There’s a thread on Ravelry I’ve followed with great interest, but not contributed much to. It’s in the group Podcast Junkies, and the thread is “what drives you crazy about podcasts?” The replies are generally of an innocuous nature, things like beverage sipping and wind chiming and the like. That stuff doesn’t bother me, not because I’m not nitpicky, but because those are not the nits I find myself picking. No, the fundamental problem I have with podcasts is twofold: that I find the hosts (of the ones I listen to) to be charming and interesting folks with whom I would like to have friendships; but on the other hand, many of them are only interested in being friends with one another, and exist on a separate plane from those of us who haven’t had the ability or desire to monetize our passion. (Some of them have “topic ideas” or “ask us questions” type threads in their Ravelry groups, and I genuinely would like to ask “do you only name-drop people who are already known in the fiber industry for any particular reason, or do you just happen to only really interact with other people who are in the business? Do you have knitting BFFs that you never mention on the air?” But even though it’s a genuine question, I feel like there’s not really a way to ask it online in a way that would seem anything but snarky.) There are some podcasts I listen to (one notable exception is TwinSet Designs, with their frequent mention of “Lisa, AKA Turbogal,” who as far as I can tell, is a knitter who the twins just happen to be friends with, and doesn’t have her own podcast or fiber business) where all I can think of is that scene in Almost Famous, where William asks Penny “don’t you have any regular friends?” (Her answer is “Famous people are just more interesting.”)
When I have an issue with a podcaster on an individual basis, it’s generally over a philosophical difference. And it’s pretty much entirely on my end — for example, I unsubbed from one because the host seemed out of touch, and referred to a $2000 spinning wheel as “not that expensive.” It was a camel’s-broken-back kind of thing that lasted through several weeks’ worth of “look at the new shiny things I bought!”at the beginning of each episode. I’m hardly in any position to judge anyone for having a stash, but I also am not parading it in front of people, and I do actively try and work through it. (Which is hard to do when you have a full-time job, which is another thing I take issue with: the fact that many podcasters have not only enough free time to finish multiple objects every week, but are well-off enough to spend all kinds of money on yarn, fiber, books, and accessories, as well as retreats and events.)
So this podcaster probably doesn’t know or care that little old me was turned off by this perception. And in all honesty, the perception I have is probably not an entirely accurate reflection of her situation, and probably includes a lot of projection of my own neuroses and insecurities. But the thing is, I don’t know if I ever really CAN know whether I’m alone in thinking things like this. The interconnected nature of the knitting-podcast world is a double-edged sword. It’s nice that it feels like one big community, but it also means that saying something negative about one small aspect of one show, can open you up to a lot of anger. Not necessarily from other podcasters, but from their listeners and fans. I agree that if you’re willing to put criticism out in public (“hey, am I the only one who’s noticed that a lot of the more popular podcasters seem to be kind of cliquey and privileged?”) then you open yourself up to criticism in return. And since I don’t really want to subject myself to having that spotlight shined back on me and my own insecurities and inadequacies, it’s probably better I just keep my mouth shut.
But the price of that is that I have had to jettison some shows that actually had some decent content, because a host had certain traits or qualities or ideas that just didn’t sit quite right with me. And those are harder to let go of, especially given the nature of podcasters to talk about each other as much as they do, because I let my hangups get in the way. It’s actually easier when there’s a real, personal slight involved (such as reaching out with a kind, personalized message of support and getting no response or acknowledgment). That way I can just think “screw her, she gave me the cold shoulder” instead of “I’m just a neurotic idiot.”
But I can’t be entirely alone in thinking that podcasts these days, especially the top-tier ones, can be an exercise in preening and privilege, right? You bought another five $30 skeins of yarn, hooray! You’re going to put them in a bin in a closet and buy another half a dozen next week. You went to your fourth retreat this year, wow. Must be nice to have so much vacation time at work (or not have to work), and to be able to drop a couple hundred dollars on fees, travel, lodging, and of course, the vendor booths. You finished another half-dozen projects in the week since we last saw you. Well, I could probably have that kind of output too if I didn’t have to get up every day and earn a living. And so on.
What’s really strange is that I’m not a typical privilege warrior. In fact, I actively mock those people, the ones who screech on Tumblr that everything is the fault of patriarchy and white privilege. (And I do agree that male/white/cis people have certain advantages in life, the day I use the phrase “check your privilege” is the day I concede that I have no intelligent argument.) Interestingly, though, there is suprisingly little said about one of the most pervasive and insidious types of privilege: class privilege. And the reason for that is that the typical social justice warrior is in a position of considerable financial privilege. In the push to excoriate everyone else under the sun, they leave their own privilege unexamined, which is alarming, given how large a problem wealth inequality is in this country, and how many people are convinced it’s not a problem at all.
I tend to notice class privilege, because it’s one I don’t really have, or if I do, I have a meager amount of it. I have a full-time job, and earn probably the most I could expect to, given my lack of a college degree (which is my own fault entirely, and I don’t blame anyone for that) and my unspectacular skillset. I make enough to keep the rent paid and the lights on, and a little left over for nice yarns and tools. Occasionally when there’s extra (like at tax refund time), I can splurge on things like a spinning wheel. Although, being a working-class person, my idea of a spinning wheel that’s “not that expensive” is more in the sub-$500 range.
I keep harping on that point, I know, but I think that’s kind of the root of why I feel so frustrated with podcasts lately – there is that kind of “admirals club” vibe sometimes, and they’re all BFFs because they can afford to go on these retreats and make these connections. They send each other all these free (well, nothing is free, I know it’s out of the advertising budget) gifts of yarn, fiber, notions, and such because they own these businesses that specialize in these products, and if I wanted in on that, I should have been creative and driven enough to start my own business. (Although at this point, there’s little creativity in starting any kind of fiber-based business, because there are a goddamn zillion independent spinners, designers, dyers, bag-makers, etc. It’s just a very long bandwagon people keep jumping on, and it requires more business acumen than creative spirit.) And it begs the question “if you were able to meet these people, WOULD you be able to form friendships?”
That’s another key element, and it’s hard to face, because I think the answer is no. I am not the kind of person who would fit in because I don’t have anything interesting or worthwhile to say. (Which is why I don’t have a podcast.) I am introverted and socially awkward, which makes it hard enough to be friends with anyone, but I’m also snarky and coarse, I’m lazy, I’m occasionally judgmental, envious, and dismissive. These are all qualities that many people possess, but I’m starting to think I’m the only knitter/spinner/fiber enthusiast on the planet who can, on occasion, be kind of a bitch. (Actually, I know for a fact that there is rather a large gathering of bitchy knitters, and I don’t fit in there, either, due to my previously-mentioned thoughts on social justice.) And if there’s one thing I’ve learned from being immersed in the world of fiber, is that Knitters Are Nice. Not only that, but they’re wonderful, amazing, lovely, spectacular, fantastic, delightful, etc. Sometimes I wonder if a knitter or knitting podcaster has ever met anyone who isn’t the best, and it kind of underscores my position that I would stick out like a sore thumb at any knitting event, or even a knitting group.
I just feel really apart sometimes. As a lifelong introvert, I do sometimes prefer it, but I would like to fit in among people I share a common obsession with. But alas, knitting is just one more part of the world where there isn’t really a place for me.
I’ll just have to make my own place, with blackjack and hookers.