The sewing and knitting communities go woke and toxic

June 9, 2019 • 9:30 am

If there’s any community more toxically woke than the Young Adult Fiction (YAF) community, it’s the online sewing community. Both of these groups of professionals and hobbyists have lapsed largely into Outrage Mode, and if you say something the slightest bit ideologically impure, you’re instantly demonized. (There are many exceptions, of course, but, afraid of being called racists, they tend to remain silent.)

Apologies to the Outraged and clarifications don’t work—they never do—so the best strategy if you transgress is to either remain silent or counterattack. For these groups, you should never apologize unless you are truly sorry, not simply to un-demonize yourself. These two articles, one from the Guardian (!) and the other from Quillette, give the gory details of several controversies in the “Sewist” community (that’s what knitters and clothes-makers call themselves).

The article above is largely about a company called “Papercut Patterns,” which published a video on Instagram showing and briefly giving the name of a pattern for a short jacket known as the “Kochi Kimono”. Just the name “kimono”, which has now been removed (it’s now called a “Kochi jacket”) ignited the outrage of several sewists, who accused Papercut Patterns of not only cultural appropriation, but also of racism. Papercut patterns apologized fulsomely, and then deleted comments that were filling up its Instagram. That blocking, of course, caused further outrage. Here’s the offending garment, and the company’s apology.

Yes, that’s not even close to being a kimono, and the name choice was perhaps unwise, but I would simply have changed the name without apologizing. After all, no harm was done. Well, that’s the view of rational people, but not of many outraged “sewists”:

An excerpt (there are other similar cases of outrage in the article):

. . . on 13 May, Asian-American woman Helen Kim replied to a new photo of the garment to say that to call it a kimono, without any connection beyond a certain boxiness about the sleeves to the traditional Japanese garment, was cultural appropriation.

The post blew up. Those who agreed with Kim were accused of conducting a witch hunt against a female-owned company; those who rejected it were accused of racism. Japanese-American woman Emi Ito, a campaigner against cultural appropriation, was tagged in. She and Kim were suddenly fielding racist commentary on their own accounts.

The debate spread rapidly through Instagram stories, an ephemeral medium that allows users to post photos and videos of up to 15-second in length in short, ever-scrolling clips that will disappear after 24-hours. It was waged in long, impossible-to-follow comment threads under Instagram posts until Papercut Patterns deleted the post and closed comments on subsequent posts, sparking another wave of criticism. The same failings that made Instagram a difficult platform for lengthy debate made it the perfect vehicle for outrage.

Fed up, the company eventually blocked some commenters, including Kim. She became even more outraged:

Suddenly, everyone was talking about the Kochi kimono.

Ito is a teacher and ethical fashion advocate, on Instagram at @little_kotos_closet. In January she wrote a much-cited article about the cultural appropriation of kimonos, writing about the significance of her family’s kimonos as cultural items and urging designers to consider if another name might work.

She was one of a number blocked from the Instagram page, after being tagged by the company in a follow-up post.

Kim told the Guardian she did not expect small businesses to be perfect, but did expect they would react to criticism with “empathy and awareness”.

“When Papercut Patterns deleted my comments and blocked BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, and people of colour] accounts who called for change, they demonstrated what can go wrong when a company fails to demonstrate empathy in rectifying a racially insensitive mistake,” Kim says. “Companies that label themselves as ethical/inclusive/sustainable have an obligation to take responsibility for the harm they inflict, to mitigate that harm, to address how their mistakes are at odds with their values, and to proactively support inclusivity beyond public relations.”

This process, Kim says, is “emotionally and intellectually labour-intensive for the marginalised” who challenge companies on “cultural and racial harm,” but is often “twisted into a business’s redemption story rather than a visible change in practice and awareness.”

This is absurd.  There was no harm inflicted on anyone by calling a boxy jacket a “kimono”. What people like Kim and Ito are doing is trying to gain victim status by claiming some ineffable harm and racism. And the claim that challenging misnamed kimonos is “emotionally an intellectually labour-intensive for the marginalized” is simply ludicrous. Asians in the West are simply not marginalized, despite their numerous claims. (I admit that, yes, some people do show an ignorance of Asians that can come out as offensive.)  But in general Asians are so not marginalized that they’re disproportionately represented in American higher education, which is fine with me since, as a group, they are high achievers. Harvard, in fact, had to confect a way to reduce the number of Asian and Asian-American students they admit, a practice that’s now the subject of a discrimination lawsuit. But it’s not the kind of discrimination that comes with true marginalization, as with African-Americans.

This will not stop until people stop catering to it. (It becomes harder, of course, if you think your business is at risk.) As Andrew Sullivan wrote recently, “You need to learn how to ignore abuse in the public square; you need to live with the fact that people will lie about you; you have to set boundaries and stick to them.” And you have to ignore the outraged. If there’s true harm, rectify it. But this isn’t the case here. I ask those who hounded this woman: what harm was truly done here, except to your feelings? Are Asians now even more oppressed than they were before? 

And I wonder whether this kind of nonsense will ever abate, or if it’s a one-way ratchet that, since it’s seen as “moral behavior,” will continue for the foreseeable future. I’m glad I don’t sew!

The Quillette article, by Kathrine Jebsen Moore, an amateur “sewist”, continues a report on another shitshow (earlier described here),  in which Karen Templer, a disabled designer and activist for disabled rights, was demonized for one of her blog posts.

Templer was excited about going to India, and wrote this:

I’ve wanted to go to India for as long as I can remember. I’ve a lifelong obsession with the literature and history of the continent. Photos of India fill me with longing like no other place. One of my closest friends [when I was 12] and her family had offered back then that if I ever wanted to go with them on one of their trips, I could. To a suburban midwestern teenager with a severe anxiety disorder, that was like being offered a seat on a flight to Mars. … Then about six weeks ago, the opportunity presented itself—a chance to go with a friend who’s been.

