This space was supposed to be about Swiss chard. I promise that a recipe/some Swiss chard cooking guidelines will be forthcoming but a) I didn’t take pictures of said chard last night and b) something bigger happened that I’d like to weigh in on. Yesterday, the US Olympic Committee sent a cease and desist letter to Ravelry for its use of the term Ravelympics. The Ravelympics are a series of forums on Ravelry in which participants knit or crochet an object within the span of the Olympic Games. And full disclosure: I’m not an Olympic athlete (obvs), and I have no vested interest in Ravelry, I’m just a knitter and I want to share my thoughts on the matter. I won’t post the whole letter sent to Ravelry, but if you want to read it, check out the posts listed at the bottom.
To paraphrase, the USOC wants Ravelry to change the name of the Ravelympics to something like the “Ravelry Games.” Fine. I get that. The USOC wants to protect its intellectual property. Part of my Real Person Job pertains to protecting the IP of my company, so I understand that. On the other hand, the USOC and the IOC does have a history of being litigious with anything even vaguely resembling the name of the games.
It’s the disrespectful, bullying tone of the letter that offends me. The letter states:
We believe using the name “Ravelympics” for a competition that involves an afghan marathon, scarf hockey and sweater triathlon, among others, tends to denigrate the true nature of the Olympic Games. In a sense, it is disrespectful to our country’s finest athletes and fails to recognize or appreciate their hard work. (emphasis added for emphasis)
Up until this point, I was really excited about the Olympics. I really and truly love the games. I love the pageantry, the athleticism, the parents cheering and crying in the stands, the group hugs, the stories. But the Games only last two weeks every two years and my participation doesn’t go much beyond watching them; knitting and crafting are part of my identity. And is it really so denigrating to our athletes to sit on my couch and chant “TEAM USA” while knitting a sock? I think not.
So, like many people on the internet are saying, Dear USOC, you’ve just made a lot of us angry with your bad form.
Let’s illustrate what I mean by “a lot of us.” I just popped on Ravelry for a moment. Right now, in this moment, there are 4703 Ravelers online, 2,201,624 registered users, and 439,462 users who have been active during the last 30 days. Right now, there are fiber artists representing 60 nations from every continent except Antarctica on Ravelry. Here’s a link to the page showing the statistics, but they’ve probably slightly changed from when I counted. And that’s just Ravelry, not counting the perhaps millions more who participate in the fiber arts and do not have a Ravelry membership. And while many of us knit in the private of our own homes, we are also not afraid to take our craft to the streets. I’ve seen people making things with yarn in restaurants, on the subway, at academic conferences, at athletic events, and in places of worship (shoutout to the GC Chapel Knitters!).
We’re also tech savvy. We’ve blogged since blogging started. We tweet (#ravelympics is totally trending right now, you guys!). We do scary math to make things fit. We create klein bottle hats and bags with lights that keep track of a pattern. We even yarnbomb in support of the upcoming Games. And we’re an inclusive group. Some of us are, in fact, Olympic athletes (Hi Hannah Kearney, Olympic gold-winning moguls skier!)
And I don’t know how to say this gracefully, so I’ll just say it. A lot of us have fairly substantial fiber (or fabric, etc) budgets. Personally, even while scrimping and saving and living simply on a research assistantship in grad school, I made sure yarn and tools were a part of my budget because knitting was one of the main ways I could relax and not obsess about my research.
And we’re a decent group. We create garments for charity, members of the military, and when the earthquake hit Haiti, our Yarn Harlot threw up the knit signal and fiber people donated over $500,000 to MSF (Doctors without Borders) in ten days. To date, fiber people have donated over $1,100,000 to MSF.
Anyway, like many have said in the last day, I do not think that participating in a craft that has taken me years to learn in any way denigrates the spirit of the Games. I’ve devoted many, many hours, dollars, and brainwaves to this craft. And the USOC has just managed to make me and the many, many people like me angry.
Here’s a rundown of articles if you want some more information.
2 Million Knitters with Pointy Sticks are Angry at the US Olympic Committee by Sarah at Exchanging Fire
#charityfail: The Olympic Edition by Emma Jenkin
An Open Letter to the US Olympic Committee by Laurie at the Crochet Liberation Front
The Olympics, Ravelry and the lobbying power of crafters at Planet Handmade
The US O*y*p*c Commission… at Visually Illiterate
Olympic-Level Bullying at The More The Messier
I’m wondering if we can’t use some of this anger to fuel something good. I mentioned MSF/TSF above but I’m wondering if we all couldn’t channel some of the money we’re threatening to withhold by boycotting the Games and their sponsors into a place where some good could come of all this? I’m still ruminating on this but I’d love for you to join me with some ideas!