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Knitting? Purling? When it comes to yarn, I am in the know. And I'm not alone. According to the Craft Yarn Council of America, the past three years have seen a 400 percent increase in the number of people under the age of 35 learning to crochet and knit. OK -- so maybe I'm not quite up with the trend. I can't do Julia Robert's sweater pattern that was printed in last months McCall's Magazine, but I am knitting a pretty good scarf that I plan to sport before the end of winter. Since I am about half way through my masterpiece, I've started showing it off to my friends. To my surprise, many of them have been saying, "Oh that's neat -- are you making that for your boyfriend?" Now while my boyfriend realizes that if he wants a scarf he can make one himself, everyone else seems to interpret my creative endeavor as necessarily undertaken on the behalf of a male figure in my life. Perhaps I'm being a little bit rash. Maybe my friends are just overestimating my charitable nature. But would they react that way if I was writing poetry or painting a picture? Because knitting falls into the category of a traditionally gendered activity, my new hobby seems to be interpreted as some sort of move to conservative behavior. The actual root of my interest in knitting is nothing so political. I noticed that one of my close friends would always crochet when we watched TV together. It simply seemed a much more productive use of time in comparison to my usual Dorito eating. To be quite honest, I never thought about the social implications of knitting until I started receiving this reaction from people. In fact, it made me question whether I, as a woman, can afford to act without considering the possible social statements made by my behavior. Obviously, in an ideal society, women should be able to do whatever makes them happy, be it serving a term as president or working at a strip bar. But unfortunately, we have not yet reached that utopia. While active protest for women's issues has decreased since the early 1970s, things are still far from equal in the United States. According to the National Committee on Pay Equity, as of 1999 women still earn just 72 percent of what men earn for equal work. In addition, 1,400 women die every year as a result of domestic violence, according to a study released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. And these facts are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. It seems a stretch to connect a hobby to domestic violence, but many people fighting discrimination claim it is important to provide examples of women acting outside of the suggested "standard place." What we must realize, however, is that women should not feel forced into a category by their hobbies. We should be allowed to be viewed as individuals and not stereotyped by our incidental interests. For example, a woman who chooses to play basketball instead of knitting isn't necessarily better at fighting sexism. The important part of working towards gender equality is not the act of rejecting traditionally feminine activities; but, instead, lies in fighting for the rights of women who do want to break out of these traditional roles. This definition of a feminist, thus, can encompass not only women fighting for their own liberation, but also men who are invested in gender equality. I hesitate, however, to go to far with this analogy. I would not want to be associated with those in the "Stich and Bitch" group in New York City. According to Fox News, this group embraces and reclaims "gender-identified activities" as a means to fight sexism. While I respect the group's attempt to redefine the activity by stitching projects such as a "freestyle punk-rock scarf," I don't think that we need to limit any woman to these activities in order to gain equality. Once this is suggested, these activities once again become oppressive. Fighting sexism should not result in a bunch of unhappy women serving in the military or working as rocket scientists simply because they feel obliged to do so. But do not assume that women who are interested in these fields do not exist. Until we get rid of the traditionally-held idea that supporting a man and having a family are a woman's only biological functions and reasons for existence, we will never overcome the wage, violence and educational disparities that currently plague the "fairer sex."

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