. . . I said yes. And I felt like the top of my head was going to fly off, I was so indescribably excited. Within 48 hours, three of those friends of mine who are so much better travelers than me—but who are all equally humbled at the idea of actually going to India—also said yes. There has hardly been a single day since that I haven’t said in disbelief, either in my head or out loud, I’m going to India.

“A seat on a flight to Mars” was what did it.  And oy, did the outrage erupt! (Again, the choice of words may not have been felicitous, but it was neither racist nor anti-Indian. Clearly she meant that she was being given a chance to visit a country very unlike America. I felt exactly the same way on my first trip to India in the 1970s.)

Here’s some of the outrage:

One of the first people to attack Templer was a user named Alex J. Klein who wrote:

Karen, I’d ask you to re-read what you wrote and think about how your words feed into a colonial/imperialist mindset toward India and other non-Western countries. Multiple times you compare the idea of going to India to the idea of going to another planet—how do you think a person from India would feel to hear that?

Templer politely explained that Mars and India both felt unattainable to her as a child. This comparison did not strike her as imperialist, but she promised to give the matter some thought. “I have had responses from several Indian friends and readers today,” she added, “who had nothing but positive and encouraging responses. I’ll have to see if anything I said offended them.” Evidently unimpressed, Klein retorted:

Instead of asking your Indian friends to perform more emotional labor for you and assuage your white women’s tears, maybe do some reflection on how your equation of India with an alien world reinforces an “other” mindset that is at the core of imperialism and colonialism.

“I want to say this gently,” a comment from a user identified only as Sarah began, “because I can tell your intent is to share your personal evolution and celebrate facing your fear of the unknown, and that’s great. I just need to point out that there’s a lot of “othering” happening in this post.” She went on to explain that, “Your post upset some of my friends who aren’t white [and] who didn’t grow up in America,” and advised Templer to engage in “a little more reflection before you equate India with Mars.”

Templer wasn’t equating India with Mars in any harmful sense, but in the sense that it was a place very unlike America. The outrage, as usual, was disproportional to the “offense”.  You can read more about the hatred and virtue flaunting on Quillette, but it’s worth looking at the end of Moore’s piece, including Templer’s apology—perhaps necessary because she has a good business that she didn’t want to damage.

For anyone unfamiliar with the jargon of contemporary anti-racism, the criticism of Templer reflects the movement’s more general critique of Western society. Overt racism, which anyone would agree is abhorrent, is not their main focus; rather, they are preoccupied with identifying subtle, implicit, and often unconscious manifestations of bias which, by their nature, are almost impossible to refute. In this fraught climate, writers may be shamed as racists, irrespective of their good intentions which are held to be irrelevant. As Jonathan Haidt, the American social psychologist, observed during a recent conversation with Joe Rogan, “It doesn’t matter what the intent was, all that matters is the impact—how the person felt.” When confronted with accusations of bigotry, white people are expected to confess to their primordial sins, repent by acknowledging their racial privilege, and to resolve to “do better.” Only then may they be granted absolution by the anti-racist clergy.

As outrage spread across Instagram’s knitting community, Templer published a new post on her blog entitled “Words Matter,” in which she prostrated herself before her critics and asked for their forgiveness:

I have hurt, angered and disappointed a lot of people this week with my insensitive post about my upcoming trip to India and my handling of the response, and I am deeply sorry about it. I’ve spent the week listening hard, learning (in part about how much more I have to learn), and thinking about all of the things I can do to be more inclusive and supportive of people of color.

She reassured everyone that she was “shocked at herself” and was now reading The Origin of Others by Toni Morrison, as instructed.

To those of you who say that this is fringe and not mainstream Leftism, well, yes, you’re right—#NotAllLeftists evince this kind of fascistic outrage. But take my word, it’s spreading, and although some say the pendulum will swing back, I’m not so sure.

And yes, of course this stuff isn’t as bad as what Trump does to America on a daily basis, but you can read about that at other places. Let us try to stem the rot in our own communities. We won’t be able to do that, though, until we overcome our fear of being called racists when we’re not, and until we refuse to cower before the Outrage Brigade.


123 thoughts on “The sewing and knitting communities go woke and toxic

  1. At times like this, it’s important to note – it’s all part of god’s plan.. one of them, in any case. The plan too.

    1. LOL!
      WTF is a sewist?? I have been sewing and weaving and occasionally knitting since I was 8 or 9 and would never consider such an inelegant label. I have even, heaven forbid, made all kinds of clothes for my white-assed self and others out of African fabrics and Indonesian fabrics, etc. and even once a silk kimonoish jacket (not to mention the Austrian dirndls I’ve made and worn.) It’s all a tribute to the originals, ffs. Why do we Americans not get our knickers in a twist when the entire world wears jeans and eats hamburgers?? I remember being in Scandinavia in 1977 and seeing a ton of UCLA sweatshirts whose owners didn’t even know where UCLA was…Get a life, people🤯

      1. Same here. I (used to – can’t now because it causes pain) sew, knit, embroider, and do several other handcrafts. The term “sewist” also strikes me as inelegant, and I’d never heard it before. Even if I had, I’d never want to use it!

        And btw, when I read the comparison about going to Mars, I read it as an unobtainable goal, not the way these people who are looking for offence read it.

        I often wonder whether with some people who assume motives like racism etc., it’s because deep down, they’re racist (or whatever) themselves.

        1. I Ike the word sewist because it has so many joke opportunities. Whenever I’ve had the title “analyst”, I put the emphasis on the first syllable. ANALyst. I think my title just gets changed because people don’t want to hear me say it that way anymore.

            1. The stuff they got away with saying on that show! In the end they knew they were cancelled so they just kept pushing the envelope – hence the camel toe episode.

