I commented in a Tweet this morning - to another person I follow on Twitter - that one of the reasons I liked knitters was that even if you only ever knitted scarves, knitters weren't going to say you weren't a "real" knitter. And despite my nattering about the Knit Police the other day, that's true. By and large knitters (and also quilters, I think) tend to be a less-judgey group than some.
One thing about modern society that makes me endlessly tired is how some people set themselves up as "arbiters of taste." And they try to attach moral weight to decisions that are largely aesthetic - like what kind of shoes you choose to wear. Or whether or not you eat ice cream. And generally, the most extreme of these "arbiters" want to imply that if you like something they disapprove of, you are a horrible, horrible person: lacking in taste and quality and class and whatever other good things they deem important. And that you might even be something that ends in an "-ist," whatever -ist word it is they approve of least.
(Okay, I'm exaggerating. But still. I was scarred as an impressionable early-20-something by someone taking great umbrage at the fact that I bought and ate Oreo cookies occasionally. Because, you know, they're, like, really bad for you? And they're full of sugar and fat? And they're made by a corporation?
Prior to that, my only experience with someone being anti-Oreo was people who disliked them...or who didn't like picking the mashed bits of chocolate cookies out of their teeth afterward (what IS it with Oreos and their ilk? The cookie stuff clings as tenaciously to your teeth as some dental fillings do). I had never before met anyone who apparently thought I was a lesser person because I chose to buy Oreos....)
And yeah, I know, that attitude has been around for a while, I suppose, in the form of the (usually friendly) ragging that takes place between Ford and Chevy guys, or between Coke and Pepsi fans. But there's a difference in good-naturedly teasing your buddy that he likes the "wrong" soft drink, and telling a complete stranger that you have condemned them to bad-taste hell because of a choice they made that has no direct impact on you.
And that's what boggles my mind. And I admit, I've occasionally made the joke about the book/movie series "Twilight" or about "Jersey Shore" (and I admit, those are pretty low-hanging fruit to make fun of). But I wouldn't harshly judge someone who liked the series. (Well, I might question the judgement of someone who thought the way the characters in both those series behaved should be a model for real human behavior, but that's a bit different). If I don't like a show on tv, I don't watch it. Or I don't read books that annoy me. Or read blogs that make me roll my eyes. I don't have time to go around paying attention to stuff that makes me feel contempt, and then go and comment at length on how it is contemptible, and how, by extension, people who like it/produce it/whatever are worthy of contempt.
But this seems to be a common theme in modern life, probably enhanced by the internet. ("Your meme is bad, and you should feel bad"). And it is, to me, a somewhat uncomfortable theme: What is it to you that some people like a cartoon show featuring pastel girl ponies? Or, on the other end: What is it to me that some people like gross-out comedy movies, like the ones the Farrelly brothers make? I may dislike comedies where bodily fluids are a source of amusement, but I get that some people find that funny....I just don't. So I find other things to watch.
This whole thought - and the tweet that spawned it - was brought on by my Twitter-friend's linking of this article where John Scalzi takes down a would-be arbiter of geekdom - a man who seems offended that pretty girls might be into some geeky things (and seems to be projecting: "I am supposed to feel honored that a pretty girl is in my presence. It’s insulting… " While I make no claims on my own prettiness or lack thereof (a long awkward period as a teen renders me incapable of being objective about my appearance), I can say on behalf of most women: if we're out doing something we enjoy, it's not because we want to rub guy's faces in how we look. If we meet a guy who likes the same stuff we do, and who is fundamentally likable, cool, maybe we can hang out sometime. But really, we're not doing it to make you feel somehow less about the fact that you're a geek and we're a (maybe) pretty woman.
Scalzi also notes: that a geek's reaction to finding out that others like what they like is one of "“ZOMG YOU LOVE WHAT I LOVE COME WITH ME AND LET US LOVE IT TOGETHER.”
This is also true of many crafters, I've found - knitting, or quilting, or other crafts (I've heard of the "weaver's handshake," where the first thing two handweavers do upon meeting is to reach out and feel the cuff of the other's woven shirt...to see what they did and how they did it). Most people who do this stuff are enthusiasts, and they're happy to meet other enthusiasts. (One of the reasons I hang out on Ravelry so much is that I know so few other knitters in real life. And one of the reasons I value the rare times that Laura and I can meet up in Longview is that it's great to be able to talk to another knitter face-to-face).
And a lot of times, when someone's a committed knitter or quilter, and a yarn/fabric/technique/whatever comes up that they don't care for, their response is more along the lines of "I didn't go for it, but your mileage may vary" - there's an acceptance that different people are different. It's rare (though not unheard of) for a knitter to say or write something like "I HATE NORO YARNS BECAUSE THEY ARE SO SCRATCHY AND I DON'T THINK ANYONE SHOULD BUY THEM OR USE THEM" but that's really rare. Instead, they might say, "I don't really care for the texture of Noro, but I get that lots of knitters don't mind it, or are willing to put up with it for the colors." Or, as I've said, I like double-pointed needles. I don't like having to deal with long circular-needle cords. So I've decided that the Magic Loop technique really isn't for me. But I know there are loads of knitters that like it, and God bless them, they're welcome to use it, just as I'm welcome to use my dpns for stuff.
Love and tolerance. It's really not that hard.