor at my school not to knit in class. I thought at first, ok maybe she feels that it looks like I am not paying attention and is disrespectful. While I don't agree with this, I can understand where someone might be coming from if they thought this. I was not prepared though for her reasoning as to why she didn't want me to.

She told me that years ago occupational therapists used to meet to do planning and coordinating when the profession was just beginning and a lot of them would bring their knitting. You should know that when occupational therapy started a lot of the therapy that was done involved teaching veterans of the first and second world war how to do various crafts such as pottery, leatherwork, knitting and sewing. She said that people started to see what occupational therapists were doing as a knitting group and not a group that talked about social change and community development and were therefore de-legitimized by the academic world.

She said that they fought hard to change this image and by my knitting I was talking away from the professionalism that we have tried so hard to change. She said it made people see OT as a woman's profession that does not have as much to contribute to society and the academic world.

I am really hurt by this. I don't mind being told not to knit, but to be told not to knit for this reason is really hurtful. I don't see why just because I am upholding an art that was once seen as women's work what I have to say about society and the world should have any less meaning.

Not only that knitting really helps me concentrate in class! It keeps me from feeling the need to fidget and walk around the room. I think it is really unfair that something that really helps me learn and increases my enjoyment of class should be taken away from me. Especially if the reasoning is that it makes me look more like a woman doing woman's work who doesn't have anything worthwhile to say.


Rachel H said...

I can completely understand why you're upset. But remember, we're lucky enough to be products of a feminism that recognizes the value in women being able to Choose how to express their strength and be comfortable in it, as opposed to the generation or so before us who really did have to distance themselves from the more traditionally feminine pursuits to be taken seriously. Her reaction, I think, shows her hurt runs deep.

That said, slipping her a kick ass research paper on the topic of kinetic memory and the value of knitting in this application wouldn't be amiss...

Alison said...

That's a difficult situation to be in. I think I agree with the comment from Rachel H, in that it sounds like it might be generational. I'm someone who didn't come along until well after the time period you're describing in your post, and I have always seen OT as a professional field made up of trained and skilled individuals. The idea of OT not being a legitimate academic field, or being just a women's profession, is completely foreign to me. You don't say, but how old is your professor? Could this be generational? I wonder how many of your classmates see you knitting and think "that devalues my occupation" or "that detracts from the professionalism of my field"? I bet not too many. Did you talk to her about how the knitting helps you to focus and learn? I know librarians (well, at least one anyway) who works in government and knits through fairly high level meetings. The only comments I've heard about this are more in amazement at how well she manages to use her hands while still participating fully in the meeting. I wonder after reading your post if she's not like you, and the knitting helps her to concentrate and participate fully.

Come see us on Tuesday night at the Wired Monk. We'll help cheer you up!

Steph said...

Maggie - I do believe that your professor is a card-carrying member of CHOKE.

I think that perhaps the general public is not aware of the history of OTs - I only found out a few years ago, even though I lived with an OT student during university. Perhaps other OTs aren't aware that their knitting is something they aren't "allowed" to do anymore: while I was attending the CAOT conference in Newfoundland last month, I met several OTs who were knitters and who came to my booth to discuss what I was knitting.

I really don't think you should stop knitting in class b/c it is offensive to your professor. She, of all people, should be sensitive to your need to occupy your hands in order to help your concentration.

If you don't feel you can knit in defiance of her request, I can send Henry over to b*tch slap her.

Maggie said...

Thanks guys, it's nice to have support.

Yes my prof is older. She was trained back when OT wasn't a degree program but a diploma program that was combined with physio. That was about 25 years ago.

Maybe it is just generational and she is trying to protect the profession instead of offend me. And you know to a certain extent I guess I agree with her in that I wouldn't knit at work - but I see school as something else.

Knitting really does help me relax and focus. I could even use a bunch of OT words like "alerting" to describe how it "enables" me to learn but I am not sure if it is worth fighting given that I only have a week of orientation left.

Maggie said...

Haha thanks Steph, you published your comment at the same time I did! I appreciate that, maybe Henry could do some bitch slapping.

Are you an OT?

jillian said...

Are you serious? My first reaction was that she doesn't have the right not to tell you to do something when the reason is essentially her individual small-mindedness. Even if she felt it was constructive advice to "protect the profession", times have changed. She needs her eyes opened in the worst possible way. But since you say you only have a week left of her class, perhaps it isn't worth the fight. Wouldn't want to make enemies over it I guess. It's hurtful to me as a women just to know that one women made demands of another women based on outmoded and narrow-minded thinking.

Julie said...

I'd quit knitting in her class (after all, it's her classroom and she's got a right to decide what goes on in it, even if she is an ignorant, bigoted twit) and make sure that I didn't have to any more classes with her.

Then I'd dig up a bunch of info on kinetic learning and all the rest of the good things knitting does (it helps me sit still), corner her in her office, and tell her just what a prejudiced, ignorant person she really is, and how much she offended you. Because while she can control her class as she likes, YOU can certainly have an opinion about it and make it known.

seejane_knit said...

Dude, that's just. . .ouch.

I mean, on the one hand, she perhaps has a valid point about OT working to become a respected discipline, but on the other, suggesting that knitting undermines that academic respect holds about as much water as suggesting that knitting undermines the feminist movement.

She's also put you in a really awkward position in a way that's mostly unfair to you and doesn't really affect her day at all, which is just, well. Rude. I'd talk to her about it.

Steph said...

You know, Maggie, you probably walked away from that conversation with your prof feeling upset and ashamed... and she probably didn't even think about how her words impacted you personally, just professionally.

Henry is on his way - Tupper building, yes?

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry you had to deal with your instructor's prejudices! It's especially sad when women are cautioning other women to distance themselves from women's work.

There's a bit of a discussion about this in the newest Yarn Harlot book: Stephanie Pearl-McPhee Casts Off. Debbie Stoller of Bust magazine & Stitch 'n Bitch fame has also written about those attitudes.

Marti said...

It's sad to me that your professor doesn't see knitting as a proud part of the heritage of your profession, but rather an embarassing throw back.