Crocheters/knitters didn’t “intend” to denigrate. That’s not an apology USOC.


Ugh. To follow up on yesterday’s brouhaha with the Olympic Committee’s letter to Ravelry: Looks like we’ve hit the big time.  Crocheters and knitters took center stage in the news.

Gawker was the first to cover Ravelry’s plight. Though their take on the story handily left crocheters out of the picture.  Though I didn’t see it until later, seems next in the day was Hot Air with their article, “The Olympic Committee just messed with the wrong old ladies.” I don’t think too many of us appreciate their title, but they did write a fair article and also pointed out, like I did, that “knitting actually was an Olympic event at one time.”  My Google-Fu is strong.

It might have seemed it would pretty much stop there, but #ravelympics began trending on Twitter.  And before we knew it, NPR, New York Times and USA Today were all covering the debacle.  Albeit, with lots of references to women with pointy sticks.  Hey, we hookers are a part of the Ravelry community too you know!  However, Fearless Leader’s open letter to the USOC and Crochet Liberation Front was mentioned in two of those three.  That’s pretty something.  Still, I would have liked to have seen less humor and pointy stick references and a little more respect for an inappropriate use of language slung at a largely female demographic.  Journalists are having a field day with the puns in their coverage of #ravelympics.  We got attention alright, but there’s a few more snickering undercurrents than I would like.  Aren’t we so cute with our hooks and our sticks waving?

To sadden me further, New York Times reports that the organized “knit-in” turned up one lone person.  Well, that’s the way to be respected and set a precedence of ignoring anything any other group might unfairly experience at the hands of a large organization again.  And if a membership largely made up of women can make a lot of noise online, but not put their money where their mouth is and actually show up for a protest, what makes you think that helps any cause ever that involves women.  Good at being loud, but just don’t have the chutzpah to actually do something real.  If there were more peeps there, please, please post the pictures.

While many knitters seem to be quieting down, I’m still quietly crocheting a strip of bacon to mail in to the USOC.  It takes time I don’t really have, but I feel strongly that there needs to be a real and tangible response and not just a temporary internet roar.  Even if it does take some time, money and patience to do it on my part, there needs to be a reminder.  This can’t be the end of it.  And though I picked bacon for speed and ease of mailing, because if I could get it there today I would, I personally desire a demonstration of skill as well.  Though after the snip about accepting free hand-made items from us as a show of support, I also thought seriously about mailing them my crochet hook in protest instead. In fact, I like the idea of hooks and needles filling their office just about as well as bacon, crochet poop and an amigurumi middle finger – additional suggestions left by our tweeps and blog peeps yesterday.  Hmmm… An envelope dumping out a hook with a note that says “I will not crochet for you,” in principle feels rather satisfying actually.  I think I’ll reserve the right to change my mind today.

Jocks aren’t the only ones who work all their lives to hone a skill.  And I say that as a mother in a community that fosters and supports aspiring athletes.  My kids attend a charter school that was originally founded for children pursuing the Olympics and such.  A free school, I will point out.  I am friends with families of all walks of life who hold Olympic and athletically competitive dreams, poor and wealthy.  So I’m not ignorant of what it takes.  I know all too well the tears and stress on a family and the athletes and the skills required.

But if you want to compare breasts to balls, my skill will nurture and keep someone warm, even in the worst of times.  However, with the first apology’s reference to supporting us by asking for free handmade stuff, I’m not of the notion to send them anything they might enjoy too much.  I’ll hand-make and hand-deliver something to an Olympian any day.  Funneled through the USOC under that pretense?  I don’t think so.  Or at least I’m not convinced yet.

A second apology has been tacked on to the first from the USOC. I read it, but it’s still legalese. They said they know crocheters/knitters didn’t *intend* to denigrate or disrespect.  You can read it on the USOC website here.

Statement Update:

“As a follow-up to our previous statement on this subject, we would again like to apologize to the members of the Ravelry community. While we stand by our obligation to protect the marks and terms associated with the Olympic and Paralympic Movements in the United States, we sincerely regret the use of insensitive terms in relation to the actions of a group that was clearly not intending to denigrate or disrespect the Olympic Movement. We hope you’ll accept this apology and continue to support the Olympic Games.”

