Everything is political these days, and it’s exhausting. Millions of Americans enjoy knitting and crocheting as hobbies, to provide some relaxation, a way to make cherished gifts for loved ones, or even a little extra income. But if you are a supporter of President Donald Trump, one of the biggest yarn crafting websites wants you to know you’re no longer welcome.
Well, technically, you’re still welcome, but you better keep your mouth shut about Trump.
The website in question, Ravelry, has often had a left-leaning tone — they heavily promoted various patterns for the infamous pink “cat” hats seen at many of the Women’s March protests — but the users had a range of political beliefs all across the partisan spectrum (you know, just like America).
The site includes searchable posts for knitting and crochet patterns, some available for free and some for sale, as well as a forum section where users can post about a variety of topics, some yarn-related and some not. Most of the content is utterly benign and unoffensive to any sane person, focused heavily on discussing patterns, sharing techniques and problem solving difficult patterns, or frivolous topics like this photo thread of users’ pet cats playing with yarn.
I’d like to say I hope we can all agree that kittens playing with yarn are still cute, but I’m not so sure anymore. The current divisive toxicity of our politics is spreading rapidly, and Ravelry’s millions of members are now in the middle of the battlefield.
Over the weekend, Ravelry’s Twitter account (with a bio touting that they are an “inclusive, friendly website for [yarn emoji] people around the [globe emoji]”) posted a link to an announcement on their website stating that supporting Trump was no longer allowed on Ravelry.
We are banning support of Donald Trump and his administration on Ravelry. We cannot provide a space that is inclusive of all and also allow support for open white supremacy. More details: https://t.co/hEyu9LjqXa
— Ravelry (@ravelry) June 23, 2019
The linked announcement clarified that this ban included voicing any support for Trump not just in forum posts, but also in user profiles and in patterns. Posting patterns for those pink hats is fine. A knitted MAGA hat or blanket is not.
The head-scratching explanation provided by the site’s administration was to accuse all Trump supporters as being equivalent to white supremacists:
“We cannot provide a space that is inclusive of all and also allow support for open white supremacy. Support of the Trump administration is undeniably support for white supremacy.”
Trump supporters are still allowed to use the site and participate, they just “can’t talk about [supporting Trump] here.” No one’s pattern designs or data would be deleted, but any of the Trump content that offends the site operators so much would be recategorized as private, invisible to all users except the one who posted it.
This means any Trump supporters who had pro-Trump designs for sale on Ravelry will no longer be able to use the site to sell them, and pro-Trump political activists cannot share designs supporting Trump on the site, even for free, for other supporters to access.
The announcement also mentioned that they had adapted their “No Trump” policy from RPG.net, a website forum dedicated to role-playing games.
Political patterns are by no means anywhere close to a majority of the content on Ravelry, but there have been some on both sides. Here are a few patterns from “Deplorable Knitter,” still available from Instagram posts:
As the new policy was enacted, Deplorable Knitter posted screen caps of complaints about her patterns, and strongly objecting to the accusation she or her patterns were racist:
Deplorable Knitter’s G-rated patterns are no longer welcome on Ravelry. Because simply mentioning Trump or his campaign slogans is an act of hate, according to Ravelry.
Still acceptable, however, is this scarf that displays the message “F*** TRUMP” when read at an angle, a seemingly endless array of genitalia crafted out of yarn (NSFW photos at link), and this whimsical design of two deer getting intimate in the woods, ready to adapt for knitted hats or mittens (images sort of NSFW but probably only if your boss is really strict).
I personally have been knitting and crocheting for years (see cat and blanket below), and have often used Ravelry to find new patterns and research techniques. I’m involved in political issues all day long and am far more likely to be searching or posting about blanket patterns than political topics — I’m knitting as a break from politics, not to do more politics! — but must say I find this policy to be completely ridiculous.
Banning posts that are actually racist is fairly noncontroversial as far as internet forum moderation practices go. But it’s a wild and gross exaggeration to say all Trump supporters are white supremacists. I didn’t vote for him and will not vote for him (much to the constant delight of our RedState commenters) but I know many, many people who voted for Trump as a vote against Hillary Clinton, certainly not to endorse any sort of racism or other prejudicial hatred.
Ravelry overstepped with this broad ban on Trump supporters, and it will be a troubling trend if more sites adopt this kind of policy. Dividing America into segregated political groups across all aspects of life will solve no problems and only make matters worse.
Finding common ground is one of the greatest legacies of this grand American experiment, and we have historically been better than any other nation on earth at taking all sorts of people with all sorts of ideas and all sorts of political beliefs and finding a way to peacefully progress as a nation.
How many other countries — even ones we characterize as first world democracies — still experience violence and unrest when elections remove one political party and put another in power? We’ve had bitterly divided and often painful close presidential elections with about half of the country professing to hate the winner for most of my life — Bush, Clinton, another Bush, Obama, Trump — but each time the winner has shown up in Washington, D.C. to take the oath of office, and his predecessor has left the White House peacefully and without bloodshed. We should all be proud of that.
Banning Trump supporters from Ravelry doesn’t end white supremacy and it doesn’t defeat Donald Trump at the ballot box next November. It just deprives people of the chance to bond over cute knitting projects because their political beliefs barred half of them at the door.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.