Ravelry and the Rule That Must Not Be Named

It’s been an interesting few days in the online crafting world, but I think what happened this morning takes the cake. Allow me to walk you through recent developments.

After my first post on the subject of Ravelry’s new policy got disappeared (I subsequently found it locked, hidden and archived), I wrote another one:

I have so many questions. I put some of them in a post, and it got hidden and archived. I got blocked from the Big 6. I’ve now been unblocked, but the post is still hidden. I still don’t know what part of the community guidelines it’s supposed to have broken – I asked, but no one’s answered.

Now I have even more questions, after seeing a post which was, unlike mine, approved by a moderator and posted to a locked thread on one of the Big 6. It contains a sentence beginning “I dislike Christians (actually all 3 of the Abrahamic Triad of Terror)”.

So, clearly, it’s ok to proclaim on Ravelry your dislike of people based solely on their religious affiliation. Would it still have been approved if the poster had been more explicit and said “I dislike Jews, I dislike Muslims”? (Note: the way the original post is phrased says it isn’t about disliking belief systems – I dislike Christianity – it’s about disliking the people who adhere to them – I dislike Christians.)

If it’s ok to air your dislike of certain religious groups, how about political groups? Ethnic groups? Nationalities? Sexualities? If “I dislike Christians” is ok, how about “I dislike Greens” or “I dislike Gypsies” or “I dislike Mexicans” or “I dislike gays”? We all know it’s ok to hate on T____ here on Ravelry, and apparently open dislike of Muslims, Christians and Jews is fine, but where is the line drawn? Who’s in and who’s out?

I’ve loved Ravelry for years. I don’t have much involvement with social media, but I’ve heartily recommended Ravelry to friends and family (at least two of whom have joined up, based at least in part on my recommendation). But now, as a member of an openly disliked group, and as someone whose words have been erased from the communal area, I don’t feel welcome on Ravelry any more.

I posted that yesterday morning, my time. It was disappeared into the archive in a matter of minutes, and locked. On the plus side, it wasn’t hidden, meaning people can still see what I said if they go looking in the archive. And I didn’t get blocked! I even got a reply from a moderator saying that “for the time being” any post discussing the new policy would be locked and archived. Strangely, this doesn’t seem to include anything in support of the new policy, only discussion and dissent.

The reply also said that If a post is not hidden, it does not mean it was “approved” by the moderators, only that it may never have been brought to our attention. So the “I dislike Christians” post may not have been approved by a moderator at all. On the other hand, it’s been over 24 hours since I drew it to that moderator’s attention, at least – and it’s still there.

Once I’d finally found the archives (go to “For the Love of Ravelry” board, scroll down topic list, click on small-print link bottom right) I was staggered by the number of threads that had been sequestered in there, most of which had had their contents hidden.

Side note: the moderators are definitely dealing with some unpleasant stuff, e.g. the horrible person who started a thread titled “kill yourselves”. I don’t care what that person believes or who they voted for; they’re still horrible. On the other hand, a majority of the threads seemed to be people who were confused or upset or, like me, just asking questions. Didn’t matter. Same treatment.

What really staggered me, however, was the reply which some of the posts got from moderators (replies are not hidden unless they support the original poster). The reply said, and I quote, “Discussion of this policy is not allowed on the main boards.” But worse was to come.

I hadn’t seen any mention of this on the main boards themselves, so I thought I would bring this rule to the awareness of those who, like myself, hadn’t previously come across it and had transgressed it in all ignorance.

So I put up this:

Discussion of the recent policy is not allowed on the main boards.
Source – an archived thread. I have not seen this mentioned outside the archives, so not all users may be aware of this new rule, and may thus unwittingly break it – and then be surprised when their post “disappears”.

This post was archived, locked and hidden in three minutes, and I’m banned from the main forums till early next week.

Yes, it has come to this: Ravelry is enforcing a rule on its members that you are not allowed to tell them exists. The community space is being edited to produce the impression that pretty much everyone is ecstatic about this new policy, and everything’s carrying on, business as usual. Despite what some people claim, it’s not just hate speech that’s being quashed, it’s any dissent whatsoever.

