I’ve not been very active on Instagram recently. I go through phases with social media where I get very enthusiastic about it, then end up resenting the time it takes up, and feel overwhelmed by it and withdraw to a large extent. In addition, I’ve been away on holiday, and I always try and keep my internet usage down when we’re away. Why go away to do something I do at home? So after almost a fornight’s absence, I opened Instagram and the first post in my feed was this one.
I recognised Nathan Taylor (aka sockmatician) straight away. When in the mood for podcasts, I often enjoy his. I have a couple of his patterns and his basic toe-up sock pattern is my ‘go-to’ sock pattern. I don’t know him well, he isn’t a friend, but I’ve followed him on IG for a while and he’s always come across as a nice bloke. I had to read Amy’s post twice, just to make sure I was understanding it right. I have to say, I was pretty baffled. She didn’t seem to be talking about someone I recognised at all, even allowing for the fact I don’t know him well.
I could see why his initial post (ostensibly about diversity) was problematic. Basically, he was saying don’t be angry, aggressive, loud. That making your case quietly is more likely to be effective, people are more willing to listen. I could allow that he might have made that post with the best of intentions. There was a time I’d have made the same case myself – mainly because my father could be violent and unpredictable. From a young age my strategy for dealing with that was to keep my head down, to be quiet, to be invisible. Don’t challenge, don’t argue, don’t attract attention. All talk of race and/or diversity aside, I did not like his post, whatever issue he was addressing.
As women, we have been told for millennia that we not to show our anger; that’s it’s unseemly, unfeminine. While, personally, I will go out of my way to avoid a confrontation, even now, I also believe that women don’t show their anger enough. Those women who can show their anger (who seem to me to be incredibly brave) – I take my hat off to them. Even though I’m 56, even now, when people are angry (not necessarily at me), the 6 year old inside me just freezes. I’m like a rabbit in headlights. I avoid angry confrontations not because I think women shouldn’t get angry, but just because I’m still dragging round all this baggage around anger.
NT’s post wasn’t specifically addressed to women, but given that the fibre community is dominated by women, it might as well have been. The post was actually in relation to diversity, racism having been a much-discussed topic in the fibre community recently. This struck me as even worse. Along with women, BIPOC are another large group in society who are discouraged from showing anger. When they do, it’s always twisted into something else, something negative. It seems to me that, for black women, this is a double whammy.
What is truly baffling to me is that a lot of comments pointed out why his post was offensive in the way he said such conversations should approached; quietly, and with great courtesy. There was no raging in the comments, as far as I could see (although I’ve only seen screenshots as the comments had been disabled). No anger, or aggression or browbeating, or anything else negative. His responses, were at best flippant, and sometimes downright rude.
Things seems to have escalated from there quite quickly. NT’s husband joined the fray, both in the comments and on his own blog. His remarks were particularly spiteful and misogynistic. It all culminated at the weekend with NT completely losing it with a woman who approached him (quietly) at a yarn festival, wanting to discuss what had happened earlier in the week. It seems ironic that after his initial post telling us we should all be quiet and respectful when discussing diversity or challenging racism he seems to be the person who can’t control his temper. Actually, I think the word I’m looking for is hypocritical.
Like many women and BIPOC, I grew up being told not to raise my voice, not to use that tone, not to answer back. We should get angry, and show it. Being angry is not wrong, neither is expressing it. Being abusive is wrong, but you can be angry without being abusive. If a black woman is pissed off because she’s had to challenge xyz again, for the tenth time, or the fiftieth time, or the hundredth time, why should she have to hide it? As a white woman, I have no place telling BIPOC what they can be angry about. As a middle-aged white woman, I’m probably going to slip up. However that is pointed out to me, I hope I’ll be mature enough to suck it up and just listen.
We all get it wrong sometimes. With the best will in the world, most of us (especially the older ones), have grown up surrounded by racism, homophobia, sexism, etc. It’s both scary, and a little depressing, to realise that we have absorbed some of that, and that no matter how much we want to be not those things, something will still pop up out of our subconscious and trip us up. When that happens, it feels horrible. Guilt, shame, embarrassment – they can all make us defensive. That’s what makes us not listen when someone points out our BS out to us, not their anger.