Well, ‘Bollocks to Brexit‘…that caused a bit of a stir, didn’t it?
I’ve been mulling over writing a follow up blog post for a few days and while I don’t have anything to add with regards to Brexit per se, there are a few issues that have arisen that I’d quite like to address in the interests of my own sanity.
If you read my previous piece, you’ll already be aware of what actually triggered my idea for the ‘Bollocks to Brexit‘ yarn in aid of the People’s Vote Campaign – an interaction with a complete stranger on the internet, whereby they, for some inexplicable reason, began to attack me personally.
Communicating online with people you’ve never met can be a minefield for some, but I’ve always thought it a good rule that if you wouldn’t say something to a person’s face, don’t say it at all.
I would repeat every word of my original blogpost to anybody who wishes to hear it – I firmly believe in the United Kingdom remaining in the European Union and my reasons have never been something I’ve chosen to hide.
And while, on the whole, reaction to my writing and the yarn have been overwhelmingly positive, there were a few questionable responses. The first, most notably from Rhona Liddle who wrote this on the Baa Baa Brighouse Facebook page: “please!!!! no politic rants. i’d imagine its not good for business but also perhaps your own personal political views are best left as precisely that?! thank you kindly”.
I promptly responded by explaining that Baa Baa Brighouse has always been very open with regards to supporting political policies, campaigns or charities, that Brexit may impact on Baa Baa Brighouse as a business and that she was free to unlike the Facebook page at any time.
Instead of simply clicking on the little “thumbs up” button, Rhona decided it would be far more productive to send me the following in a private message and then block me so that I was unable to reply: “i think its disgusting and crass what you posted today. I am freeing my mind of your nonsense and unfollowing and shall ensure i and my group never touch upon your site etc again. have some respect and decency if you will. we are craft lovers and have zero time or energy for impolite rudeness that will only prickle peoples minds, people like you start arguments/aggression/wars!”
Well, pardon me for invading Poland! I personally think it’s disgusting that she seems incapable of starting a sentence with a capital letter but I guess that must be because I am a grammar Nazi. I jest of course, but returning to my original point, I do wonder whether she would say this to my face?
Here, I am accused of being “disgusting”, “crass”, “nonsensical”, “disrespectful”, “indecent”, “impolite”, “rude” and capable of “starting arguments, aggression and wars”. A tad melodramatic for simply having a different opinion and the courage to express it, wouldn’t you say?
Allow me to put all of these things I am accused of being into context for you. I am a partially sighted, happily married mother of three incredibly talented, beautiful and engaging children. I have been married for 17 years and been with my husband for 24 years. I am a trained journalist who now owns a wool shop, having rediscovered a passion for knitting due to severe post-natal depression and anxiety, that still persists to this day and that I will probably take medication for for the rest of my life. I am an animal lover, a nature lover, interested in Scottish history due to my heritage, a prolific reader and the biggest Pearl Jam fan you will ever meet. I run two knitting groups though I purposely keep my friendship group very small, shying away from people in general. I sit on the committee of the Friends of Rastrick Library responsible for organising a host of community events for adults and children. I use my business to promote and raise money for several charities. I love vintage fashion and dye my hair red because I like it. I was refused Personal Independence Payment despite being registered as partially sighted and having a certificate of sight impairment from an ophthalmologist. I am unconventional and more often than not, I prefer the company of my Border Collie. Now, am I still all those things Rhona thinks I am?
I think, what I’m trying to say is that we never really know who we are talking to online so what gives anyone the right to pass judgement on a person’s character or be intentionally aggressive or abusive towards someone? You may just be typing words on a screen, but there is still a real person on the other end of it.
The second issue I wanted to discuss was why people think that it is necessary to tell me how to run my business. Baa Baa Brighouse was set up in 2014 and is now in its fifth year, with a view to opening its own bricks and mortar shop in 2019. So, though some of the time, I muddle my way through, I think it is safe to say that the business is healthy and moving in the right direction.
