fuel for the fire

November 25, 2010

let me just say how thrilled i was to see so many of you guess the book.
it is,
knits men want:
the 10 rules every woman should know before knitting for a man

by the stupendously sexist bruce weinstein.

all of you will be getting yarn.
a promise is a promise.
my poor stash!

this book made me so angry so often,
i found it nearly unbearable to get through.
i was constantly shouting things like,
“oh my god! that is so offensive!”
“who the fuck is this guy?!”
“are you kidding me?!”
or simply a high-pitched “AHHHHHHH!!!!”

i know i know.
if something is bad in the knitting world,
we’re supposed to shut up and smile.

fuck that noise!
there’s no way i can keep my mouth shut for this one.
but since eviscerating this book line by line would take too long,
let’s just look at some highlights.

i shall call it, the 10 most offensive excerpts from “knits men want”

1. “When men don’t wear what women make them, they’re just being men−with their own quirky likes and dislikes and an inability to express them. When they abuse the garments knitters make them, they’re still just being men−hardwired not to think about feelings, not to think about how much work went into making them, and not to understand why their behavior is so upsetting. Women can’t expect to change these make characteristics, but they can change what they choose to make for the men in their lives.”

i can’t believe in the new millennium people are allowed to make sweeping, generalized, essentialized statements like this.

2. “Men and women behave differently; we all know this to be true. In general, women cry and men don’t. Women share their feelings and men don’t. And women try on clothes and men don’t.”

sneaky bruce! using “we” as a rhetorical tool in an attempt to put the reader on your side by including them grammatically in your argument. unfortunately all i did was scream, “HOW ARE PEOPLE STILL ALLOWED TO WRITE THINGS LIKE THIS?!”

3. “Ideally, he’ll also try on the sweater you’re making as you go, though this can sometimes take some convincing. Here are a few tricks: […].
• Never ask him while he’s watching TV, reading the paper, or engaged in some other activity that’s important to him. Instead, ask him to try on the sweater in the morning as he’s getting dressed or in the evening as he’s getting ready for bed. With his clothes off already, he may be more willing.
• Bribe him. If you’re dealing with a romantic partner, tell him you’ll take something off for every piece he puts on.”

yes women, use your sexuality to get what you want.
make sure you teach your daughters this lesson as well.
and honestly. how important can watching tv or reading the paper be? do people even still read the paper?

4. “Rule #6: Men don’t want anything cute−except you.”

got that women?
if you’re not cute, men won’t want you!
so make it a priority.
just not in his sweater.

5. “Women often suffer for fashion−eyebrow tweezing, bikini waxing, chemical peel, stiletto heels−the list goes on and on. […]. Most men, on the other hand, won’t put up with discomfort for any reason. Dare we call them babies? […]. For men, comfort trumps fashion and all sentimentality. So what does this tell you? […]. No matter how much you like a yarn (or how much you paid for it), your guy isn’t going to be interesting in wearing it−no on his back, his feet, or even his hands−if it doesn’t feel good next to his skin. Despite his five-o-clock shadow, calloused palms, and disinterest in romantic comedies, this is one way in which men are sensitive.”

yes women, men are babies. make sure to mother them!
it’s the best way to get what you want
and i hear it’s quite the turn on!

get real bruce!

i think every single woman on what not to wear is guilty of choosing comfort over style. it is SO not exclusively a male trait.

i have worn 7″ platform pumps for an eight-hour stretch. yes by the end of the night, my feet were in agony. but the same is true of my prada loafers. and every day when i came home from my job in the business world, i took off my dress shoes with a loud sigh of release from another day of discomfort.

uncomfortable shit hurts, and we all wear it because it’s socially required of us. when we don’t, we forfeit social rewards for choosing our own comfort over fashion.

6. “Men can’t fake it. Not in bed, or anywhere else. Take him to the ballet on the night of a championship basketball game and he won’t even pretend to enjoy himself. Same story if you knit him a sweater he doesn’t like−he may put it on once or twice to please you, but ultimately, it’s destined for the back of the drawer or the charity pile.”

i have no words.

7. “Men aren’t dainty. Therefore, they need manly buttonholes, which are stronger than standard buttonholes and able to withstand some bullish abuse.

so if you’re male and dainty, you’re not a man.

8. “Women love to impress, stand out in a crowd. Men love to blend in, not call attention to themselves.”

how about theses stereotypes: all those men with fast cars, flashy suits, trophy wives, and all the men of jersey shore. yup. just trying to blend in.

and to give a knitterly example, i’m reminded of the fact that adrienne martini’s husband has requested that she knit him the the henry viii sweater by alice starmore. clearly a wallflower sweater.

