Disparaging Handcrafts In The Name Of Law – How Far Does It Push Us Back?


Well the lack of a good apology from the USOC continues.  They seem to stand by the attitude that we have denigrated and disrespected, with no correction or word since the 2nd apology saying, “we know you clearly didn’t mean to.”

Mr. Sandusky, all you have to do really is state clearly that you and your office did not intend to imply that knitters and crocheters disrespect or denigrate the Olympics and professional athletes at all.  Simply expressing regret that the words were used only means you wish you didn’t have to deal with us.  Saying you know the we didn’t mean to denigrate and disrespect is patronizing at best, but clearly does not retract the verbiage directed at our collective cultural activities around our support of the Olympic Games.  All this may have started with a law clerk, but it’s escalated to you – and instead of seizing an opportunity, you didn’t make things better.

Bloomberg Business Week has posted a thorough article this morning on trademark protection and Why the U.S. Olympic Committee Cracked Down on a Knitting Group.  In the article they, like many others, fail to recognize that Ravelry is not just a knitting community, but also a crochet community.  But more than that, in their article they fail to recognize that the main issues Ravelers have had with the cease and desist letter from the USOC were much less about the name of our knitting/crochet games (Ravelympics) and much more about the insulting nature of the letter and our desire to see a back track and correcting statement issued about the language used.  Language which Bloomberg does not elaborate upon, but simply calls “harsh.”

Harsh is not the description I would use.

So I had to write a comment.  In fact, I’ve never written so many comments on news sites ever before.  I’m not up in arms, raising a pitchfork, calling for retribution or slinging names.  Rebel I might be, but that’s never been my style.  I’m not interested in boycotting the Olympics and I have no vested feelings in the corporate aspects of trademark issues right now. In most everything I have written, I’ve tried to be professional, reasonable and thorough.

But these recent events do strike at issues I care very much about.  The future of handmade, the future of respect for women (do not misunderstand my meaning there either) and the future image, reputation and preservation of crochet (and knitting).  And for me, it heaps discontent with the way law is thrown around and allows for “those who can” to get away with saying anything they can spin.  Yarn Harlot called for knitters to calm down their stung feelings and to accept the USOC’s first apology.  And though I appreciate her article about trademark issues and legalities, and many of her calm and reasonable words about our collective behavior as knitters (ahem – and crocheters), in principle I cannot accept an apology that is not one.  In principle, this is part of where we go wrong in the US with our tolerance of media spin from public figures.

In my world – words mean things.  And each apology from the USOC (which by the very nature of coming from a communications office and law office you know they are carefully worded) has only served to stand by the initial insults and create more.  Being “bigger than that” does not mean taking it when someone bullies you and then says in front of the teacher – awww shucks, Billy, I didn’t mean for you to take it that way.  It means calling for attention and a change.  Not just for the USOC, but everyone who engages in such behavior, because they can.

Supposedly we are a polite society.  As such, all our leaders bear a responsibility to reflect that professionalism.  And when you screw up, you bear the responsibility of consequences and making corrections.  Whether we are talking about politicians, or organizations that supposedly represent our cultural/national/international interests, I will accept no less.  Because when I do accept less, what eventually will the future be?  Little different than as it is in child rearing, if I allow for my child to get away with something that in principle is wrong, I set their future up to fail.   What world will my grandchildren live in?  A world where nothing that is said is ever honorable or sacred anymore.  Shut up crybaby.  I said I’m sorry, now go away.  Even when “I’m sorry” really isn’t stated and the issue is the disparaging of the craft and character of good people.  There is a responsibility there, and it hasn’t been fulfilled.

Mr. Sandusky sir, do you realize the hard work many of us have poured our lives into, in garnering respect for the fiber arts?  For a very long time we have been the red-headed step-child of the creative art world in general.  And it’s only recently we’ve gained a second look in terms of skill and artistic value for what we do, for the creations of our hands, for the history and heritage behind it.  Thanks to you, a giant step forward in how we are perceived may be taken back.

Here is the comment I shared over at Bloomberg:

First off, we are a community of knitters AND crocheters. Secondly, even the second apology only said we know you didn’t “intend” to be denigrating, while the first said we would like to show our support of Ravelers by letting you send us free handmade stuff. There has not yet been an acceptable apology about the real issue – which has nothing to do with the name of our knitting/crochet games while we watch the real Olympic games.  And it has not been about the trademark protection.  We might have been disappointed, but we would have understood if the letter was simply – hey, we need you to not use the name.  But that’s NOT what the USOC did.

The real issue we Ravelers have had was the unnecessary and insulting statements and inference that knitting and crocheting through our games during the real Olympics was an insult to real athletes who work and train hard.  And the continued inference that somehow it’s OK to insult a large group of mainly women who strive to keep hand-arts alive and preserve our collective heritage – around the world.  The USOC’s apology was no apology.  It was almost worse than the original letter.  The owners of Ravelry didn’t completely organize those games on their own.  That was a grass-roots type gathering (if I can use the analogy for a global group of people) of fiber hand-makers from around the world who came up with and supported the idea.  All these people from a variety of different cultures and backgrounds, all coming together over one main thing we share – our love for knitting and crochet, along with in this case, our love for our countries and the Olympic games.

Saying that we “denigrate” and “disrespect” the spirit of the Olympics and real athletes was like jocks vs. the geeks or men vs. women all over again.  They weren’t just talking to Ravelry owners, they were talking to all of us.  The USOC “apologizing” by essentially saying, “we’ll make a show of good will by letting you send us free stuff” and “we know you didn’t *intend* to be denigrating” is not an apology.  The USOC has disparaged our crafts and our character.  On a global scale.  And further made us the butt of many jokes in the press.  (Thank you Bloomberg for not following suit.)

This should be corrected.  We strive enough to keep our cultural crafts and heritage not only alive, but growing.  Having a giant organization disparage us is devastating in more ways than one.  And crochet? It’s the very last fiber art left that can not be replicated by a machine. It will only be alive as long as people do it.  The advancements made in our crafts every day by us designers will only continue as we are supported.  It’s as if hand-made in general has been pushed an unfortunate step back as we struggle for respect and preservation.  Being insulted this way is incredibly disheartening and shouldn’t be acceptable, especially in the name of law.

For me, it’s never been an issue about possible trademark infringement and needing to change the name of our games.  I think it seems a little over-reaching since the name is not specifically “Olympics,” but I can see possible ground, knowing also that I am not an expert in law.  No, the issue has always been the obvious and unnecessary language used to disparage hand arts.

I have finalized my decision to mail my crochet hook and a letter to the USOC.  I do this knowing I may be alone in the action, but determined none-the-less to stand on principle and be heard.  And determined to put my money where my mouth is and do more than rant on the internet.  I will do something tangible, sending something real that someone somewhere will have to hold in their hand and then decide what to do with.  It might not be much, but at least it’s something pointed, honorable and peaceful.

Principles matter. The insulting language issued by the USOC was wrong.  Even in the supposed “apologies” issued, that language was never taken back, merely “regretted,” glossed over and spun, while pointedly avoiding a real apology.  And as a result hand arts and cottage industries may feel more than just a sting from the slap of such a large public entity, but perhaps may even pay a price.  It shouldn’t be tolerated.  It should be pointed out.  And as for me, I’ll politely take a stand.

17 Comments

Filed under Editorial

17 responses to “Disparaging Handcrafts In The Name Of Law – How Far Does It Push Us Back?

  1. Robyn Boling

    Brava!

  2. Clear, compelling, stirring! Thank you!

  3. I think the new name of the Ravelympics should be “Ravel00000s” which should be in compliance and expresses what I now feel about the USOC.

  4. DogCatMom

    Yes, crochet IS the only fiber art not replicable by machines. YH herself was stunned to realize that and said so back in one of her books maybe two or three years ago, realizing that the crocheted edgings on the blouses in the marketplace had to have been generated in sweat-shop conditions due to the prices being asked….

    Either “RavelOOOOOs” or perhaps “Rav€£¥mpic$” (which puts the focus where the USOC clearly wants it to be–on the money) might do. Or, like the last tribes of free Celts before the might of Rome, led by Vercingetorix, we could use “Ravelympix”? Shades of the Asterix™ comics!

    All of the USOC seems to have gone to ground in their subterranean burrows for the weekend.

  5. Stefan

    This post is priceless.

  6. Before you send that hook and letter off, consider this; post your letter first and get “signatures” of zillions of crocheters and maybe knitters too so your voice is amplified by all of us who agree with you

  7. P.S. I put you in my side bar.

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