Diane Burgess said this: “Business social media, politics and religious beliefs should not be mixed. It can lose you custom and even bury your business. Just saying.”
While she has a point, it is the most obvious argument out there and to assume I had not considered this prior to putting my plans into action is simply astonishing. There are a multitude of very good, qualified business coaches and should I need advice, I would call upon their skills. However, the whole “blue sky thinking”, “getting your ducks in a row”, “hit the ground running” mantra would never be something I would subscribe to. It’s just not my way.
In the Baa Baa Brighouse Facebook Group, Diane had a discussion with another member about joining knitting groups to escape the reality of what is happening politically in the UK at the moment. While I can understand that point of view, I reiterated that Baa Baa Brighouse was not your ordinary, run-of-the-mill, crafting place.
Diane said: “I also happen to be a 1 woman business. Luckily mine will be little affected by Brexit. I have very strong political opinions but like in my previous comments to Baa Baa Brighouse, this is not the place to do it. Do it on your own personal one instead. I do that with mine.”
I’m pleased that Diane’s business will be unaffected, really I am but I am afraid there is a possibility Baa Baa Brighouse will be – one of our main suppliers is based in Germany.
I won’t be told how to run my business or social media pages. There is an unlike/unfollow button, a mute option or simply the option of scrolling past if you don’t like the content. By Sunday evening, after the launch of ‘Bollocks to Brexit‘, I felt like a broken record for pointing this out.
Diane went on to suggest that she form another crafting group where certain topics are banned. I had one thing to say to that or anyone who believes that could be a good thing: “I don’t think the idea of a craft group where certain topics are banned is a notion I could ever entertain personally. Speech (as long as it cannot be categorised as hate speech or aggressive, threatening or abusive in nature) is a fundamental freedom of any working democracy. I think it is important to engage with people with different views, even if you don’t agree. It is positive and healthy and can lead to greater understanding, cooperation and compromise. I think when we try to silence each other, that is when problems can arise. 14 years as a journalist taught me that”.
Finally, Saffron Hinder said: “Why would you alienate 51% of the country from buying your products? No matter what side of the coin you are, thats so stupid and its probably a good idea you lose business from this”.
I assume Saffron meant 52% of the country and while I think it is stupid that she got her facts wrong and doesn’t know how to use an apostrophe, I think the main flaw here is that she assumes that the crafting community is split in the same way the electorate was – 48% /52%.
A quick analysis of my ‘Bollocks to Brexit’ posts on Facebook will disprove this theory, given that 55 people liked the preview of the yarn, five people shared the post and 23 people commented on it. Of those 23 comments, Saffron’s was the only negative one. A similar statistical reflection can be found in the other posts about the yarn. When I pointed this out to her, informed her that Sunday had indeed been a bumper sales day and thanked her for her concern she said: “It’s very disappointing that this yarn is not made with fibres from the 27 countries of the European Union. Very nationalist for an “EU yarn””.
Yes, I did indeed fall about laughing at the irony. My reply was this: “Some EU countries are not famed for sheep farming, so it would be a little difficult to produce such a yarn. But this particular yarn never purported to be an ‘EU yarn’ in the context that you are suggesting. I don’t really understand your point in it being disappointing, particularly given that you thought it a stupid idea in any case. If something offends you Saffron, there is such a thing as ‘keep on scrolling'”. She promptly did.
It only occurred to me afterwards but can you imagine the environmental impact and carbon footprint of such a yarn if it were even possible?
The thing is, art has always mirrored life. It has always commented on and criticised politics. It has always questioned and challenged social attitudes. And long may that continue. I don’t, for one moment, claim to be the Banksy of the indie yarn dyeing world. But that is all it is. It’s just hand painted yarn, making a comment on the current political landscape and social attitudes facing the UK. Who knew yarn could be so offensive?
Perhaps in years to come, we’ll ask ourselves, “Where were you when the Yarn Wars started?” Well, the answer, at a guess, would be…in an armchair, knitting.