Ravelympics

Well, since I still can't knit, I might as well blog. And if I'm going to blog, I might as well throw my two cents on the bandwagon and weigh in on this whole Ravelry/USOC situation that's been going down over the past day or so. My twitter page and blog feed have been blowing up with it, not to mention all the kerfluffle on Ravelry itself.

For those of you not in the know about this, coinciding with the Olympics, Ravelry hosts the Ravelympics. Knitters form teams, usually based on a common interest, and select projects that will force them to challenge themselves. These projects must be cast on no earlier than the opening ceremonies, and completed before the Olympic torch goes out. Crafters watch coverage of the Olympic games and cheer on their countries' athletes pushing their limits and breaking records as we worked on projects that pushed the bouderies of our own comfort zones. I think it's a fantastic idea, and fosters idea of teamwork and community and spreads excitement about the Olympics.

I participated in the Winter 2010 Ravelympics, and frankly it was the first time in my life I was actually interested in watching any Olympic coverage at all. To challenge myself, I chose to knit a February Lady Sweater. I had never knit a full sweater before; my first attempt was a seamed cardigan that I ended up frogging before I finished it, and a cropped raglan that I wouldn't call a "sweater" so much as I'd call it a "learning experience." Moreover, I had never knit anything large in such a short time frame. Due to an unfortunate feline-related incident that led to me having to reknit one of the sleeves, I did not finish before the extinguishing of the torch, but I still finished in record time for me: just 23 days, and that's including the week that I shoved it into time-out because I was disappointed and couldn't stand to work on it. Me, me, knitting a sweater, in just three weeks. I pushed my own limits, I broke my own records, and it was awesome.

Come this year, I'm starting to plan out my project, I'm figuring out which team to join, and generally looking forward to competing with my fellow crafters as I cheer on the best athletes the USA has. And then, it happened. The USOC's lawyer contacted Ravelry (through their lawyer) and sent a Cease and Desist letter (full text of the letter can be read in this article) regarding the fact that the name "Ravelympics" infringes upon the USOC's "intellectual property rights." If the letter that they'd sent had just stuck to those facts, and requested that Ravelry rename their event, there probably would have been some amount of squabbling about it before the whole thing blew over. But the letter didn't stop there. The letter offered the opinion that the USOC believes that using the name Ravelympics to describe a competition for knitting and crocheting "tends to denigrate the true nature of the Olympic Games.  In a sense, it is disrespectful to our country's finest athletes and fails to recognize or appreciate their hard work." (We'll just step past the irony that the original modern Olympics included knitting as an event...) And that is what caused thousands upon thousands of knitters to simultaneously lose their shit. Suddenly and violently and all over the internet.

I stayed out of the way and kept my opinions to myself during the first 24 hours of this when tempers were running so high. Today, several of the more prominent knit bloggers weighed in with their thoughts, most notably The Yarn Harlot, who created the idea of a knitting Olympics. Her response is, as one would expect from our lovely Harlot, thoughtful, eloquent, and very level-headed. She makes excellent points, and I certainly felt calmer after reading her thoroughly rational opinions of the matter. My own opinions, however, do fall more in line with those of Kay of Mason Dixon Knitting. Her post basically says that the main issue with the USOC's letter is not the fact that they want to change the name of Ravelry's event, but the condescending tone they take.

And that's precisely my issue with it as well. Claiming that our knitting "denigrates" the actual Olympics and is "disrespectful" to the athletes? No one ever claimed that knitting puts them on par with an Olympic athlete. That's not the issue. What is the issue is the out of hand dismissal of fiber arts as a craft worthy of any respect at all. They basically said "What you're doing is stupid and makes us look worse just by association."

Knitting is something that I work hard at, I am passionate about, and I practice for several hours each day -- more, if I can get away with it. It's not something where I clack my needles together and a completed afghan appears, it's a very time-intensive process that requires no small amount of skill and talent. Epic Wedding Shawl took me three months to knit. Jason's sweater is going to take me in the neighborhood of 70 hours of work. At this point, I could segue into an entire separate rant about just how undervalued fiber crafting is on the whole, but that's not what this is about.

The USOC issued an apology today, that basically boiled down to "Sorry you're upset, but we sent you a form letter. Also, yay knitting! Wanna send us things you knit?" Predictably, this didn't help the situation. Someone with half a brain apparently took away the keyboard and issued a much more sincere apology for the insensitive wording used previously, and for any hurt feelings caused by  the same.

That's where it stands now. We'll see where it goes from there. The story is still unfolding, and is being picked up by more and more news sources. Personally, I'm hoping Kay of Mason Dixon Knitting gets her way with her campaign to get this whole mess covered in Stephen Colbert's People Who Are Destroying America segment. I'd knit a pair of socks for that.

The one silver lining to this otherwise dark and gloomy storm? More people than ever now know about the Ravelympics and Ravelry, and more awareness for knitting is never a bad thing.