And frankly, I’ve had it. If I wanted to live in constant uncertainty about whether I might be breaking a rule I don’t know about, I’d play Mao. Or, you know, get into an abusive relationship. Ravelry’s been great, but it’s not worth that.

So I’m looking around at alternatives (maybe OpenRavel?). Ideally, there’d be a decentralized platform for people to move to – no one authority who has the right to say “my house, my rules” and silence anyone who disagrees. But it seems we’re not there yet.

ETA 4/7/19: Yesterday, Ravelry openly announced that discussion of the new policy is not permitted on the main forums, as political discussion is not permitted on the main forums and “any discussion of this policy will likely become political”. The positive reaction posts are still up, however, as is the anti-Jew/Muslim/Christian post.

44 Replies to “Ravelry and the Rule That Must Not Be Named”

  1. I can do you one better. I was banned for posting for a week. I have been responding to this at other sites and posting on my own website. Today, I received notice of a 30 day ban! Clearly, they are banning me for speech on other sites.

    We should not have to point out that this is wrong. Dehumanizing people you disagree with is the first step towards more awful things. We should be able to disagree and focus on what we agree on. This is just the start and it will get a lot uglier.

    1. Bans based on off-site behaviour is a whole ‘nother level of disturbing.
      “Dehumanizing people you disagree with is the first step towards more awful things.” I quite agree!
      It’ll be interesting to see how this pans out. Revolutions seldom limit themselves to one ideological purge.
      Thanks for contributing to the discussion!

      1. The funny part about that is people (and by people, I mean Anti-T’s) claim what’s going on with that administration is mirroring what happens in The Handmaid’s Tale. The only way they are correct in that is their actions to silence any T supporter and those THEY don’t agree with, in any form they can.

        1. Let’s not tar with too broad a brush. Just as not all those who support the present US administration are white supremacists, not everyone who is opposed to said administration is a fanatic endeavouring to silence all dissent.
          And not everyone who’s been put off Ravelry by their recent decisions is pro-Trump. As I mentioned in my first censored post on Ravelry, I myself do not support Trump. But neither do I support the silencing of discussion and dissent, which, as another commenter has noted, smacks of totalitarianism.

      2. “Revolutions seldom limit themselves to one ideological purge.”
        True story. This is the 4th purge I have witnessed in 12 years on r, the second one this year. I won’t see another one because I deleted my account.

        Oddly, r has started a fundraiser on the site. For themselves. I can’t even. Fools and their money, etc.

        1. For those who want Ravelry to keep running under its present conditions, a fundraiser makes perfect sense. I don’t agree with what they’ve chosen to do, but I don’t want to sit in a corner jeering at them, either. They’re going one way, I’m going another; I wish them well and I’m getting on with my life.

  2. I had the same experience with my non-violent comment to Ravelry. I don’t go there much, so I’m not savvy on the ins and outs of posting, but one post I commented on was removed within 5 minutes, and one post I wrote calling them on it, (I may have used the pejorative term “butthurt…) Never got approved and disappeared.

  3. I’ve been banned for 120 days, then got a message I had been banned for 10 additional days ~ I think? I can’t message anyone for clarification because I was banned….. And I wasn’t even ugly in my post, I was just asking how they can put everyone in the same box (people that support T) when they don’t even know them. I live in AL, the home of the KKK and I can tell you I am a far cry from a white supremist (hell I can’t even spell it). But banned for 120 days, give me a break! There are way to many other sites out there for me to get patterns from to be fooling with Ravelry.

    1. 120 days is a long time! My messaging still works, and I can still talk to people on the other (non-Big Six) forums. Or at least, I could yesterday, the last time I checked…
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

      1. I’m still appalled by all of this going on. Someone here mentioned the forum post “For the love of Ravelry”, well it’s gone! What is the Big 6 and non Big 6 forums? Thanks for your info!

        1. For the Love of Ravelry isn’t a post, it’s a forum, containing all the threads of posts pertaining to Ravelry itself. (And it’s still there.) Along with Loose Threads, Patterns, Techniques and others, it is part of the Big Six – the main six Ravelry forums which are the shared public space. People can also choose to view or be part of other forums, but the Big Six are on everyone’s Forums page.

