Standing with Ravelry

As someone who ran a large forum website for 9 years, I have an uncommon understanding of just how different that is from any other kind of job or business. A site like that is an organism, and I know what it is to try to set boundaries around it. So not only do I applaud Jess and Casey at Ravelry for taking a stand on what they are and aren’t willing to host, or be the conduit for, with their privately owned site and business, I hope it will embolden the owners of other social platforms to take a stronger stand on what they are willing to let people distribute through their sites.

White supremacy is on the rise in this country and elsewhere, indisputably, and it’s been emboldened and encouraged by the current occupant of the White House. It didn’t start with him and it won’t end when he leaves, but it’s out in the open now and there’s been nothing more important in my lifetime than to stand against it. So yeah, damn right I stand with Ravelry on this. 

(NOTE: This text originally appeared in my Instagram Story on June 24, 2019.)

66 thoughts on “Standing with Ravelry

  1. I’m an Independent voter and an independent thinker, so I cannot understand how you can specifically dump your opinion on the steps of the White House and the President. Especially when people are being hurt and killed simply because they felt they had the right to freedom of thought and speech, which you so clearly utilize. Grow a backbone and stop blaming others for things they are not responsible for. When someone suggested you were a racist, I saw you drop to your knees, apologize for nothing, then bend over backwards to defend against something you had no need to defend. So now, rather than simply standing for what you believe, you play the cowards game and dump your rant on someone else’s door. You might also look up the word “supremacy” and get your political facts straight.

    • I don’t know what you might be referring to with “people are being hurt and killed simply because they felt they had the right to freedom of thought and speech,” but I do know about the rise in hate speech and hate crimes, populism and xenophobia, and Trump’s relationship to that is clear in both his own statements and his policies and actions. (From trying to ban all Muslims from entering the country to denying trans people the right to serve in the military, and a thousand other things in between.) The relentless dehumanization of non-white, non-straight, non-Christian people — coming from the White House or anywhere — has to stop.

      Regarding the bit about me, it’s possible to be not a racist, in the capital-R sense, and still get shit wrong sometimes, and I stand behind my apology. I have both a spine and a heart, and would never change or apologize for that.

    • Karen is showing both a spine and a heart in supporting this and I appreciate both her original post and her measured response to your reply.

      Since you mention both freedom of speech and political facts, it might be worth a gentle reminder that the right to free speech applies to the government, eg, the government can’t regulate speech (even hate speech). Although a public forum, Ravelry is a private organization and not the government, so thus has the right to regulate as they see fit without any encroachment on anyone’s rights to free speech. In short, it’s a new take on the old saw “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here”: Ravelry isn’t denying you the freedom to think what you want and say what you want but Ravelry no longer the space to do it in if contravenes their stated values.

      And to be clear, Ravelry has been very explicit that it’s not about political parties or conservatives/democrats (or Independents), but the damaging impacts of speech and policies against people who are some or all of not-white, not-Christian, and not straight. Karen covered already how they and she feel that this is related to the Trump administration.

      • Sorry, but not sure if your answer or Ravelry passes legal muster. Just because a business may be a privately owned entity doesn’t allow that entity to side step the 1st Amendment. For instance, Ravelry is a private entity that engages in commerce with the public and uses public infrastructure. The Commerce Clause in the US Constitution, guards against businesses engaging in discriminatory conduct —which can be based on who one politically supports. Whether I personally agree with Ravelry is of little importance. However, I hope Ravelry got a legal opinion and/or provides supplemental information (for instance—the vetting process) before having posting said policy.

        • I assume it will be challenged by someone in a court filing, so I imagine we’ll find out!

  2. Right on! You even made the British press at the weekend. The more voices there are speaking up the better.

  3. As we all know Ravelry is a knitting/crochet/crafting website, not a political website. People need to stick to the subject matter. Leave politics to CNN.

    • Unfortunately, especially at this moment in history, it’s just not that simple. Plus it would require people to drop their lives and identities at the login screen, so then what? I know a lot of people think they should have said “no electoral politics” but it seems to me what they decided is they specifically didn’t want to do the work and foot the bills to maintain a site that others would use during this election to distribute pro-Trump designs and rhetoric, and that’s within their rights. Might I have framed it differently? Maybe. But it’s their site and I respect that they made the decision that feels right for them and what they’re willing to do and support. And not.

