Recently, I was outside chatting to some neighbors and working on a current knitting project, while I watched my kids play. They asked me about my knitting, and it soon came up that a couple of them had tried knitting in the past, had long abandoned their projects, but were interested in picking it up again. Another, was excited to learn to knit for the first time.
Awesome! I’ve been wanting to join a knitting group for a while, and this is the perfect opportunity. We talked about setting up a group to meet about twice a month and I’m super excited about getting together with these interesting and creative women, and sharing my love for knitting.
A few days later, word had reached another woman in the neighborhood and she was keen to join our “Stitch ‘n Bitch” too.
Hold it right there.
I can’t help but feel irritated. Irked. Annoyed. Frustrated.
No, no, no… it’s not because another woman wanted to join us – I’m always keen to introduce people to knitting and everyone is welcome.
“Calm down” I hear you say. “What’s the big deal?” You ask?
Okay, so it’s a fun, clever little rhyme, it’s sassy and it gets people’s attention, I give you that.
In fact, this phrase has apparently been used to refer to social knitting groups since at least World War II, and continues to be used by knitting groups all over the world. The phrase was further popularized by the recent publications of the Stitch N’ Bitch knitting book series by Debbie Stoller.
Don’t get me wrong, I think it is great that the Stitch N’ Bitch movement, (along with the internet, blogs, social media platforms and mobile technology), has been so successful in bringing groups of women and knitters together across the world. Knitters and feminists have been able to build massive global communities and networks, while reclaiming the traditional practice of knitting in the public sphere and even challenging negative connotations associated with being a “traditional” or domestic woman.
Despite its popularity and apparent success, however, I think that the phrase “Stitch N’ Bitch”, perpetuates inequality, negative stereotypes of women, and misogynistic attitudes.
In this context, the word ‘bitch‘ reinforces the stereotype that women are incessant talkers, complainers or malicious gossips. It supports the view that when women get together, we do so to “bitch” or complain (often about other women).
I know that some may claim that in the context of modern feminism the use of the word “bitch” has been reappropriated to imply a strong female, one that challenges the stereotype of the weak, passive, and submissive woman, in much the same way that the word ‘queer’ has been reclaimed by the gay community. However, when used as a verb, ‘to bitch’ means to complain and its use in this context is almost always derogatory.
Throughout history, women have been marginalized in society, and as a result, gender specific insults toward women can hold a lot of power. We need to be careful about what language we choose to use and what it means for women’s equality.
Let’s continue to get together with friends and other women, to share, support and encourage each other, and to build strong, and lasting communities offline and online.
But please, please can we refrain from using the phrase ‘Stitch N’ Bitch from now on?
Does anyone else feel the same irritation when they hear this phrase?
I’d love to hear your thoughts…