  4. This was completely expected, once the banning started they had to continue down the line banning everything that is negative to them. Remember when your mother told you not to tells lies? Because it quickly got out of hand, you forgot your original lie and everything became one big mess. Well that is what happened to Ravelry. They made a completely unreasonable policy. Honest people like you asked very good questions and everything has to be hidden, so now they dig the hole deeper and deeper. I left on day one. I haven’t used the forums for years, because even 10 years ago it became ugly. I have moved over to Love Knitting. No discussion boards, but it looks like there is a decent library of patterns and people are sharing their work – which is all I”m looking for in a craft site.

    1. Love Knitting (and Love Crochet) look good!
      I’ve joined Open Ravel, which is beginning with more of the forum side of things, and developing other aspects (e.g. there’s a marketplace already) as it goes along. Early beginnings, but the people seem keen to get on well with others and create a friendly, positive culture on the site.

    1. There are a few alternatives around, but they seem to be on good terms with each other, rather than jostling competitively, which is good to see.

  5. I have deleted my [largely unused] Ravelry account and started one at Open Ravel, in case I need one.
    The thought belatedly came through my mind that this is like a re-writing of Animal Farm, which in itself was a re-telling of every totalitarian government ever. I know totalitarianism is usually right-wing, whereas Ravelry is left. But I’ve always said that extreme views at both ends meet around the back and agree.

    1. Indeed! One is reminded of Richard Wurmbrand saying he’d been tortured by Nazis and tortured by communists and he couldn’t feel much of a difference.
      On which note: let us be thankful that access to one craft site is all that we’ve lost – many have suffered (and are still suffering) far worse.

  6. I removed all my posts that I could but some moderators wouldn’t allow me to remove some. Ravelry removed my avatar because it broke some rule (in honor of the 4th of July it was an picture of a woman sewing an American flag)but there is no procedure to follow to get it back. They have set my profile to not show because I have broken an unknown rule – they rule is not listed so I don’t know what I did. I went to all my pictures and erased anything that showed a person. I wiped out their face and skin and replaced it with green so as not offend any one. But that didn’t work either.

    1. My sympathies! I suspect the removal of your avatar happened because a woman sewing an American flag is likely to be identified as Betsy Ross sewing the Betsy Ross flag, which has been used by neo-Nazis and has been tainted by their hate in the eyes of many. And once you’re marked in the Ravelry system as someone posting inappropriate content, editing your other pictures is not going to change anything.
      It is a painful reality of these recent events that many people have been penalized without being told what they’ve done wrong, except that they’ve broken some unspecified rule. It’s a very paralyzing place to be, because if you don’t know what rule you’ve broken, how do you know if you should be apologizing or taking a stand of defiance?

  7. I also am suspended from posting for 30 days. I voiced my dissent from the rule in one post on the Conservative Knitters group and it was deleted and the ban issued. So I changed my profile picture to one from the previous purge 10 years ago, showing a republican woman with a gag on her mouth. Also I noted that I am not a white supremacist or Trump voter, and my inability to post or send messages on my profile. With no notification, I now have a blank profile and biography. Presumably they want me to edit out whatever they find offensive before they allow me to be recognized as a real person, but they haven’t told me what exactly that is.

    1. That’s the thing which has most bothered me about this: they claim that it’s only action against hate speech, but in actual fact anything that smacks of dissent is being squashed.
      I’ve found OpenRavel a friendly, welcoming place to be, although many of the features are still in development. Still, neither Rome nor Ravelry were built in a day!

  8. I never post on things like this but I will not support a group that posted like Ravelry did! I know a lot of my knitting friends have cancelled their accounts. I will too as soon has I get my patterns that I have prepaid for from “The Shawl Society” (They are in England) if I could get them with out finishing out through Ravelry I would. This is America and it is our right to have our own thoughts. But for a company like Ravelry to post what they did is wrong.
    If you want to do business in the United States you need to accommodate all. It is why we were founded. But most people forget that we founded as a Christian Country first. I will not go any further. But thank you for your post.