              1. Well, I’m glad they got ANUSTART on Netflix, even if it wasn’t nearly as good as the original three seasons…

  2. Don’t worry, “skeptics” such as Peter “Humanisticus” Ferguson and Thomas “Serious Inquiries” Smith will be along any second now to claim all this is a “hoax”.

  3. It frightens me that victimhood status is so coveted and so aggressively sought out. It’s partly the damage done to the so-called perpetrators (like the well-meaning sewing company), but perhaps even more so it’s the growing popularity of a counter-productive way of looking at the world. I tried to raise my kids the opposite way — to let things roll off, to heal themselves, to be forgiving.

    1. Thank goodness for people like you. We need more. My dead husband and I tried to raise our three wonderful “children as you raised yours. Primarily, we emphasized that all of humanity are members of the same family, regardless of ethnicity, culture, religion, sexuality, ability, political leanings, etc., deserving of care, respect, and, to the extent possible, love. Whether in response to our influence or their own, they have absorbed and reflect a relationship with all people. They make me so proud that they include all of humanity in “their” family.

  4. Virtue signalling and bullying is very attractive to people. They don’t have to do good and can instead express outrage to demonstrate goodness. I abhor it. When it happens to me I give a thoughtful “fuck you assholes” to them. I refuse to yield. cedere nescio.

    1. Yeah, they reap what they sew **

      ** yes I know – whoever you are that’s about to go literary Nazi on me 🙂

        1. There is a funny joke about an Ancient Greek going to a tailor. The tailor ask#, “Euripides” and the client says “yeah, Eumenides”?

      1. Haha. That’s a good one but I love puns and tolerate all of Ant’s so it may be a weird compliment.

    2. Hell, it gives them the opportunity to be horrible bullies and be hailed as/feel like heroes. It’s a complete inversion of the real world, at least as it used to be. Now, you can bully people into crying or even destroy their lives out of vindictiveness and be hailed as a great person, perhaps even being written up in popular media and all over segments of social media as a warrior for justice. It harnesses the worst and most tribalistic impulses of humanity and makes them positive attributes.

      1. Yep and you get to be proud for pounding someone into pulp verbally and depending on who it is maybe even physically. These people disgust me.

        1. Good for you for not yielding. Most people, corporations, politicians, etc. still haven’t figured out that these jerks are like any other bullies: you have to stand up to them, not shrink and apologize.

    3. Absolutely right Diana. These people gain power with every person who apologizes to them.

  5. I almost thought from the headline that this would be a humorous joke-post.

    I love the internet for so many things, but has been pointed out by many others it does tend to bring out the rather worst in some folks.

    Once, I joined a fish forum, after happily bringing home a tank and some fresh-water tropicals from the pet store. I was so excited! I detailed my new set up and asked for some basic advice. Shortly thereafter, I was reamed. I was accused of being an evil person who the industry relied upon to perpetuate its cruel and unusual punishment on fish. I was told my tank was wrong, and that no decent human would buy their fish before cycling the tank (fishless, of course). I mean, it went on and fucking on. This reminds me of that. I don’t have much to say about the kimono shirt (which hell, did look reminiscent of a kimono), but the other poster – what was the goal of reprimanding them so? Don’t we want people to be excited about and to visit other cultures? Isn’t that the cure for small-mindedness?

    I think I’ve mentioned before that I fall into a group called ‘third culture kids’. We were raised outside of our passport cultures, with no intention of immigrating nor any good idea of when, or if, we would return to our passport country. We moved, most of us, every three or so years (or more often) and did our best to assimilate to each new country we would reside in. I’m sure these culture-appropriation warriors would be scandalized by our attempts. And yet, I think these people, now grown, are some of the best ambassadors for humanity I could imagine.

    tl;dr – These people are not helping their cause nor their case.

    1. OMG fish forums are he worst. I left one after I had misidentified my plecos. I have kept tropical fish for 30 years and my parents kept them before that. I’ve had various set ups and currently have a 65g long, a 8g cube a 2.5g cube, a 5g and a 6g. These are using US gallons because Canada is weird and that’s how we talk about our fish tanks. Anyway, I had two plecos that turned out to be common plecos but I got them as babies and they were sold as bushynose plecos. This happens a lot. I suspect it was more a tank mix up when I got them. I posted them online misidentifying them as bushynose. This one woman told me they were common plecos. So I asked her how she could tell. I wanted to know as I’d never had plecos before. Well she took this as a challenge and reamed me. She said she didn’t want to have a conversation with someone so ignorant that I couldn’t even tell the difference. I ended up leaving that group. But I’ve seen this behaviour often in fish groups. They are heavily moderated and people get banned all the time. Ipoh fish groups! It plays into my theory that humans find a way to ruin everything. It just takes one. I see this in every type of social activity. It’s why I have no interest in participating in anything.

      If you have a fish question, don’t go to them, you can ask me and I can try to answer. 🙂

      1. “It’s why I have no interest in participating in anything.”

        Me neither.

        Wanna form a group?

    2. I’m probably kind of a third-culture kid myself, and always loved immersing myself in different cultures (food, clothing, humor, etc.) without completely drowning in any single one of them.

    3. “Don’t we want people to be excited about and to visit other cultures? Isn’t that the cure for small-mindedness?”

      And the other cultures want us to visit and “appropriate” from them! That’s the best part. These economically privileged Americans go around lecturing everyone on how offensive and evil and colonialist and whatever x-ist they are, while the people they’re pretending to defend are asking, “what the fuck is going on?” Remember when a bunch of millenials protested the Boston museum for letting people try on kimonos as part of a celebration of Japanese culture? Turns out Japanese people think it’s an honor if you want to sample their culture. Almost all cultures want you to try their own cultures. And then there’s the economic side. Of course, none of these idiots have ever thought to themselves, “gee, if we tell people they’re not allowed to wear authentic clothes from X or own authentic goods from Y, those often significantly poorer cultures are suddenly going to lose a lot of money!”

