On Gender Identity and Knitting

OK. This is not a post regarding GLBT circles or men’s knit night. I am talking about what makes people decide something is better suited to males or females. Or, as it was put rather succinctly recently—“Kinda girly, isn’t it?” I am always surprised at how adamant people are on this issue with baby clothes. Little boys and girls were once dressed in identical long dresses. Now, merely the presence of several garter stitch ridges on the yoke of an otherwise stockinette sweater makes it ‘girly.’ People in my Quick and Easy Baby Sweater class debate these things endlessly. “I wouldn’t put purple on a boy.” “Those blue dogs don’t look right for buttons on a girl’s sweater.” I usually end up reminding them that no matter what color the item is, it will be covered in baby cheese and milk stains at some point early in its career, so don’t take it too seriously.

Then, there is the question of what side the buttonhole should go on. I never give this much thought, since I was unaware of the boy/girl issue on this for many years. One of the few boys vs. girls issues I missed, I assure you. I have three older brothers and wore lots of their hand-me-downs. I thought some shirts buttoned one way, some another. Who knew why? (My mother did, however, sew the fly shut when I inherited pajamas…) Someone told me I could remember which side by saying “Women are always right.” But then I can’t remember whether it is the button or the buttonholes on the right.

But CABLES? How can cables have a gender identity? Take a look at this hat, one happy result of my recent explorations in cables.

I am not a great photographer, and red is especially hard. Not the choice for a pattern photo. While I wait for daylight and temperatures above -10F, I put it in the flatbed scanner.

The color and fuzzy quality of the yarn (Cloud 9, a merino/angora blend) aside, what makes this “feminine?” Without exception, everyone who has looked at this hat has declared it so. I tend to agree with them, but I wanted it to be a gender-neutral design. (Oh dear God, I can’t believe I am using terms like that regarding a HAT.) What if I did it in black? Would that make a difference? Share your cable/gender identity concerns with me. Really. I want to know.

from MLE

14 responses to “On Gender Identity and Knitting

  1. First of all, I think a rich red is truly gender neutral. I often knit in red for to-be-born babies of unknown gender.

    I think the design is gender neutral — up close, with the halo of the angora, it might be a little girlier, and in a fuzzy white, it would be more feminine. In a smooth navy or olive, totally boyish/manly. I think this makes for a versatile design, rather than neutral.

    To some, boyish is only plain. I disagree. Love the hat for boys and girls, men and women. Cables are universal.

  2. Thanks, Liz. I’m with you re. red. I use it a lot, and one boy I knit for who is 12 wants only red anything. I may do a model for the pattern photo in a smooth yarn neutral color and see how that works. I’ll post it when I do.

  3. It must be the angora fuzziness because the pattern is gorgeous and perfect for either gender. Some think a slight roll edge (that’s what you have, right?) is more girly which I think is ridiculous for a littlekid/baby but there you have it – so maybe a straight garter edge, a hem or ribbing would neutralize it? The cables totally work!

  4. That’s a beautiful hat, and conjuring up gender identities for cables seems to me the sort of thing one does when one has a rather narrow perspective on the world and doesn’t have enough other things to worry about. The baby certainly isn’t worried about cables–or colors, for that matter. Any little boy would look adorable in that hat. So would any little girl. Cables for everybody!

  5. this particular one is actually an adult size. I’m going to write it up for babies to adults, though. I’s with you. Cables for all!

  6. Wow. I looked at the hat before reading the text below and immediately thought of it as a man’s hat. The bold red, the squares, it screams man to me. I guess I’m all mixed up.

  7. I don’t think of that hat as being particularly masculine or feminine. I could see it on a lot of different people. Then again, I don’t know if I’m as rigid about my ideas of gender as a lot of other people. I think that it all depends on the person, their comfort level, and their style.

  8. I looked at the pic before reading the post as well and thought—wow, that hat would be great for both my kids (boy & girl). Of course my daughter the girly-girl would want it in pink or purple and my son would wear it in any color just because he loves hats. Can’t wait for the pattern. I think it’s wonderfully gender neutral. I think that “gender neutral” is strictly in the eye of the beholder (as shown in the comments here).

  9. Maybe it is the softness of the yarn. While making Christmas presents, I made a Seaman’s scarf out of navy Cloud 9 and my SO thought it was “for a female” . Yet when I made the same scarf in another yarn he asked for one for himself.
    I love the broken cable pattern of the hat and it is a lovely design for anyone.

  10. That’s interesting…I just posted about making a lavender hat – definitely girly. But red? I think red’s gender neutral; maybe try posting a picture of it on a guy and then on a girl, and see if it just doesn’t look “right” on the guy…

  11. I agree on red being a color for all. I’ve been thinking of doing a photo shoot with different people in the hat. I have to round up some of the kids in the hood. Except it 10 below this am, and no one is budging from their homes unless they really have to. Good knitting weather, though!

  12. I think it’s genderless… and can’t wait for the pattern because the hat looks super cool!

  13. I agree with what MissT said in the comments before me (above)…
    I love the hat, and think that it could be a very appropriate hat on either a man or a woman.

    I had a similar experience this last summe when I knit a cabled baby sweater in a rich orangy/mango color for a soon to be nephew (but I didn’t know the gender when I started) I thought that the orangy color was gender neutral, but not everyone else was so sure!

  14. I would say that your lovely hat you have knitted there could be for either a man or a lady I would say. Although I think I would have knitted it in navy or black for a man. I guess, though, because any men I know own dark coloured coats and jackets and prefer the darker shades.

    I love knitting in cable as well. I think it looks so effective.

    On the subject of doing up buttons I have Lucy`s (my eldest daughter`s) school blouse on my lap! and if you were wearing it the buttons are on the left as you look down and the button holes are on the right! I wouldn`t have known this information if I didn`t have a girl`s school blouse here mind you!

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