    1. Hi! Thanks for joining the conversation!

      Let us not forget that nothing Ravelry did – or can do – can stop anyone from thinking what they like, although they have slightly decreased the avenues open for expressing what they think. And while the people who run Ravelry may be in America, as may you, the Internet isn’t (and nor are many of its users).
      I don’t agree with Ravelry’s recent decision either, but I don’t say they had no right to do it. Of course, when a company intentionally alienates part of its usership (one can hardly say ‘customers’ when most accounts were set up for free), it has to be very certain that it will be able to keep in business with what is left. Example: a gym which decides to go women-only had better be sure there are enough women wanting a women-only gym to keep them in business. (Isn’t that how a free-market economy works?)

      I know many people in the USA consider it a Christian country, but looking at the founding fathers, it might be more accurate to call them Theist. Thomas Jefferson, for example, cut out of his Bible all the parts he didn’t agree with. And there are (and were) those who would argue that rebelling against the existing authorities went against the teaching of Scripture – Romans 13: 1-7, for example, or 1 Peter 2: 13-14.

    2. Hello Patricia,

      I have already cancelled my Ravelry account and was still able to receive my third pattern from the Shawl Society without any issues this last week.

  9. I deleted my Ravelry account the day after the announcement was made regarding President Donald Trump. In my opinion the website owners have the right to conduct business according to their personal value system and I have the right to delete my account. I respect their right to freedom of opinion and speech. However, banning opposing views demonstrates their intolerance and a frightening path toward extremism. I found Ravelry to be very helpful in my fiber adventure so I will miss it. I will not miss the “pussy hats” or the “F___ Trump” patterns which I tolerated out of respect for their personal freedoms (while at the same time “Choose Life” was considered by them to be offensive). I will not miss their labeling of others as “racist” when they know absolutely nothing about those whom they shun. If I wanted to live in a closed society where my thoughts, opinions and speech were dictated by the ruling government I’d move to North Korea. Goodbye Ravelry. I hope your “no hate” HATE policies end up biting you in the bottom.

    1. I can understand your feelings – “Choose Life” being offensive when F___ someone isn’t?? how upside down is that? – but let us not forget that Ravelry has no control over our thoughts, opinions, speech or actions unless we choose to give it to them.
      By the by, since I sincerely doubt anyone from Ravelry’s Powers That Be reads my blog, anything you want to say to them – regarding their bottom or anything else – you’ll probably need to say somewhere else.

  10. I’m a little late to the boat here since I’ve been out of town for a bit, but dang. I just found out about the new policy, and I view it as one-sided and handled very poorly. On the political spectrum, I find myself neutral…and with that being said, there should be no reason to associate any political agenda within a knitting and crocheting community, regardless of the side. However, simply marginalizing t-supporters as “white-supremacists” isn’t the answer to stopping hatred, since the hatred is clearly evident in both sides. If you’re gonna ban it, ban it all. Thank you for this article, I couldn’t agree with it more. I was kinda confused on why I could only see the overload of positive feedback to such an extreme action…but now I know. Yikes. That’s all I gotta say. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    1. Thanks for stopping by and chipping in. It’s never too late to have your say, and “yikes” does sum it up quite well!

  11. I am so thankful for your post and the comments here, as you have answered several questions I had. I have been wondering how all those positive supporting comments were floating around Ravelry but none that questioned their decision. None? I found that suspicious. And now I know why.

    I also deeply appreciate your naming two sites (so far) that offer a nice place for knitters to go as alternatives to Ravelry. I don’t mind a site being totally non-political. I would prefer it. Neither my needles nor my yarn can vote, so I’m happy to just create with them. If I want to speak up about my views, political/religious/fashion/etc., there are plenty of other sites where it would be appropriate and welcome. I’m happy to let knitting be knitting.

    1. I don’t know about other sites, but Open Ravel does have a place for political discussion. Its default is hidden – you have to deliberately ask to join in order to see or participate in the discussion, so those who don’t want to see it don’t have to! Which is most people, it turns out 🙂

      Of course, there are times when one’s “political/religious/fashion/etc” views do make themselves felt (albeit silently) in one’s knitting. I am reminded of the traditional American patchwork blocks with political names – “Lincoln’s Platform”, for example, or “54-40 or Fight”. Just another example in the long history of saying something without actually saying it.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

Leave a Reply to Anna Cancel reply