      Hell, I’ve seen moral busybodies like this chastise people on Facebook for being white and having the gall to go and build houses or wells in a non-white part of the world. It goes that far. They’ll freak over anything.

      And, like Diana says above me, any group can be infected by simple assholes. It doesn’t matter what the subject or hobby is, there will always be people who will turn it into a way for them to feel either morally or intellectually superior by bullying others.

  6. Harvard, in fact, had to confect a way to reduce the number of Asian and Asian-American students they admit, a practice that’s now the subject of a discrimination lawsuit.

    Harvard also, er, confected a way to increase the number of blacks, so the statement:
    “But it’s not the kind of discrimination that comes with true marginalization, as with African-Americans” doesn’t make any sense since blacks are not actually “marginalized” in any way, whether at Harvard of just about anywhere else.

    If anything, it’s just the opposite, e.g. as at Harvard: Asians are actually “marginalized”, whatever that word actually means, and blacks are actively promoted (in college admissions, in government hiring and government contracting and in private hiring where gov’t contracts are involved = probably most big companies)

  7. As many folks–smarter than me–have pointed out, this current outrage trend is really about “offensive” language. Hmm . . . I seem to recall a great philosopher of the past who had ideas about a number of offensive words. His ideas about those words eventually became a stand-up routine, and, for me at least, led me to hear them in a different way. Do you believe in reincarnation?

        1. While culling my bloated library, I mentioned to my GF that I found the 7th Dalai Lama a much better writer than the 13th. Then I added, “of course, they’re actually the same writer.”

  8. I’m sick of this sort of BS. In the last three weeks I’ve seen both Hamlet and SIX at the Chicago Shakespeare theatre. The prince of Denmark, and his mother, were played by African American actors (not even African-Danes!) and in SIX, three of the wives of Henry VIII were black and one was Asian. These were all fine performances. The point of acting is to portray a character and entertain an audience. I know the first black Othello got some resistance but that was in early Victorian London, things have moved on. There were no vocal calls to boycott the CST performances, and if there had been they would have been roundly, and rightly mocked and ignored. I think we are all capable of suspending disbelief enough to understand that an actor is not the character portrayed and we can suppress our faux indignation that a pattern name doesn’t demean the cultural origins of a garment.

    1. But racism is race plus power so it would be racist to complain about non white actors but you are okay if you’re punching up. Jeez get with the offence hierarchy, man! 😜

  9. Sewists ought to consider from whom they appropriated the art of sewing, and just stop practicing their culture-demeaning behavior. Oh, and they have to stop writing. The letters they use were stolen from Semitic Middle-Eastern people several millennia ago.

  10. Emi Ito, a campaigner against cultural appropriation, is a joke. There is no more culturally appropriative country than Japan, from tempura (from the Portuguese) and characters (from the Chinese) to cameras and cars. As long as she doesn’t rant against tempura, I solemnly vow to not take her seriously.
    “…you compare the idea of going to India to the idea of going to another planet—how do you think a person from India would feel to hear that?” Well, first of all she compared her feelings of the idea, a Great Experience, to a trip to Mars, and secondly, if I were Indian, I would most probably feel flattered.
    [Note, it is unwise to visit a country with such extremely high expectations, you might be in for a disappointment.]
    This whole idea of cultural appropriation is ridiculous.
    I’d only go for cultural exploitation or theft as when eg. a pharmaceutical company uses and markets a traditional tribal medicine without involving, and sharing the benefits with, the tribe in question.

    1. “… a pharmaceutical company uses and markets a traditional tribal medicine without involving, and sharing the benefits with, the tribe in question.”

      The case involving Allergan and the Saint Regis Mohawks is a good illustration of this (quotes to prevent inadvertent embedding);


      1. I should note that the tribe ultimately lost their patent claims, for very good reasons. The wiki highlights those.

    2. All the Indian people I’ve known and met are happy to share their culture and they would not care at all about that comment. They’d be happy someone was interested in their culture.

    3. And still the snowy Himalyas rise,
      In ancient majesty before our eyes,
      Beyond the plains, above the pines.
      While through the ever never changing land,
      As silently as any native band,
      That moves at night, the Ganges shine.
      Then I hear the song that only India can sing,
      Softer than the plumage on a black raven’s wing.
      High upon a minaret I stand
      And gaze across the desert sand,
      Upon an old enchanted land
      There the Maharaja’s caravan,
      Unfolding like a painted fan,
      How small the little race of man.
      See them all parade across the ages,
      All these kings and slaves from History’s pages,
      Laid on one of Nature’s vastest stages.
      The turbaned Sihks and beggars line the street,
      While holy men in shadowed calm retreat,
      Pray through the night and watch the stars,
      The loney crane flies off to meet the dawn,
      While down below the busy life goes on,
      And women crowd the old bazaar
      All are in the song that only India can sing,
      India, the jewel of the East!

      Music: Rimsky-Korsakov
      Lyrics: Johnny Mercer
      Recorded by: Mario Lanza

  11. I read an interesting comment the other day on a Reddit thread and I couldn’t help but find it insightful. In response to a Vox article that said the internet is controlled by, helps, and gives power to “conservatives” far more than to the Left, the commenter said that the reason so many people have decided to be anti-Left on the internet (I won’t say conservative because being against gate-keeping like that in the article above does not make one illiberal or conservative) is because we have seen an inversion of the conservative-progressive axis.

    In the 70’s and 80’s, it was conservatives who were the “fun police”; they wanted to gate-keep culture to keep people (especially the poor children!) from being exposed to horrible things like violent video games and explicit music lyrics. Over the past few years, it has been the far Left that has become the gate-keeping party, attempting to obtain and then wield the power of positions on the internet where they can pick and choose who and what content is allowed, all for the “good of society.”