      • yes, well stated Karen-
        And, i want to add that sewing, knitting, crochet, and other fiber crafts, and in fact all art mediums, have had an important association with Politics for the whole of the history of the Untied States–including the making if the American flag, and the composing of the Star Spangled Banner.
        But, the association was a POSITIVE one, in upholding the noble and ethical principles of the Independence, Democracy, and Constitution; the association was not grounded in negativism- hate speech, fascism, and white supremacy, which are antithetical to what this country was founded on.

  4. Thank you, Karen! If you feel comfortable doing so, please encourage everyone who enjoys Ravelry to donate a symbolic amount of $20.20. You are followed by a lot of people!

    They are not asking for donations, and I believe they are currently on sound financial footing. I still believe in voting with my wallet, and supporting people who are doing the right thing.

  5. As an addendum, I know I will be carefully screening the indie yarn purveyors I support. Fortunately I know where my LYSs (The Yarnery and StevenBe) stand in terms of inclusion.

  6. I’m with Ravelry, too. And I hope they can help keep the focus of ensuing discussion on their target of white supremacy, vs. a broad attack on conservatism. That will be hard, but thoughtful support like yours will help. Of all the niches to take a stand! How many would have noticed if knitting never did? Thanks, Ravelry.

    • Terms like “conservatism” and “liberalism” are inherently problematic as they’re murky and mean different things to different people. Fiscal conservatism is one thing, but I’m not sure it’s even possible to disentangle white supremacy and social conservatism, since the latter is largely about upholding the white hetero-normative patriarchy of the last century.

      • Yes, instead of “conservatism,” I guess GOP would have been better. I was sort of wishing Rav good luck in holding off the Dem/Rep riot that they said, in the WP article, they did not intend. I’m grateful for your clarity.

  7. What a shame. I was hoping that after your experience, you’d be the first to see the need for a non-political crafting site. Oh well. I guess there’s no room for those of us looking to enjoy fiber arts without posturing from either side. I don’t need “build the wall” hats OR “F*** Trump” dishcloths. I just want to make cute things for my grandchild, blankets for chemo patients, and hats and scarves for the homeless. These days, it seems that if you aren’t into knitting pink pussy hats, there’s no room in the community. I’m tired of all the divisiveness. Guess I’ll just use up my stash and move on. I wish you luck.

    • That’s what knitters of color would like, too, and what Ravelry (among others) is trying to create — a safe space for knitters, free of the risk of being met with racism or xenophobia. It’s a lofty goal, but worth striving for.

      As for whether I’d want a non-political site, I’ll have more to say about that below. But no, that’s not what I would ever want. Life is political. Humans are political.

  8. Right on Karen! Thank you and the Ravelry team for speaking out so strongly!

    Susan Martinez

  9. This saddens me. There is SO much misinformation out there about both sides. And BOTH sides have the RIGHT in this country to hold an opinion (as do you). I’m just not sure you have ever held a conversation with the other side about what they believe & why? I just keep seeing “this is how I believe & the other side is ——-(insert label of choice)….”
    We -as a country- are being so split- no rational listening to each other about why certain decisions are made. No discussion & listening- people just believe whatever story & slant the media chooses to place upon decisions, words spoken even. Anything can be taken out of context & made into a racist comment with clever editing….remember —-I am saying both sides are doing this before you decide to put a label on me!

    • A complicated conversation where everyone feels comfortable voicing their opinion and having it challenged is my favorite thing, actually. Sadly, it’s very hard to do on the internet, where people tend to make obstructive assumptions about each other (such as “I’m not sure you have ever held a conversation with the other side …”) But to your main point: We have every right to hold whatever opinions we want, but nobody owes us a website on which to voice it.

  10. MeeDee, I think that you’ll find a few less pussy hats when folks feel like they don’t have to stand up to bullies and hate mongers on Ravelry. I’m hoping that the need for political statements like these will recede to the background once the rhetoric is gone.

  11. I’m with you, Karen. Someone has to take a stand, draw the proverbial line in the sand.

    Thank you.

  12. Bravo! Life is political and we can’t blithely allow hate to spread and proliferate because to take a stand is uncomfortable. White supremacy is intolerable.

  13. I wholeheartedly support and stand with Ravelry- there is no room in the world for white supremacy. Thank you for your post!

  14. Oh man, I have to admit yesterday I got to some serious lurking. Because some little voice inside me said “I don’t think this is just about …”.

