Skip to content

The Knitted Response to Homophobia

October 10, 2009


Devoted readers, I have sad news. Last night, none other than your fabulous author was on the receiving end of homophobic abuse.  Earlier in the day I’d split up with my boyfriend (a mutual decision that we followed up with shopping, all very pleasant) and as confirmation of my singleness I’d decided I wanted to go and pull some shapes on the dance floors of Ashby de la Zouch.

So I went out, met my fabulous friends and did just that. In the final half-hour of the evening we left the club to buy reprocessed meat burgers (I had cheese and bacon too, very healthy) I started getting a load of abuse from three very rude people.

They let it be known that I smelt of BO (I smelt divine, I think they could smell the frying onions?), that I was a disgusting queer and blah blah blah. Stupid abuse always sounds the same. I got my burger and walked my friends a little way back to their house. On my way back to the taxi rank, the same three guys notice me and start to follow me, encouraging other drunk people to shout abuse my way. I choose the moral high-ground and just keep on walking, but they follow me into the office of the taxi firm and tell me that I smell of smegma.

An oddly esoteric insult, but one that my very, very drunk mind wasn’t able to cope with. I got in my taxi, came home, and starting covering my facebook with miserable status updates.

A friend pointed me towards The Pansy Project, an ongoing installation art idea by British Artist Paul Harfleet.  Paul revisits sites of homophobic abuse and plants pansies. He photographs each planted pansy and titles each photo with the content of the original homophobic abuse. There are a lot of photos of pansies with the title “Faggot”. When the incident was a murder, the photos are labelled with the name of the victim.

Going through the galleries on that site is an emotional experience for me.  What was a personal anger, over a specific incident, has become something more universal. All those flowers show somewhere that a gay person has been verbally or physically attacked, and gay people are so used to it that most of the time we just accept it.  Isn’t that awful? As a group, we are so used to violence that it doesn’t shock us. The unfairness of that brings tears to my eyes.

I love the Pansy Project.  The site describes it much more eloquently and with more detail that I can, but there is one element that strikes me as particularly wonderful. Normally, as victims of homophobia, it seems like we have only two options. We can either shut up and hope it finishes, or we can speak up and risk the other person getting violent. Either way, we are left with a dynamic of victimhood. The Pansy Project offers a third option.  When we respond with beauty, we are choosing to act as opposed to react. That street is no longer “the street where I get beat up”, now it’s “the place I planted flowers”. We regain the feeling of ownership (of our lives, our experience, and our memories) that public abuse can rob us of.

So I’m going to join in. However, being what I am, I’m going to have to knit it.  I’m still deciding what exactly to make. I found this knitted pansy pattern on-line, and I’m trying that out on bigger needles. I just can’t decide whether to make a scarf or a piece of knitted graffiti. I’ve always wanted do yarn-bombing.

So opinions please on whether I should make a lovely scarf or an aggressive wall hanging. Or vice-versa. I’m feeling very political today!

The lace scarf is getting bigger and bigger, and once it’s finished I’ll post up the pattern. Although I’m not sure exactly how copyright works in things like this. The lace stitch is an old French pattern, compiled by the exquisite Ms. B Walker into a stitchionary, and then rearranged by myself into a scarf. Am I going to get a bollocking if I copy the instructions from the book onto the internet?

10 Comments leave one →
  1. October 10, 2009 9:15 pm

    Thanks so much for giving me the link to your blog. I’ve asked a few others if they might have more information about this project. I definitely feel that we should be taking positive steps to give people back their lives. Maybe if we all band together, we can do that.

  2. mwarbanski permalink
    October 11, 2009 8:00 am

    I’m sorry there are still ass-wads out there who harass and abuse. I am encouraged by positive responses to violence. We held a kiss-in a few years ago on the corner where a friend was the target of queer bashing that went beyond words. This is the first I’ve heard of the Pansy Project, but I like it!

    • October 11, 2009 9:36 am

      The kiss in sounds slightly more fun that knitting. Maybe I should get’s some guys over to hold my wool or something?

  3. SJAT permalink
    October 12, 2009 9:29 am

    The moral high-ground is the best place to be, without a doubt. As for “a lovely scarf or an aggressive wall hanging”, I would definitely attempt an aggresive scarf. And I want to see the result!

  4. February 1, 2010 5:52 am

    You, my sir, are an awesome individual. I am officially sharing your blog with some knitting friends of mine.

    Thank you for sharing such a wonderful project! When are we going to see the finished work?

    • February 7, 2010 10:05 pm

      It’s been put back by some design work I’ve got coming up. There’s octopus panties, a kraken cardigan and a werewolf suit all pushing for attention. But, hopefully within the next two months. Thankyou so much for you compliments. 🙂

  5. August 7, 2010 6:06 pm


    This was a beautiful story and I’m linking to it on my blog. I’m going to look to see if you ever did knit those pansies… if not, you should and if you do, let me know I’d love to let other people know about it. I’ll knit a pansy if you do :).


  1. knitting gets political « yarn spinner
  2. Weekly Links – 6 « That's What Ze Said

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: