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Some Of My Best Friends Are Old Ladies



With days to go before Woollinn, the last thing I need to be doing is writing a ranty post. Then again, maybe the topic is apt. 

This morning I put on a podcast, in which the host was interviewing a yarn shop owner. The interviewee - initially a pleasant enough woman - was explaining what a fun, trendy space her shop was, which she hoped would change the unappealing image of knitting as something that is 'for old ladies.' She went on to elaborate, employing the word 'grandma' while scrunching up her face (I mean, I know right? Grandma = yuk!). 


I stopped the podcast, no longer interested in this yarn shop, or in its owner's story. But at the same time, I don't want to single the poor woman out, hence the avoidance of names. Because in fairness, this was the second, if not the third, time I had heard something similar said by a fibre industry person this week alone. And it's the fact that this is deemed okay by so many, that saddens and disappoints me the most.

Not only because some of my best friends are 'old ladies.' And not only because I, too, will be one some day, at which point I hope I am still welcome in yarn shops! But also because... just... I mean, come on! How is it okay to express blatantly ageist sentiments, in such a casual and relaxed manner? Do the persons who say these things not stop to think how an older person might feel, hearing them? Do they not want their space/product to be genuinely inclusive?

I do not intend to segue here into an explanation of what ageism is, how it impacts society, how it ties into the value we place on women, etc. There are plenty of resources for this, and besides I am sure you know already. So instead, here is a little true story.

Several of my friends are indeed women in their 70s. And I ran into one of them - let's call her Carla - at a yarn festival this past year. We then walked around together for a bit, and at one of the stalls I introduced Carla to the vendor, whom I vaguely knew. 'This is my friend, Carla,' I said - at which point the vendor looked right past Carla (who was standing directly next to me) and said 'Oh! Where did your friend go then?' It took me a second to grasp what was happening, and once I did I was mortified. Apparently, the idea that the woman beside me could be the friend I was referring to, was outside the scope if this vendor's imagination.

I am not sure how often the women who are targets of ageist rhetoric complain about it. Worse - if they do, I do not know whether it makes a difference to, say, a yarn shop owner who does not want them as a customer in the first place. So let me be one to complain.

As a reasonably trendy woman in her 30s who buys substantial quantities of knitting product, I am presumably just the sort of person to whom a fibre business might try to appeal. But please know: If you are a yarn shop or any other presence in the knitting industry who suggests that associations with older women are negative, I will not be your customer. 

If you are wondering about the header image: It was odd having a post up without a picture. I chose this one, because so many English speakers mistakenly believe the item is called a babushka in Russian. It is not. Babushka means grandmother, whereas the item in the picture is called a platok (or kossinka in some regions). A grandmother is not a kerchief, and vice versa. A topic for another time!