9. “[…] men don’t communicate as well as women do, so you’ll rarely get him to tell you up front what he likes. But if women want to succeed at knitting for men, they’re going to have to find a way to extract this information from the male brain.”

that’s right, i have all these thoughts and feelings and no idea how to tell you. don’t bother asking me. just use subterfuge and elaborate stratagems to figure me out.


to me this cover says, “behind every good man is a good woman”
trained by a bruce weinstein to bend over backwards to change who they are to meet his every knitterly need

some things this book taught me:
• everyone is straight.
there is no room for anyone who isn’t, even in the knitting world.
• women will find fulfillment by spending a lot of time figuring out the needs of their uncommunicative men and then spending hours and hours knitting them something. if they do everything right, they will be rewarded by the men wearing the garment. if not, expect heartache.
• you don’t need a degree in neuropsychology, genetics, human behavior, human biology, gender studies or any other qualification to speak about the complexity that is gender. nor do you have to provide any hard evidence to back up your work. you simply need the y chromosome to speak accurately about male behavior. this will also be all you need to teach women to behave properly.

the thing that is actually so dangerous about this book,
or any book that talks about gender in this way,
is that it is never merely descriptive,
but also prescriptive.

by saying, this is how men are,
you are teaching them how to be.
you are saying, if you want to be a man, you must behave this way.
hearing this over and over makes people believe it to be true.
even if everything he writes describes every man in your life,
it is dangerous and irresponsible to think all men are the same.

if you expect a man to be uncommunicative,
he will be.
if you expect a man to know nothing about fashion,
he won’t.

the sad part is,
there are some nice patterns in this book.
it is well put together, and lovely to look at.
(quelle supris, jared flood did the photography. shame!)
why then must it be coupled with some of the most sexist writing ever?

seriously, i could go on and on.
i won’t because my readers, as few as they might be in number,
have proved they are intelligent.
you don’t need me to point out how outdated thinking like this is.

here’s my final two sense on the subject:
if you found this book as offensive as i did,
ask the owner of your lys to take it off the shelf.
i did.

and if anyone in your life doesn’t appreciate your knitting,
man, woman, child, or other,
fuck ’em.

finally, we have a FO: nancy in her vest:

pattern: dr. g’s memory vest
yarn: wool from isis, a sheep nancy helped to sheer,
spun up by stonehedge fiber mill
a pattern written by a woman for men
knitted by a man for a woman.
how’s that for a knitting gender fuck?

nancy loved it,
and it will keep her warm on thanksgiving day.


i prefer an old fashioned fire.

39 Responses to “fuel for the fire”

  1. heyjenrenee Says:

    whew! up in flames! i love your 10 most offensive excerpts. i’m so glad you reacted honestly to this crazy piece of literature. it’s seriously just unbelievable. and so *embarrassing.* ugh.

  2. Nancy Paris Says:

    Very well said. I like that you just lay it out there. No mambypamby. I am so tired of bla language.

    I’m thinking that some authors are just so hard up to sell the fucking book that any gimmick goes.

    Onward . . . now I see that you not only knit beautifully, but the fit is perfecto.


  3. Stephen Says:

    Nicely eviscerated and immolated. Ironically, from what I understand, Bruce is not straight. (We’ve never met just corresponded once.) Not that being a homo makes you a better person. Or less sexist. Or less impacted by society’s biases.

    First and foremost, I blame the publishing industry that’s focused on what will sell. That’s the sad economic truth of any book that gets put out. This does not excuse the author, but it recognizes he does not have the ultimate say. They knew what kind of book they deemed viable before it was written.

    I was once told by a publisher that knitting books for men just don’t sell, so what other ideas do I have? Um, you approached me based on my previous work, all of which acknowledges my gonads.

    New ideas are hard to sell. Same sh!t, different book. How’s about you write us a guy tome?

  4. Faye Says:

    Burn, baby, burn! 🙂

    You should write book reviews similar to the VK mag reviews at samuraiknitter.blogspot.com… Reading your thoughts on this one was inspiring & awesome.

  5. Kimberly Says:

    wow 🙂
    Well I do have to make a correction. I haven’t read the comments yet to see if anyone else knows…but Bruce isn’t straight either, in case you didn’t know.

    But I have to say…way to go to you!!!! love the burning book picture..haha

    I never really thought about what I was reading before when i read through his book…I was mostly focused on the pretty pictures..lol

  6. Vanessa Says:

    Oh, excellent take-down of that ridic bullshit.