    And you know what? It’s not. And it’s not even about Trump the man. It’s how the Trump brand–slogans and all–has become a vehicle for shadowy, dirty tactics. It’s about the way a specific user (or users), with this–specific–allegiance engaged in a concerted, targeted effort to sow chaos on Ravelry by gaming their free and open platform. I recall seeing these trolly accounts showing up right around the same time people started (rightly) calling for more equity and inclusion. Or maybe even as far back as the pussyhats, but to a lesser extent. It’s no secret that the alt-right salivates at the slightest perception of liberal infighting. To them the subject is not important one wit. To them, it’s just the lowest hanging fruit at the time. The news stories about the knitting community having a reckoning have most certainly attracted people who purposely want to disrupt inherently free and open spaces. So, this is about how opportunistic, nefarious actors who disguise their identities pounced in and exploited an egalitarian space, how they skewed things and fleeced users into thinking it’s about free speech/political views/genuine disagreements, while engaging in baiting tactics, sock-puppeting, astroturfing, flooding, harassment and doxxing (yes doxxing!) and even hacking (yes hacking!). (If you haven’t changed your password in a while, get to it)

    So yeah, I’d like to say I’ve informed myself. And I stand with Ravelry because I can only imagine that this is because they are truly at their wits-end. And that they are genuinely working to maintain the safety and sanctity of their platform so that, yes, we can get to the knitting part.

    • interesting. all the more reason for Ravelry to do what they did… and for us artisans to stand strong for what we know is the right thing to do.

    • You are so right.

      I spend less time on Rav these days, mostly because of changes in my life, but not too long after the election, I did some investigating into some of the commenters leaving the most hateful rhetoric. SO MANY of them led to accts. that had no substance, no projects, few friends, etc.. They were most definitely not there for the knitting. I deduced they were part of the army of trolls whose purpose was to make their way into every conversation on the internet that had to do with politics, and whose purpose was to sow hate, racism and divisiveness. Sadly, Trump supports this rhetoric and eggs it on. I imagine that Ravelry fully investigated and realized they had been invaded. Their ban was the only way to discourage this sick army.

      I stand with Ravelry and I stand with Karen. I am so grateful for their voices and their courage. We need (much, much) more of this if we are to keep the white supremacy at bay and reclaim all we hold dear in this country.

      • … and TBH I’m frustrated that the security side of things has not been discussed much, as it is such an integral part of this whole story. Really, we should be pressing Ravelry to take their security more seriously than they have in the past. (I sent my own support ticket yesterday as I did not know how else to submit).

        For example, at this very moment, they could send out an email telling all users to change their passwords. They could temporarily suspend dormant and inactive accounts so that they don’t keep get broken in to. They could carte blanche remove Birthday from the user profiles. They could require 2-step verification login for all designers–who have more detailed information stored on the pro end of things. And they could enact more rigorous protocol for stash swapping or other exchanges in which more private information is being shared between users. At the very least, those users should have to go through an verification process that ensures they are not going out of their way to obscure their identity.

          • I did. But… I only requested for the birthdays to come down, and for 2-step verification, and for them to send out a password change email. I’m sure their inundated right now.

        • All excellent suggestions.

          I have long thought the site is way too vulnerable. Perfect hideout for more than trolling. I also don’t like how anyone can fish photos from any Raveler. I learned that the hard way, by bumping into photos of myself online.

  15. I wonder if Ravelry put out a statement of exactly why this happened (I’ve seen something vile on IG about why it happened), if people would truly understand why they are taking the stand that they have. I 100% agree with it. We should be one country, one nation, undivided, for which we stand; however our country becomes more divisive every single day. There are good Republicans and good Democrats and good Independents, just like there are bad. My neighbor and I have differing opinions; however we are able to see each others side. I wish we could get back to that instead of the rampant racism and bigotry that seems to become more normalized for those that already had those views; however are now emboldened by our President to let loose with their beliefs.

    • They have not. They should be doing this.

      But looking through the forums, the issue seems to be about security and how alt-right trolls have flooded their system. And I heard someone got doxxed for reporting them for inappropriate content.

  16. Thanks from me also. I think it is so important for us to stand up for each other. It so saddens
    me that after seeing the progress it seemed we had made in my life, 68 years, that there are people
    In our country that are still not treated as the equals that they are. I appreciate when people
    stand up for things that are important, this isn’t politics it is human decency. I stand with Ravelry and
    with you Karen.

  17. Politics is part of life and society. It is often ignored, but I believe, at our own peril. I applaud the inclusiveness and support shown to those who have historically been marginalized. We have work to do to become a safe and supportive society where we show care and concern for others and act on it. Kudos to Karen, who has been a lightning rod for some important discussions, and kudos to Ravelry for making a stand about tolerance. I’m proud of our community for holding up a mirror and reflecting on what we can do better. Peace out, fibre artists!

  18. I support what Ravelry is trying to accomplish, just wish they would have done it using more generic terminology – prohibiting ALL hate speech. The reaction from many supporting Ravelry has turned very hateful to anyone that relates to conservative politics. I would hope the Ravelry founders would find those reactions just as shameful and unacceptable. It would be great if the Ravelry folks expressed that more clearly because right now, conservative folks do not feel welcome. So, in making it a safe place for some, they’ve created it unsafe for others. At least, that’s how it feels. I’ve read quite a few Ravelry supporter comments that have said (paraphrased), “Good! Now you know how it feels!” I certainly hope the Ravelry founders don’t agree with that mentality. I realize politics are extremely important and it is indeed important to speak up with your opinion…but the way this has been handled has created so much dissension – the very thing they accuse President Trump of. Does anyone supporting the Ravelry decision see the irony?

    • Hate speech has always been prohibited by their user agreement, although I know nothing about how well it may have been enforced, since I’m not a forum user. And they were clear that they’re not banning anyone for their politics — you can be whoever you want, believe whatever you want. If you want to be a booster for Trump, you just have to find somewhere else to do it. Again, any of us might have framed it differently but we’re not the ones who had to make or enforce the policy; that’s their decision.

      • Thanks, Karen. You are approaching this reasonably instead of fanning the flames, as so many others are doing. I appreciate your patience and explanations as you see it.

  19. I think it is sad that knitting has to be politicized. I knit for enjoyment and to preserve a craft not to make a political statement. I too will be moving on.

    • You can still do that. You just can’t promote Trump on Ravelry — so unless you were planning to do so, nothing has changed. But I would ask you to think about the privilege inherent in being able to describe this as “political” or wanting to just knit without being asked to think about race or other issues. For knitters of color who want to be able to wander into Ravelry (or Instagram or anywhere) without encountering racism, it’s not political — it’s life.

  20. I’m proud to stand with Ravelry on this. The decision has offended a number of people and made them think about what tolerance means and how their position in the world may have changed from what they thought it was. That’s a valuable discussion to have.

  21. I am proud of Ravelry’s firm and measured response to the attacks on their business.

  22. Hi Karen, Ravelry is doing the right thing, which isn’t always the easy thing. I can only imagine what they must be going through. I’m sorry that many people are taking their stance as a personal attack. As the fiber arts community has worked for greater inclusion, I’ve had to take a look at myself and the ways I participate in my white privilege. At first, I felt really defensive. After awhile, I was able to see the truth of that privilege. Hopefully, some of the people who are feeling defensive now will come to a place where they can see the other side. That’s my hope.
    Thank you for publicly owning your own mistakes and your learning process- it must have been very painful, but many have learned from your experience.
    Ps to those unhappy with Ravelry’s decision and want it just to be about the knitting- you don’t have to use the forums. You don’t have to talk about politics. You can just enjoy the knitting. I’ve been doing that since they started.

  23. Thank you Karen. For your thoughtfulness and for staying open to the conversation.

  24. Standing with Ravelry. Trump has consistently associated himself with despicable racist groups and leaders here and abroad. I refuse to normalize.

  25. Banning Trump is not political. I mourn the takeover of the Republican Party by Trump supporters and look forward to the day when Never Trumpers can bring it back to decency. No democracy allows for its own destruction. Again this is not political. Its establishing boundaries of decency.

  26. PLEASE NOTE: I WILL NOT BE APPROVING ANY FURTHER COMMENTS LEFT BY PEOPLE WITH NO PREVIOUSLY APPROVED COMMENTS AND NO PERSONALLY IDENTIFIABLE INFORMATION. I’m happy to have this conversation with my readers and other community members who are willing to speak as themselves and own their words. I don’t have time for dealing with anonymous trolls from elsewhere.

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