By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011
Moncton Times & Transcript
Last week, I wrote about becoming a man who knits. I’d finished one scarf and, since then, have completed another one and have a third on the go that will be finished by the end of the week. (That one is a gift to an unsuspecting reader, by the way.)
For now, scarves are my preferred creative outlet, however I’ll work my way up to hats, socks and gloves at some point. Knitting has fast become an addiction – even if I took the easy way out and opted not to use needles, but looms instead. I’m convinced that more people would knit if they only realized how easy it was to use looms.
There’s one thing that continues to gnaw at me, however, and I’ll admit right off the top that it’s completely sexist, ageist and, well, just plain dumb. Now that I’ve become a man who knits, I’m expecting a knock at my door at any minute from two large burly men who will demand my Man Card. I will tearfully hand it over. They will tear it up in front of me, recite some ancient incantation and then spit on my shoes. And that will be that. I’ll be officially out of the Testosterone Club.
I know, I know, if you know anything about the history of knitting, at one time men knitted just as much as women did (if not more) and there was certainly no stigma to it. As the popularity of knitting waned over recent decades, it seemed to have become the sole domain of the stereotypical little old lady. Everyone’s grandmother knitted, right?
I know I remember my paternal grandmother measuring my hands and feet on several occasions in order to knit me mittens and socks that would keep them warmer than if had I set them on fire using gasoline and a lit match.
This really isn’t a knitting issue, I guess. It’s really about stereotypes. If I see a woman knit, I don’t even think twice. If I see a man knit, I think, “Hide the children! Weirdo in the room!” Well, that would explain the women and children screaming and running away from me in recent weeks.
I still look twice when I see a female mechanic. I do the same with a male nurse.
In fact, nursing has become so synonymous with the female gender that we feel obliged to state the obvious when a man works in the nursing field, “He’s a male nurse.” It’s not only redundant, it’s sexist.
There are a whole slew of things that I have to admit I always do a double-take on – and that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with these things – it’s just not traditional. For instance, I still do a double-take on stay-at-home dads. When mothers work and dad stays at home, there’s zero wrong with that, but I still kind of do a double-take.
The same can be said for male elementary school teachers. I think you’d have better luck finding snow in hell sometimes – and I’m sure they’re out there – but my prejudices tell me that women are usually elementary school teachers. Men teach high school, however. That’s perfectly ‘normal,’ for instance.
Dogs are always male. Cats are always female. I hear that from a lot of people. I have two cats, a male and a female, and every time I look at my male cat, I think, “Shouldn’t you be a girl? Cats are supposed to be girls.”
I once had met a young lady in a car dealership who sold cars about 10 years ago. Oddly, it was the first time I’d ever met a woman selling cars and it was also the last time. Car salespeople, at least in my experience, tend to be male. Nearly every bakery I’ve ever gone into has female frontline staff. It’s extremely rare to find men working the cash in a bakery, at least in my experience. However, I do see them working as bakers.
Male secretarial support staff are rarer than hen’s teeth. It’s not often you see a male receptionist, either.
As much as we think things are changing between the sexes – and they are – we still have a long way to go, especially in people’s perceptions. I wonder how long it will be before a nurse who happens to be a man will stop being called a ‘male nurse?’ Probably around the same time a man who knits will stop being called a ‘male knitter.’ It’s only recently that I’ve stopped hearing ‘female doctor’ and ‘lady minister’ (in the religious sense).
As liberal-minded and as modern as I consider myself, I’m ashamed to admit that I still do those double-takes whenever I see someone in a job or activity that has traditionally been the domain of one gender or the other. I’m still getting used to seeing girls playing hockey, after all.
In a perfect world, we’d all feel free to follow our passions. Who cares if a man wants to be a nurse? Who cares if a woman wants to be mechanic? Who cares if a man wants to knit? Who cares if a mother works while the father stays home?
About the only things that limit us are anatomical considerations. No matter how liberal or optimistic I am, I doubt I’ll ever see a female sperm donor or a male wet nurse. When that happens, then I’ll really shake my head – and I hope I’ll be forgiven for it.
Until then, however, I’ll just keep knitting and hoping that I get over this weird feeling. And if you ever meet me on the street and run away screaming, I’ll forgive you – but you can forget ever getting on my scarf list!