  7. Yvonne Says:

    1. Wow.
    2. I read this aloud to Bill, who was mortified. He couldn’t believe someone had the nerve to put those kinds of things in a book, and he applauds you for calling a spade a spade — or an asshole an asshole, as the case may be.
    3. Bill also says you are very talented, that he likes you more and more, and that he could never get his words out like that.
    4. Bill likes Nancy’s vest. I also like Nancy’s vest.
    5. Happy Thanksgiving.

  8. Allison Says:

    Fuel for the fire indeed! It’s amazing such a book is written in this day and age with each gender trapped in a sexist box. I’m disappointed that Jared Flood contributed the photography. I’m knitting one of his sweaters for my hubby now. A sweater pattern my hubby chose, will appreciate and will wear. Like everything else I knit him!

  9. Sally at Rivendale Farms Says:

    Yikes. I’m a knitting book slut for sure, so thanks for saving me the cost of this one. My husband doesn’t fall into the category that the author describes, and I don’t know any other men that do either. Maybe Bruce was channeling Ricky Ricardo? I guess I should put on my pumps and pearls to go do the barn chores this morning….. Good grief.

  10. Natalie Says:

    Since I’m a fairly selfish knitter this book isn’t one I’d have been likely to buy, but thanks for warning me about its ickiness.

  11. Yarnyoldkim Says:

    Your critique absolutely nailed it! and seeing that book in flames makes me LOVE you!

  12. Kaila Says:

    wow. that is insane. especially in 2010, when you would think that this kind of backward thinking is done and over with. and what i find even sadder is that, bruce weinstein wrote this and HANDED IT OVER TO AN EDITOR of a publishing company WHO APPROVED IT. not only should bruce weinstein be ashamed of himself, STEWART, TABORI AND CHANG SHOULD TOO. i’m so livid with disbelief after i read your post. this is beyond ridiculous.

  13. Katie Says:

    ! This cracked me up, in an “oh it’s all so hopeless” sort of a way. I just finished a sweater for my husband – my first for him – and he was involved in every step. Then again, I went out of my way not to marry a caveman. Love your blog, btw!

  14. woolydaisy Says:

    un-effin-believable that this book even exists! i hope you sent bruce a link to your post! that fire just made my day-thanks. brought a big smile to my face:)

  15. jillian Says:

    “the thing that is actually so dangerous about this book,
    or any book that talks about gender in this way,
    is that it is never merely descriptive,
    but also prescriptive.”

    — yes, this. i wish i could have said it this well. i stumbled on to your blog yesterday… im staying 🙂

  16. Brooke Says:


  17. AnneMarie in VA Says:

    Excellent discussion of a problem that never, ever seems to go away. I may not have gotten the book right (I knit for my husband a la Zimmerman, and once a Jared Flood pattern– he still won’t wear the stuff very often, but it’s because he runs hot, not because he doesn’t like the clothing, which he does very much), but it doesn’t surprise me that this kind of thing runs through many knitting books that run men’s patterns. All the stuff ascribed to men here can also be said of women (and lord, teenaged daughters!) for whom one tries to knit, especially if they’re muggles and don’t knit themselves!

  18. Frankie Says:

    Bravo!! Thank you for saving me from ever picking up this book. I have a love of knitting books (as do most knitters I think) and now I know my $$ will be much better spent on something different. I LOVE that you burned it!

    The vest turned out beautiful! Such lovely knitting!

  19. Juliet in Grand Rapids Says:

    I sure wish you hadn’t burned that book (deserving as it is). I, unfortunately, make it a necessity to read or even own burned books! Last book was the Qur’an. I’ll make an exception here, though.

    Thanks for letting us know about this disastrous book! Your points are excellent. What was the author trying to accomplish?

    When are you going to write a book? I bet the publisher will require upper case!

  20. Sunnyknitter Says:

    Thank you for that lovely, enlightening trip back to the ’50s! (NOT) I’m just horrified that that drivel was published. Was it supposed to be tongue in cheek and just failed miserably?

  21. […] His full review of the book – including his  “10 most offensive excerpts” is definitely worth reading, right here. […]

  22. Romi Says:

    Ha! Perfect fate for an embarrassingly sexist pile of tripe. How sad that “we” are not past this kind of thing yet.

    btw, even though I guessed the book, I am more than happy to forgo my yarny goodness in the hopes that your stash will be saved. Mine is very healthy. 🙂

  23. Julia Says:

    I agree, burning the book was the only option!!! I’m stunned by the excerpts. I felt like I could have been watching this on some kind of nature channel with the author as the narrator. He made the male species sound like some animal we know very little about…but thank goodness he’s taken the time to do research on this rare breed and enlightened us!!! Ugh, what a jackass!!! I’m as stunned as you are that they allow people to write a book with such ass backward thinking!!! I wish I had a copy to burn right now.

  24. Bonnie Says:

    Agreed. I borrowed this book from the library, so, while I didn’t get to burn it, I also didn’t have to pay good money for it.

  25. Breean Elyse Says:

    excellent review! love your writing style 🙂

  26. debi Says:

    Wow. Not only is it amazing that this book actually got published… and out of curiosity I had to check… it also got stellar reviews.

    Really? REALLY?

  27. […] (of course, you had to have posted a comment with the correct guess before i revealed it in “fuel for the fire”) […]

  28. Miriam Says:

    FIRE! The only place for it. Well said!

    This are the kind of trash generalizations that makes me sputter in outraged indignation. Also, you’d think the guy would be mortally embarrassed to write a book claiming that his own gender is a flock of thickheaded insensitive morons.

  29. Kathy Says:

    how’s that for a knitting gender fuck?

    I love it. Thanks for saving some of us the time of looking at it.

  30. Ellen Says:

    “hearing this over and over makes people believe it to be true.
    even if everything he writes describes every man in your life,
    it is dangerous and irresponsible to think all men are the same.”
    I wish all parents could understand the gravity of these words.

  31. Miranda Says:

    This reminds me of a couple one of the workers at my LYS told me about.

    The man is a retired architect who picked up knitting as a hobby because he likes the precision and construction-ness of it. Sometimes he brings his wife to the store with him, and she’s always absolutely bored by it so she sits on the couches and talks to people while he shops.

  32. Sarah Says:

    Just wanted to chime in to say that while I agree the gross generalizations are incorrect and possibly offensive, when read in addition to the stories included in the book (a woman getting upset that the fancy cabled and colorwork sweater was going to goodwill, and that the simple dressy sweater was used to rake leaves), there is a bit of “tongue-in-cheek” humor to go along with it. However, that is a difficult thing to get across in writing.

    Unfortunately, for whatever reason, the beautiful and wonderfully produced patterns in this book get overshadowed by the commentary and writing around it, that seem to upset some people.

    I found the little anecdotes of men using cashmere hats to wipe up cat vomit humorous, and I plan on knitting more than a few of the patterns, because I like that I can choose my yarn, choose my gauge, and all the math and guesswork is done for me. And I choose not to get offended by generalizations, because really, everyone does it…all the time…and if that’s what got someone’s pattern published so I can use it, then so what.

  33. […] 8, 2010 i got home today and found that sarah had left me an interesting comment on my fuel for the fire […]

  34. babelbabe Says:

    oh, dear. you had me till you burned the book. no one should burn books. unless it’s the Apocalypse and you’re freezing to death and even then i’d think twice. But otherwise this post made me laugh out loud and also resolve to never piss you off : )

  35. Natalie V2 Says:

    Nice to *meet* you.
    This is good stuff.
    I have three sons, they’re growing up fast. I have been appalled by the sexism that pigeon holes them, stereotypes them, means to debase them… things said, printed, and directed at them from birth. Any sexism is ridiculous, but I rarely hear from people protesting the double standard that exists for men. I always have believed that men and women are as different from each other as any two people are different from each other, and if we don’t pay attention to individuals, and discover who they are… then we are missing the richness and interest of the human experience. Being in several minority groups, I appreciate your sensitivity to what is basically mindless humor, and I applaud your convictions, and intelligent humor.

  36. ysolda Says:

    I think I love this post as fiercely as I hate the book. I guess it would have been too short and inoffensive to just write “if you want to make a sweater that your recipient (of any gender) will wear, it’s stupid not to think about what they’ll like”? Sigh… back to writing my own book full of rants about sexist and offensive tropes in guides for women on flattering clothing.

  37. nightgigjo Says:

    This was pretty awesome. A book truly worth burning. I think I read that once when it was called “Men are from Mars…”

    Coincidentally, this is pretty much my motto, as of about a week before I read it:

    “and if anyone in your life doesn’t appreciate your knitting,
    man, woman, child, or other,
    fuck ‘em.”

    I spent waaaay too much time knitting for my very-distant nieces and nephews, who may or may not like their gifties, when I have myself and a small family of loved ones who really do like it when I make them stuff.

    Also: knitting for ME. Dammit.

    Thanks for an entertaining take-down of the second-most offensive pile of shite I’ve encountered this week.

  38. Sarah Berry Says:

    You ROCK!!!
    Also, Nancy’s vest is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. Now I have to learn to cable. NOW!

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