    In the end, whether it’s progressives or conservatives, most normal people don’t like the fun police, and the progressives have become the fun police. Growing up under the conservative fun police, I never would have imagined this happening if someone told me back then that this would be how things shook out.

      1. I didn’t see that one, but for me, especially as a child of the 80’s who always loved video games and music, I never could have imagined that I would be in the position of opposing leftists who say the games I play and culture I watch/listen to need to be changed because they send the wrong messages or whatever. It was unthinkable until just a few years ago. This has become a big problem in video games in particular because getting gate-keeping positions is pretty easy for these people in that field. They only need to dominate some big message boards, the big “games journalism” websites, some indie awards shows, and maybe some HR departments. But their gambit has just driven people into the arms of Youtubers and independent “journalists” who are sometimes just decent people fighting back, but other times are also extreme right-wingers who are indoctrinating the people who have been turned off by the gate-keepers. So, while many people have just found alternate outlets for news and whatnot, others have unwittingly fallen into ideological traps. And, considering that the gaming community is actually filled with young, impressionable people, this whole gate-keeping may prove to have backfired a few years from now (assuming places like Youtube don’t kick off the people progressives don’t like. They’ve already demonetized nearly every one of them, including those that espouse no ideology at all and only review games).

      2. I didn’t see that one, but for me, especially as a child of the 80’s who always loved video games and music, I never could have imagined that I would be in the position of opposing leftists who say the games I play and culture I watch/listen to need to be changed because they send the wrong messages or whatever. It was unthinkable until just a few years ago. This has become a big problem in video games in particular because getting gate-keeping positions is pretty easy for these people in that field. They only need to dominate some big message boards, the big “games journalism” websites, some indie awards shows, and maybe some HR departments. But their gambit has just driven people into the arms of Youtubers and independent “journalists” who are sometimes just decent people fighting back, but other times are also extreme right-wingers who are indoctrinating the people who have been turned off by the gate-keepers. So, while many people have just found alternate outlets for news and whatnot, others have unwittingly fallen into ideological traps. And, considering that the gaming community is actually filled with young, impressionable people, this whole gate-keeping may prove to have backfired a few years from now (assuming places like Youtube don’t kick off the people progressives don’t like. They’ve already demonetized nearly every one of them, including those that espouse no ideology at all and only review games).

        1. As a child of the 70s, the rift and left united to tell us all not to play D&D, video games, or listen to metal (or rock) because Satan and such. It was bipartisan.

        2. As a child of the 70s, the rift and left united to tell us all not to play D&D, video games, or listen to metal (or rock) because Satan and such. It was bipartisan.

          1. Yeah, now that I think about it, Tipper Gore was all in on the “explicit lyrics are hurting our children” fiasco, and Hillary Clinton introduced the Family Entertainment Protection Act, which would have made video game age ratings lawful restrictions, as recently as November 29, 2005.

            Ah, the old days of “D&D is the devil’s game!” So funny, so sad, so stupid. Pretending to be a mage will have you participating in goat’s blood sex orgies while screaming “hail, Satan” in no time!

            Have you ever seen Frank Zappa’s speech in front of a Congressional committee regarding the PMRC? It’s great stuff. You probably have.

            1. ” . . . Tipper Gore was all in on the “explicit lyrics are hurting our children” fiasco.”

              Why was it a “fiasco”?

    1. That’s why I consider the woke not automatically as left. Some might be, but a sizeable portion isn‘t. The average woke person has views on sex and gender that are mainstream for Gen X and younger. Pro LGBTQx is mainstream; a non-issue.

      The Woke are however very identitarian about such categories, and suffer from the delusion that they are somehow brave when they say “racism is bad”. Like the Alt Right, they might be trapped in information bubbles that constantly bombard them with negative news — like Republican talk radio fear mongering, but for boring urban millenials with mainstream views who come to believe they are Rosa Parks, and want to look good in history. Their views are their Instagram profile and they want to let it be known that they are the “Good People” in this age.

      This, together with their acute attention on “safe spaces” and cultural purity (“cultural appropriation”) makes them seem indeed outright like a new form of right wing authoritarian. Law and Order and all. We just don’t see it that way, because having internet neighbours to gain approval from, and to put your best pious face forward, and dress decently on Sunday, but on Twitter, that’s barely ten years old.

    2. BJ, you’re so right about the ‘fun police’. They just know that if somebody is enjoying themselves, there must be something wrong. Enjoyment is sin.

      The people I distrust and detest are authoritarians of any political colour, and they as often come from the left as from the right these days. (A fact which I, as an old leftist, find distressing, even though, as an old cynic, I shouldn’t find it surprising).


      1. Yes, I don’t care what side you’re from, don’t try to gate-keep my hobbies, don’t try to tell me how to run my life, and don’t tell me what is and isn’t good for me unless you have serious and replicable research to back it up.

        Progressives on the internet and in Hollywood/comedy have managed to make being conservative transgressive, which is utterly bonkers if you think about it. It just goes to show that, no matter which side gains cultural power, they will use it to silence the other. Up until maybe ten or fifteen years ago, it was the Left whose comedy was transgressive, and it had always been that way.

  12. “trying to gain victim status”

    Not entirely apropos, but I was recently put off by a reference in a newsletter from my Oregon State senator (a Dem, of course) to “the LGBTQ+ community.” Is there really such a “community”? And if so, what exactly does the “+” stand for. If the point is to avoid excluding/offending any as yet unidentified group, I suggest that we simply start referring to “the alphabet community.”

    1. As a relatively recent Washington resident that lived many years in Oregon, I still get messages from Oregon’s politicians. I received that newsletter. I may have been too clueless to be put off by his LGBTQ+ reference. I think such “groups” often consider themselves “community” whether they live together or not. Like experiences can create a “community”; perhaps, the only kind such people may feel they have. My reaction to this person’s attempts at letting his constituency know what he believes and what he is doing has always been positive. In general, I think Oregon has some of the best politicians in the country.

    1. It would have been funny to interject that amongst the bullying & start a whole other fight about the word “bitch”.

  13. “Ito is a teacher and ethical fashion advocate”

    That description is a warning; the semantic equivalent of the “Can I Speaker To Your Manager” haircut.

    Uh-oh, here comes trouble…


  14. The story of the sewists were hilarious, and show why parody has become almost impossible nowadays. I liked the description of one crybully as an “ethical fashion advocate”; and also the offense on behalf of India by one named Alex Klein (one wonders if he or she was of the Marathi or Gujarati Kleins).

    Long ago—back when parody was possible—I published an account of how my Jewish-Polish family had migrated to Japan to develop the Mitsubishi Galant automobile. It is at: .
    A good thing this was before the days of, uhhh, advocates of “ethical fashion” in jackets, metaphors, and automobile names.

  15. I think the “anti-appropriation” concept had a legitimate start, in denouncing derogatory stereotypes such as Step-n-Fetchit and Chief Wahoo. But then a nonsensical leap was made in deciding that using or displaying anything that’s even vaguely associated with a specific culture is an act of demeaning that culture.

    Which is a shame, because it nullifies the original good aim of dispensing with racist stereotypes.

    1. Not that it hasn’t always happened, this rewriting of history with eradication of historical symbols and acts that are no longer considered appropriate by those living in the present. I think it does all of us a grave disservice to try to whitewash past individuals, countries, literature, behavior, etc. We must, somehow, learn about the past as it was in order to ensure that we don’t make the same mistakes now. And, humans have always included a range of beliefs, behaviors and acts from “good” to “bad”. Please show me any one individual who was all “good” or all “bad”. And, also show me universal agreement on “good” and “bad” by humanity.

  16. I wonder if they’re aware that the word ‘kimono’ is used all over the place in mass produced fashion, and means everything from ‘a flowy floral cardigan or swimsuit cover’ in women’s clothing to ‘a onesie in any style or material that happens to snap on the side and not the middle’ in baby clothing. Neither here nor there, as they may be equally outraged at big businesses over their use of the word, but given how common it is and the seeming lack of protest over it in other venues, I am curious.

    1. In fact the word kimono has a very generic meaning— which is ‘wearing thing’ — or perhaps in better English ‘clothing’. As an aside, the photograph shows the jacket closing right over left, as do women’s clothing in western countries. In Japan all such clothing closes left over right, except when the wearer is dead, and then it is right over left.

  17. Sad to see.
    I spend some time with two great online communities: mountain biking and guitar. Not a whiff of any of this. Completely supportive, giving, creative, fun. Makes me wonder how a community can descend into this ridiculousness. Anyone see this in other “hobby” groups?

    1. Yep any fish or aquarium group as mentioned up thread. I also once was in a guinea pig forum and some poor kid was bullied by adults for his very nice guinea pig set up that he built. It’s not all this woke crap but the piling on ans bullying is.

    2. I would bear in mind that this is an article about a group of hobbyists who most of the readers here will not be that au fait with, and that stories like this aren’t necessarily as representative as they seem to be.

      The number of times people have asked me about such and such a political issue in a hobby I’m interested in and I just look at them blankly is enormous, and not just because my default expression is blank. From outside it’s easy to characterise every other community as in perpetual ferment, wailing and gnashing and tearing each other apart. Then you ask them about it and they look at you like you’re mad.

      1. I’m a member of the online knitting community Ravelry, which has about 7 million knitters and crocheters registered on it over the past 10 years. The situation about the trip to India led to one discussion thread, started by the owner of Ravelry, about what the site could do to be more welcoming of people from diverse backgrounds. The thread garnered 800 comments, in a civil discussion.

        This was five months ago, and the trip to India issue hasn’t come up since then. What happens in one corner of the Instagram knitting world, does not encompass all the variety and interests of the online knitting and crochet community. It certainly has not become a toxic cesspool of accusations and repercussions.

        There was more angst on the site, in a discussion about caring for wool garments, when a Norwegian knitter proudly proclaimed that Americans don’t know how to properly care for wool sweaters. One can imagine the uproar.

        1. I’m not surprised. But because of articles like this you’d be forgiven for believing that the online knitting community is a bunch of lunatics.

          I always take articles about unfamiliar groups with a pinch of salt. The media have a tendency to simplify stories to the point where all subtlety and nuance is crushed into the dirt.

  18. I have a much beloved sister in law who is deeply, deeply into sewing, weaving, and quilting. She is widely connected to an online community of fellow sewists, but I am sure she would not recognize this variety of her species. In fact, she is fairly conservative.


    1. It will happen. Once while training my dog in a large class, the trainer looked at me then singled me out by saying “smile Diana it isn’t that bad”. I guess she thought my face was ugly and took that as a commentary on who I was as a person. I was honestly just listening and minding my own business.

          1. Holy shit. Good thing the teacher wasn’t a man and you weren’t Captain Marvel, or you would have broken her arm and then stolen thousands of dollars worth of her property while leaving her stranded on the side of the road (have you seen that deleted scene?!?).

            1. HAHA. I have et even seen Costigan marvel let alone the deleted scene. I was lucky to see End Game finally but Bill Maher spoiled it for me.

      1. I got yelled at for being “immature” for being on the wrong foot in a ballet class for adults which Robert Joffrey, of the Joffrey Ballet Company, offered at Berkeley one summer. Thankfully his underlings took over the remaining classes.

      2. I take it that you, “situationally aware” of the “Big Picture,” bit your tongue, did not respond so as to keep the peace?

        Of course, why should you have to so bite? I have similarly held my tongue in several such situations over the years. I’m not going to do it anymore. By Zeus, you paid your money, and had no less right to sound off, in response to the snarky, smarmy instructor, than did the instructor, eh?

        1. Yes and I did it for my dog. I wanted her to be trained but I should have just walked the hell out right then and there and told them at the front desk that I don’t appreciate being singled out like that in class for my face.