Ummm…. Excuse me? That’s not an apology.  I’ll bet you regret the use of the terms, but you’re still saying we denigrate and disrespect, but that you clearly see we did not intend to.  No, I don’t feel like accepting an apology written for public spin.  Words mean things.  And I will not infer for you what you have not said.

Additionally, the claim was made yesterday that the letter sent to Ravelry was a form letter. Hence, gee – it was nothing personal and we aren’t really responsible. One of our readers also kindly shared the link to a similarly approached letter sent to the “Redneck Olympics” which you can read here: http://lettersfromaway.wordpress.com/tag/redneck-olympics/.  The article includes photo copies of the entire letter they received.

Yes, it looks like the USOC cut and pasted phraseology from the “red neck” letter to ours, but I have failed to find this phraseology in any other posted letter from the USOC. Many people have received letters addressing trademark infringement, shared them with public and that part of course is not our issue with the letter to Ravelry.  The issue was the insulting language used against knitters and crocheters who were supporting and watching their teams.  We’re not even talking about a separate event that piggy-backs off the idea of an international sporting event.  We were supporting the real Olympics and encouraging ever more people to watch.  Hello.

Beyond even all that, by definition, a form letter is not compiled and tweaked individually. Just because phraseology is similar does not make it a form letter. Calling it a “form letter” is meant to give the impression that there was no personal attention put to the creation of the letter and that everyone receives the exact same thing.  And that’s simply not true in this case. 

Denigrate, disrespect and unappreciative – these are the words they used to describe us in the act of supporting our Olympic teams.

In fact these appear to be the only two letters where such wording has been used.  An event in support of the actual Olympics and does not use its name and one that does not support and does use its name.  Which means in essence, that the law office considered the activities of knitters and crocheters who hand-make things while watching the Olympics to  be comparable to events of body humor that poke fun at the Olympics themselves. With a cliched image of “Here Bubba, hold mah beer and watch this.”

There we go. That’s awesome. I feel more respected now.

I say this, because on a personal level I absolutely feel that toilet seat horseshoes, no matter how fun it might be, is a bit disrespectful when being directly called “Olympics.” The red neck event was not about supporting their favorite Olympic team.  And I say that as a Texan.  So our handcraft skills have thus essentially been compared to a tongue-n-cheek beer party, something generally considered at best to be mildly inappropriate in polite company. I’m not saying there’s not a place for redneck games. I’m saying I can understand the phraseology of the law clerk’s letter being used for that situation because the Olympics wants to maintain a certain image of what they represent and frankly bobbing for pigs feet isn’t that. Even to me, good ‘ol BikerMom from Texas, it sounds more along the lines of Fear Factor material.

So first the USOC apologizes by saying, we’ll show support for Ravelry by letting you send us free hand-made things.  Then they apologize to us by saying we know you didn’t intend to be denigrating or disrespectful.  Where in this do you find an acceptable apology in any polite society?  It’s not one and I don’t have to accept it as one.

I’m sorry, I expect better, especially from an organization that supposedly represents our interests, peace, world community, etc. to the rest of the world.  And from an organization that insulted not just a US community, but an international one.  They insulted and defamed Olympic supporters on a global scale. And neither apology rises to the appropriate level they should.  The slam is still there.

Mr. Sandusky was further referenced by the New York Times as stating that his wife and mother-in-law both knit “for gosh sakes.”  Well sir, I bet if you had asked their opinion of the letter before it was sent, they would have said “don’t use those words and don’t say it that way.”

Whether intended or not, the USOC disparaged our names and crafts.  And with knitting as an original Olympic activity, it’s even worse.  Mr. Sandusky needs to step away from the legalese and just make a good apology that turns it around and states officially that Ravelry members actually have not denigrated or disrespected the Olympics through their activities while watching their favorite teams – at all.  That simply, the USOC just wishes the name to be changed please and never meant to denigrate the spirit of men and women just supporting their national Olympic teams.

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