When Your Quilting Fave is Problematic
August 31, 2015
More and more in recent years, the bad behaviour of those we admire seems to be popping up to the surface. Particularly when it comes to celebrities and social media, an offensive comment is literally one tweet away. So how do we deal when these kinds of behaviours or comments come from a favourite quilter, shop, group, or quilt celebrity?
50 Shades of Nope
When it comes to behaving badly, we have to admit that there is a spectrum – shades of gray, and those can vary from individual to individual. It’s up to you to decide what crosses your line, and what doesn’t.
I had an instance recently where a well known local professional quilter made comments disparaging of legalising gay marriage on her Facebook page. There was also an implied invocation of “freedom of speech” and “it’s my page, I’ll say what I want.” Was this comment as bad as using a homophobic slur? Of course not. However, on my personal scale of grayness, it’s still in the territory where I am not keen on purchasing this person’s services. And that’s my freedom of choice as well.
Many people will remember the stoush last year when Abby Glassenberg of While She Naps called out Aurifil Thread’s spokesman Alex Veronelli for making repeated sexist comments and behaviors on social media. I had actually unfollowed Veronelli on Twitter earlier that year for making a bad joke about women drivers, so I was definitely in agreement with Abby, along with many other quilters. I think it was extremely brave for Abby to do this, since the quilting community generally has a no-criticism allowed policy. However, there was definitely a vocal group of women quilters who defended Veronelli unequivocally and unreservedly. Veronelli did end up “apologising”, but it was personally very disappointing to see women who I admired wallowing in internalised sexism. Unfortunately this is not uncommon in the quilting arena.
Time Heals all Wounds
Did these comments or actions occur long ago? Perhaps when the individual was less aware/open minded? Have they apologised sincerely (see below) and made effort not to re-offend? If so, and depending on the shade of gray, I think it’s worth recognising that this may be an embarrassing episode that won’t happen again. Second chances are more than fair. Third and fourth chances though… pushing it.
Was there a sincere apology?
Along with the rise of public offensive behavior, the non-apology has followed closely behind. “Sorry to those who were offended” is not a sincere apology. A sincere apology recognises the hurt, takes personal responsibility, and offers ways to make amends. If a sincere apology hasn’t been made, does that person deserve forgiveness? Let’s just say, I still don’t buy Aurifil thread.
Separate the Art from the Artist
As with broader pop culture, sometimes we must try to separate the art from the artist. There’s something amazingly human in the way people can parse appreciating someone’s talent and execution, while still condemning their actions. To a point.
Traditional Quilts, Traditional Values?
For many younger and international quilters, I think it’s hard to understand just how conservative the traditional American quilt culture is.
The Quilting in America 2014 survey (PDF) shows that quilter demographics skew female, older, richer, and traditional in style. The survey doesn’t mention race, but I have no doubt white quilters make up the majority of the overall demographic. Part of this could be as a result of the measurement techniques (demographics were listed for “Dedicated Quilters” who spent “more than $500 a year on quilting-related purchases”, obviously this will mean more well-off individuals), but I think it does reflect the general make-up of active and vocal quilt consumers in the USA, and likely other Western nations.
Something that is slightly more unique to the USA is the deeply conservative, traditional and religious demographic that comes with quilting. Unless you grew up in it it’s hard to comprehend just how pervasive, and sometimes indistinguishable, religion can be as part of the culture in the USA. And this inevitably filters down to specific groups. And quilting itself is often tied to specific religious groups, such as the Amish. When I first started quilting in my twenties in Las Vegas, I had friends ask me if I was Mormon, just because I quilted.
I was a member of a very large (20k+) USA based Facebook quilting group for several years. I eventually had to leave the group due to a constant overtone of sexism, jingoism and religious privilege.
While it’s important to realise that quilting comes from a highly traditional background, and that can reflect in the actions and comments of those who participate, it’s also essential for those members who are more progressive to speak out, even when it can be difficult and controversial.
Each quilter must decide the where on her personal spectrum a behavior or comment falls. What crosses the line for me, may not for others and vice versa. In the end, you have to put your money where you mouth is.
How have you dealt with a problematic fave? Do you think people should be more vocal in addressing what they see as issues? I’d love to know your thoughts.