  19. “Sewist” sounds like an insult a knitter would call you, but you know how Knitters are. Yeah, I’m an anti-knittite, what of it?

  20. Goddamn! Do we need another world war or something to give these people a perspective of their pettiness?

  21. They seem not to have discovered old folk songs. Particularly egregious, as the audience would sing along to the scandalous chorus on Pete Seeger’s All Mixed Up:

    You know this language that we speak,
    Is part German, Latin and part Greek
    Celtic and Arabic all in a heap,
    Well amended by the people in the street
    Choctaw gave us the word “okay”;
    “Vamose” is a word from Mexico way.
    And all of this is a hint I suspect of what comes next.

    I think that this whole world
    Soon mama my whole wide world
    Soon mama my whole world
    Soon gonna be gettin’ mixed up.
    Soon mama my whole world
    Soon mama my whole wide world
    Soon mama my whole world
    Soon gonna be gettin’ mixed up.

    I like Polish sausage, I like Spanish rice,
    And pizza pie is also nice
    Corn and beans from the Indians here
    Washed down by German beer
    Marco Polo traveled by camel and pony,
    He brought to Italy, the first macaroni
    And you and I as well as we’re able,
    We put it all on the table


    There were no red-headed Irishmen
    Before the Vikings landed in Ireland
    How many Romans had dark curly hair
    Before they brought slaves from Africa?
    No race of man is completely pure,
    Nor is anyone’s mind, that’s for sure
    The winds mix the dust of every land,
    And so will woman and man.

    This doesn’t mean we will all be the same,
    We’ll have different faces and different names
    Long live many different kinds of races
    It’s difference of opinion that makes horse races
    Just remember the rule about rules, brother
    What could be right for one could be wrong for the other
    And take a tip from La Belle France: “Viva la difference!”

    1. I wonder how many Anglo-Saxons east of the Mississippi and south of the Mason-Dixon line (where I grew up) know that “America” is derived from the first name of the Italian Amerigo Vespucci?

      (Even this site’s spellcheck questions the spelling of “Amerigo.”)

  22. I was really surprised to hear that a Japanese person had entered the kimono debate on the side of the cultural authoritarians, so I spent some time reading her work. I quickly found all the far left buzzwords being used, and noted that she describes herself as a person of mixed race and a transracial adoptee. I might suggest that she is expressing some of her own complications of identity here.
    But almost none of the “Japanese Appropriation” people bother to even identify as Japanese. Typically, they seem to be US born Chinese-Americans.

    I will say it again- You do not earn a kimono by some sort of initiation. It is not awarded. You buy them in a department store.
    Unlike Ms. Ito, I still have Kimono and related garments that I wore for sports and on special occasions when I attended Japanese schools as a young child.

    More generally,people do not seem to understand the remedy to bullying behavior.
    And this is certainly bullying. I have seen no real evidence that any of these people have been harmed in any way by what they call appropriation. Most of them are being offended on behalf of a different group anyway.
    But an act of submission to a bully never stops the bullying. This seems to be true for all the recent cases if have been hearing about.
    No apology is going to be sufficient, because it is not really about the kimono or whatever.

    One aspect of the whole callout culture that I think is important is that people are motivated to submit or be silent because of fear. Fear of losing one’s livelihood, or of being doxxed and threatened, or simply of being shunned from one’s community.
    In previous instances where fear has been used against people, there always comes a time when the power balance shifts, and the victims come to the realization that the bully no longer holds the power. The fear turns to rage.

    1. Agreed with all of that.

      But every culture has its fuckwits, I don’t suppose there’s any reason why the Japanese should be an exception.


  23. Of all the stupid things to complain about, this takes the cake! What it shows me is to avoid the “sewist community” as I would any other bunch of dangerous lunatics. How on Earth did a tailoring club become infected with the mental illness called Political Correctitude? what’s the connection between cloth and hysteria?

      1. Elim Garak would never get involved with politics. He’s just a simple tailor…

        He’s also my favorite Star Trek character of all time. Andrew Robinson is the best!

        1. I’m partial to Gowron because I like how his eyes go wide when he says “Glory to you & your house” and how the cadence in that sentence is Christopher Walken-like.

          1. Don’t get me wrong, Gowron is the fucking man. That actor was perfect. Even though Gowron came from TNG, the casting department at DS9 is one of the best ever.

            But, Gowron got overconfident. Dude didn’t know how to run a war. Worf had to do him in and then rightfully give the Chancellorship to Martok, who was even more of the man than the man!

            And Kira Nerys and Jadzia Dax were the two most badass ladies ever to grace Trek. Major Kira was originally supposed to be played by Michelle Forbes (in a continuation of her role as Ro Laren). I wonder how that would have gone. I can’t imagine anyone else being as cool and smoldering with anger and violence just beneath the surface as Grandmother Frequenter (AKA Nana Visitor).

            But nobody beats Elim Garak for me. Every scene he’s in, no matter how short, no matter how few words he says, is just riveting. He conveys so much with the inflection on a single syllable or a slight smirk or raise of an eyebrow. I love him. I get tingly just thinking about him, which is weird because this is a sensation I usually associate with thinking about someone like Terry Farrell 🙂

            1. Yeah I liked Martok as a Klingon but I liked Gowron for the facial expressions.

              And Sisko was the best captain. I loved when he met Picard and he was super pissed and “fuck you Picard you killed my wife at Wolf 359” when everyone else venerated Picard. And how he was “I don’t want to be in stupid Star Fleet and I don’t want to me the Emissary” and “Vic’s holodeck Vegas is inaccurate because black people weren’t allowed in Vegas back then”. He’s just great!

