Knit Your Revolt – a craftivist anti-misogyny road show
"Knit Your Revolt - A network of rad crafters sticking their needles to misogynistic knit-wits & extreme conservatism."
Knit Your Revolt came about as a result of the collective rage amongst a large group of crafters about the impending election of our now Prime Minister Tony Abbot – a well know misogynist among Australian politicians. Inspired especially by the image of the freshly ousted then-Prime Minister Julia Gillard knitting, and the associated sexist outrage, the seeds of the "Knit Your Revolt" campaign were sown. The growing trend towards right-wing politics as well as the number of outrageously sexist and misogynistic comments by politicians, media commentators and other public figures added further fuel to the rage. How could people be ready to vote in a man who had continually made outrageously sexist comments about women, including many aimed at our then female Prime Minister? The rage had to be channeled into action.
Casey Jenkins, a well known and highly respected craftivist and founder of the Melbourne-based craftivist group Craft Cartel put the idea for a knitting-led protest tour to the members of the Craft Cartel and Knit Your Revolt was born. Very quickly, we had eighteen craft groups on board and over 100 individual crafters on board and ready for some knitted anti-Abbott action. Aimed specifically at Tony Abbott, a design for a giant knitted banner was created as the offers of help flowed in. With so many crafters wanting to contribute a second banner was designed – this one was a giant red pair of budgie smugglers.
Both banners were created by dozens of crafters who knitted and crocheted small sections of the banner as well as letters of the slogans: "Misogynist Knit-Wit – Not PM Material" and "Budgie Smugglers – more threat to Australia than People Smugglers". Two volunteers had the pleasure of creating two Tony Abbott portraits that were the finishing touch. One talented crafter made a crocheted budgerigar that lived in it's own set of budgie smugglers on one of the banners.
The group collaborated via social media under the leadership and support of Casey Jenkins, and had offers of help from every state and territory in Australia as well as New Zealand. An afternoon stitch-up event was help at Grumpy's Green in Fitzroy so all the little pieces could be stitched together before the Knit Your Revolt Tour began. A Pozible campaign quickly raised enough money for the banners to do a tour around some key parts of Australia in the lead up to the Federal election, ending on election day in Manly, NSW – Tony Abbott's electorate.
First stop for the KYR banners was Tasmania – met by a group of Tasmanian crafters, who enjoyed the first "knit-in" – a display of the banners, knitting and crochet lessons, tea and bickies, and chats to voters. Others knit-ins followed as the banners travelled to Albury, Wagga Wagga (we found a fabulous spot in the park outside the sitting National Party member's office), Canberra, Brisbane and Sydney. They received fabulous media attention in the local, state and national print news – and made the television news in Tasmania and Wagga Wagga. The banners received lots of attention. The sitting National Party member in Wagga came out to see what we were doing, and defended his then future boss against our misogynist claim by telling us that he knew Abbott wasn't a misogynist as "Tony has a wife and daughters". Face-palming moments aside, the banners created a great talking point, and were certainly less threatening that the more common sort of political banner. The Greens candidate in Wagga also came by to do some knitting with us – having a great location for the banners in the park certainly helped. In Indi, where Sophie Mirabella was ousted in a truly exciting campaign, a local Knit Your Revolt contributor was interviewed on local radio about the banners, and there was concern my some of the more conservative in the electorate that the banners might be displayed in a park where there might be children. (No children were harmed in the display of the banners as far as we know.)
On election day the banners arrived in Sydney and caused even more trouble when the local (Liberal) Mayor threatened legal action as he felt the banners were offensive and wanted them removed from the area. Originally placed outside a polling booth in Manly, they were then moved across the road to the park where Casey then proceeded to knit whilst sitting on them. Still outraged the mayor wanted them removed from the park and called the police, who subsequently decided that it wasn't illegal to sit in the park on a rug and knit. So the banners remained and another concern about Liberal politics was added to the list.
Post election, Tony Abbott, our new Prime Minister has just won another Ernie Award for being a repeat offender with his continuing sexist comments, and the Knit Your Revolt crafters continue to plot and plan new projects for the next three years (at least.)
Crafters are welcome to join us – you can find more details at: http://knityourrevolt.com,
This is a longer version of an article published in Chain Reaction #119, November 2013, www.foe.org.au/chain-reaction/editions/119