I knit. A lot. I make gifts for people I care about, but mostly I knit for myself. Finding patterns I like, that will fit me well, is always a challenge. So I was excited to see Man Made DIY review Knits Men Want, a whole book full of patterns I might potentially want, photographed by knitting heartthrob Jared Flood. To be clear, I haven’t read it yet; I’m about to go off on a tear on general principle, because the thing that bothers me about this is something that has happened over and over again: a perfectly good, useful craft book tries to sell itself with some gender-retrograde, Men-Are-From-Mars bullshit.
It is surprisingly hard to find good collection of knitting patterns for guy’s clothes– most general-purpose knitting books will be 3/4 to 7/8 women’s clothes, with a sweater or two and some sock recommendations tucked in for the dudes. I’m not very gender-policy about my clothes, but I find that patterns aimed more at women can’t be made to fit me well. So, another halfway-decent collection on patterns for guys clothes is a good thing; I don’t want to have to buy 10 books to get 10 patterns I’d want to make for myself. Judging this book solely on it’s cover and the short review I linked, the technical content looks pretty great. The piece featured on the cover looks like something I’d wear, and the review suggest the patterns come with plenty of detail for adjusting them to fit across a broad range of sizes and style preferences. And anything Jared Flood does is probably pretty great.
But the book isn’t aimed at men. It’s aimed at women, with the subtitle “The Ten Rules Every Woman Should Know Before Knitting for a Man.” I can’t stand the weird sexism & heterosexism here. Why should women be doing all the manly-sweater-making? I resent the implication that women should be hand-knitting sweaters for me. The women in my life have better things to do with their time, like having a life, being more successful than me, and making sweaters for themselves. Shouldn’t dudes make their own damn sweaters?
Like I said, I wouldn’t be so pissed if this were a one-off oddity, a book aimed at a specific niche, but it’s not. Based on my extensive survey of bookstores and knitting specialty stores across the southeast, (ahem) there are only maybe 6 or so books in print that focus on knitting menswear. One is composed entirely of men’s sweaters with matching dog sweaters, so we’ll rule it right out. Out of the remaining 5-ish, at least one other (the otherwise handy Son of Stitch N’ Bitch) assumes a female reader, looking to make something nice for her husband/boyfriend. That book does a fair amount of what I’m accusing this of sight-unseen–gender-policing (don’t make your boyfriend something brightly colored, even if he goes to the store with you and picks out a multicolor Noro yarn!),disguising naratives that push women to cater to men as empowering ( like ‘those silly boys, if you don’t hand-knit them camelhair socks, they’ll never get themselves nice things’), and disguising general-purpose, gender-neutral good advice as some deep insight into the mysteries of the Opposite Sex (for anyone wanting a big squishy sweater they can wear over other layers, it’s a good idea to measure a sweater they already like than to measure their body and guess where to add room)
To be clear, knitting is mostly a women’s hobby. I’m not arguing to the contrary; I get annoyed pretty quickly with guys who want the whole subculture to butch up just so they can feel comfortable. But most of the people I’ve met who really want whole books full of quality men’s patterns are queer men–we’re more likely to need the quantity of options, to have lots to chose from to make things for ourselves and still have new styles to use for the odd gift to partners, friends and family. Given that audience, why posit such a Good Housekeeping-esque world where highly skilled crafters* need extra special help to make a series of tubes, just so they don’t injure their husband’s delicate masculinity with their lady-hobbies?
* I don’t know how difficult the patterns are in this book, but it does take much more skill and experience in general to take on a fitted women’s sweater than the looser, squarer cuts and simpler textures usually aimed at men.