Wednesday, April 1, 2009

More Hopf link fun

Hi again folks! I think I said I'd post some hats next, but am having some computer issues that will delay taking the photos for a little while. So, in the meantime I'll write a new project involving the Hopf links. I should add a quick warning - this is going to get quite political.

So, a while back I made a Hopf link, a pair of interlocking tori in pink and blue. These were a present for the awesome Juliana and family. (There was an earlier version, but I didn't manage to take pictures of those ones).
There was something which bothered me about them at the time, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it - I figured it was probably a sexuality thing, that they were a bit exclusively heterosexual, and I should really make a gay Hopf link too to make things more balanced, but that didn't seem quite right either.
Just recently I came back to the idea, and I think I can see now why they bothered me - they're what feminist folks would call heteronormative, which is a rather broader concept - it's not just that they were explicitly heterosexual, it's that they push a view that heterosexual relationships are a necessary and unique way to live. If there were some gay pairs, that would be slightly better, but not by much. It's broadened the criteria slightly, but is still prescriptive in the same way. There are *lots* more types of relationships around, and the issue isn't really validating each type one at a time, it's realising that they don't *need* validating in the first place.

So, rather than making a couple more Hopf links to balance things out, I've decided to make a whole collection of them, all of different kinds. It's going to be a bit ad hoc and random, but this is part of the plan. There are a couple of things I've decided though:
- It won't include every permutation. It's not trying to classify everyone, it's more about celebrating diversity.
- There will be at least a couple of single tori, cos I think the "you don't have to be in a relationship" message is very important too.
- There'll be some tori which will be yellow or green, rather than blue or pink. Cos not everyone falls neatly into 'male' and 'female' categories, especially not in the 'blue' and 'pink' sense.
- There should probably be some kind of polyamorous grouping too, though I'll need to think through more how to do that one.
- There will be at least one that just doesn't really make sense. This will, broadly speaking, be to represent "variations I haven't thought of", but also to stress that there is some room for interpretation here, that what each one means can be subjective and might mean different things to different people.

So yay! That said, I don't know what I'll actually do with these when they're done, other than revel in having a big pile of stuffed toys. Suggestions, anyone?
Also, knitting-wise I'll be using this project to get some practice at continental knitting. I've just about got the hang of the basic motions, but I need a lot more practice and still find it quite unnatural, especially for anything other than basic knit and purl stitches. But I'm improving!

Happy knitting everyone,



miya^^ said...

Are you talking about gender or sexuality, because I thought the whole blue-pink thing is more about gender than it is about sexuality. It is only in the joining that it has become heteronormative.

However, how heteronormative is this? Do you think the lacking of representation is what leads to heteronormativity? Because I'm not sure this is a sensible premise in general. Other things still exist irrespective of representation.

It is interesting to consider that if you had initially made gay Hopf links, that representation may be perceived as making a statement opposing heteronormativity, which shows it's really all just about the frame of reference. What do you think?

Btw. didn't get used to continental, but might have another go just cos it is that tad bit quicker. also the tension is always looser! so beware :)

Jhadur said...

Ok, will try to answer those things in order:
I think gender and sexuality are very closely related, especially where heteronormativity is concerned- to fit their relationship roles, everyone must first fit their gender roles.

It's not exactly about the lack of representation, it's about society prescribing what is right and proper. If society tells you your aim in life should be to get married and have 2-3 children, then it pretty much excludes gay people automatically(modulo adoption, surrogacy usw.). Even if they were represented plenty they're still forced to be outsiders.

I'm not sure what you mean in your third paragraph?
I think just making gay Hopf links would oppose heteronormativity in the strict sense, but it also reinforces normativity of another kind. 'Monogamo-normativity', perhaps?


miya^^ said...

Think of it like a mathenmatical system. My point is, if heteronormativity is well-defined, and the fact that you can talk about it and identified it in your hopf links means that it is, and by default, the gay hopf links oppose heteronormativity, then by default heteronormativity persists. i think this is the logical conclusion.
what do you think?

Jhadur said...

I'm still not sure I'm getting you. I *think* you're saying that the fact that people talk about heteronormativity means that it automatically exists?

In that case, I'd say that existing as a concept and actually being practised are two seperate things.
In fact, since it *kinda* needs to be subconcious to really work, just talking about it openly could well make it very hard to practise, because most of it's power comes from it's assumptions being unspoken, and unquestioned.

There's also a more practical point that heteronormativity *does* exist- just not talking about it won't make it go away. No?

Marquita Jensen said...

Maybe I'm just having a bad day, but I'm also having trouble following this still. (Sorry.) Can you state it in one sentence?

marquita Jensen said...

I get it, never mind.

--stupid Omaha, NE poker tourneys are not good for the next day's thought.

miya^^ said...

i was just re-reading what i wrote before and trying to make sense of whether i was making sense :)

i'm saying that we live in a heteronormative society and it is by definition the way we express ourselves. if we were in a society which could function without all the labelling, then perhaps this would not be the case, but this is generally not the case.

there's an analogy to this in the supermarket - much produce is not sold because it doesn't pass the quality control, a wonky potato say - and as such we reinforce that there's such things as normal potatoes, and abnormal ones. we just don't live in a society where every potato is a normal potato, and automatically, this makes the other potato by definition something which is implicitly non-normal.

you said: "There's also a more practical point that heteronormativity *does* exist- just not talking about it won't make it go away. No?"

i wasn't saying that if people don't talk about it, it wouldn't exist - what i was saying is that because of the way sexuality is defined - that it is discretised into categories, that by default makes society heteronormative - it's just this idea that everything falls into these boxes. the funny thing is society wants these boxes, because it goes under that banner of making things easier to communicate, but i think in reality, the labels that people have come to subscribe to, ultimately are meaningless.

Jhadur said...

Jensen - glad it made sense in the end! I wasn't entirely sure how clear this was when I was writing it.

Miya - You've got a "by definition" and a "by default" there I'd take issue with. What about eye colours? Everyone has an eye colour, and these broadly* fit into discrete categories, but we don't have to pick one ideal eye colour to be better than the others. Why shouldn't sexuality be like that?
(This analogy shamelessly stolen from Greg Egan)
(* - only broadly, much as people only broadly fit into sexuality categories)

Also, polyamory update - after talking to (the awesome, and polyamorous) Liz, I'm told I should make some detachable and re-arrangeable ones, because there are many people who view relationships as changing and evolving things, which are not just static. I hadn't thought about this when I started out, so yay idea-challenging and educationalness! I'll write a proper post about that at some point.