              1. It’s so weird that, in those first few episodes — hell, maybe the entire first season — I was very unsure of whether I could watch the show with Sisko as captain. I just didn’t like how Avery Brooks portrayed him. But boy did he grow on me! There’s no captain with whom I’d rather go into battle or for whom I’d rather work. I’d basically want Sisko for any situation but two: being his second in command and purely diplomatic missions. I don’t think one can deny that, when it comes to diplomacy like making first contact, getting treaties done, etc., Picard is the one you want. Sisko is a bit too quick to anger and might overplay at hardball.

                I also loved how Sisko didn’t give a shit about the Bajorans’ whole “you’re totally our prophet and the wormhole aliens love ya!” thing. I do find it unfortunate that, toward the end, Sisko and, more importantly, the show, accepted the the Bajoran religion was real. I mean, the plot with the wraiths of the Fire Caves really detracts from the finale and the final season in general. I never liked the idea of Trek actually giving confirmation to religious belief, rather than rejecting it.

                Still, DS9 is my favorite overall Trek. The overarching plot starting late in season two makes it more cohesive than any other Trek series, it has so many unique characters, it has Morn…I could go on, but nobody wants me to. Trust me…

                Oh, do you think Morn was a reference to Norm on Cheers? That’s always been my theory. I love Morn. Always chatting up everybody and telling stories. The writers used him brilliantly.

  24. If there’s any community more toxically woke than the Young Adult Fiction (YAF) community, it’s the online sewing community.

    They need some sort of pipe to take away the toxicity. What shall we call it…..?

    …. the sewers’ sewer.

  25. My instinctive response would be short, extremely rude, and dismissive. They’re all full of it.

    I hasten to acknowledge that (according to some posts above) not all ‘sewists’ are like this.

    As a side issue, I was reflecting last night on the abuse of the English language inherent in ‘woke’. ‘Woke’ is the past tense of a verb. It is not, and never was, an adjective or a noun.

    Maybe I’m being too pedantic about this, but if politically correct idiots can raise a shitstorm over the alleged incorrect use of a word, I would have thought they should accord some respect to the correct vocabulary and grammar of the language they’re using and never perpetuate abominations like ‘woke’. A pox on them all.


  26. If I had worked for the Papercut Patterns company I would have pointed out to Kim that it was rather patronizing and ethnically insensitive for her, as a Korean to think she needs to stand up for Japanese culture. Then I would have asked Ito if she apologizes for Japans large scale ethnically motivated murders in China and Korea and its forcing Korean women into prostitution for the Japanese IMPERIAL army.

    I wonder if that would have stirred up the hornet’s nest?

  27. “Asians in the West are simply not marginalized, despite their numerous claims.”

    Has the situation seriously changed? I’m not trying to argue here. I’m trying to learn and find out what has changed in the last 60 years.

    Back in the very late ’50’s or very early ’60’s, here in central PA, a little Japanese-American girl died.

    The cemetery would not allow her to be buried because she was not white. And this wasn’t some private church sort of place, it’s one of the big main cemeteries around here.

    Well! What a huge furor this caused! People were furious that this cemetery would refuse this well-loved Japanese family burial of their child! There was overwhelming protest at this, and the cemetery changed their policy and the little girl was buried.

    In the early ’80’s a Japanese-American Penn State professor who had been in the WWII camp as a child reported that when he went to Europe he was treated very differently (better) than he was treated in the US, and that there were still painful difficulties for Asian people.

    Now, that was a few decades ago. Gay people have made lots and lots of progress in all that time, going from despised and hated to being well accepted to a great extent, although ugly stuff still happens.

    How is it for Asian people? Is the situation much better now? I’m not looking to be disagreeable. I’m looking for information.

  28. I am an Indian by birth and much of my schooling + uni was done there, and to be honest I don’t see an iota of so-called anti-Indian, colonialist or imperialist mumbo-jumbo in that phrase – “A seat on a flight to Mars”.

    I used to think that sarcasm is a double-edged sword, now even a plain statement of one’s emotional state can be misconstrued into a strange, political symbol of “white man’s apathy for India”. In this day and age, these “woke” folks can’t let go of the “white man saves an ignorant Indian chap” attitude??

    Seriously? And “they” call out others attitude as colonialistic? Sigh!

    1. Hello, Shabbeer…I visited India for three weeks back in 1982. I was fascinated and found everything so beautiful. Now I fear I must be an imperialist colonial oppressor for having warm and positive feelings about India. Shame on me for liking Indian food, and finding India so colorful – oh, the sari merchants with their wares hanging on display in front of the stalls! And smells of cooking and spices everywhere, wonderful! (I was in Austin Texas in 1992, and all over the place it smelled like a picnic! Here in central Pennsylvania there are none of those wonderful smells.)

      In this day and age I don’t know how to do anything right. So I just accept that I will be considered Wrong in certain venues.

  29. Love this post and totally agree.

    I am a sewer (not a sewist WTF!!!) as well as a knitter and can’t believe this whole cultural appropriation saga as well as the Mars thing.

    I found a great little video that was shot at Navajo Nation and the museum guide there said that this “outrage has become a recreational past time and this hurts cross cultural relationships and hinders us from understanding each other.”

    He also said that we can’t dwell on the past, progress is in the future and we have to look forward as native people.

    Cultures are amorphous, and no one owns them, which means that no one can grant you permission to adopt a piece of culture.

  30. This is interesting.

    From reading the excerpt about a flight to Mars, never once did it occur to me that she was making a comparison of America and India. Instead, my initial reaction was: oh, she was so excited because the DREAM OF VISITING INDIA WAS SO FAR FETCHED(due to her disability), AS IT IS THE LIKELIHOOD OF GOING TO MARS.

    As for other crazy sewists who see offence in everything around them (what’s new, really), I ignore them. I communicate with them if I want to, but I’m mostly happy being in my own little bubble of pretty fabric and new sewing patterns. I love sewing and I’m happy I’m sewing. Ain’t no crazy sewist gonna stop me.

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