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Here's the thing about knitters:

We have [moral] fiber, we vote, we have a strong network, and oh, yeah...our tongues are sharper than our needles.

I would be a much better student if I could knit in class, although I'm sure my profs wouldn't buy it -- keeping my hands busy controls my "monkey mind." Instead, I sit with glazed eyes through endless PowerPoint presentations [I curse you, inventor of the evil PowerPoint] paying attention to everything else. Sometimes this pays off, like the day the monkey whispered "Knitters Against Bush: Don't Unravel Our Rights." And thus the idea for the first knitter's PAC [Political Action Committee] was born. Good monkey.

[PACs usually have lots of money to throw around. Following tradition, a knitter's PAC would advocate for things related to knitting. But there's not a lot of money in this -- in fact, what money there is came later -- and what's to advocate, aside from being allowed to knit on airplanes? We have our sights set on something much bigger.]

The minute I heard about this year's March for Women's Lives in Washington, I knew I'd go. I'd gone in 1992, and although I was/am irritated that conditions are even worse for women 12 years later, I saw my attendance as imperative. I am not a religious woman; some would even call me amoral. This is as close as I get.

I heard about the March in mid-March, and started wondering how to mix marching and knitting towards the end of the month. I had a vision of knitters from all over united under one banner [or t-shirts, since I don't really like carrying things while marching]. So first came the slogan, which I ran by Carolyn, who wouldn't be able to attend, but gave it a thumbs up. She suggested CafePress for the t-shirts [which was good, because I'd forgotten all about their convenient little service and had images of myself buying the home screenprinting kit from the latest issue of Bust, which wasn't very pretty].

That weekend, I registered my domain name, opened my CafePress shop with two t-shirts and a bumpersticker, put together a web page and found a host. By Monday, April 5th, the site was up and running. [This is where the money part belatedly arrives on the scene. Why let CafePress make all the money? On the other hand, I didn't want to be ridiculous, so I marked up my merch by the smallest amounts, with the proceeds going to NARAL and I figured that some people may be against Bush but not want their money to go to NARAL -- perhaps those people would like something more directly anti-Bush, kind of like an electoral depilatory.]

Right off, I started getting great responses on my blog, both from people who were going and now wanted to meet and from people who couldn't go but wanted to express their support. Maggi, being more familiar with the Mall area, came up with a time and a place for all of us to meet. By the weekend of the March, we knew to expect Maggi and her daughter, Caroline, who's just shy of her third birthday [gotta get those kids started down the path of political involvement early] from Richmond; Rachael, coming all the way from Oakland; Bethany, Rachael's sister, from all over, but lately Florida; Michelle, NYC; and Cheryl, who lives in the DC area I think. Sarah also met us there -- she's a local -- and a mother-and-daughter knitting pair, whose names I didn't catch, were there as well. I brought my fellow library-school person, Alexa [she knits, and does some mean needlepoint]. "Met us" is kind of an exaggeration, since Alexa and I were late; by the time we got there, Cheryl had already left to "dance with the ones what brung her," so to speak.

We met on the steps of the National Museum of American History. When Alexa and I arrived, everyone was knitting -- what else do knitters do when they have to sit for more than two minutes in a row? Meeting other bloggers is like meeting old friends [for me, friends I'd lost touch with, since I'd effectively stopped blogging for a while]. Even non-blogging Alexa said she felt welcome. People were asking them to pose with their "Knitters Against Bush" t-shirts -- they were a big hit. [Every time someone asked to take a pic of all of the shirt-wearers, I'd invariably have my sweater on, so I only ended up in one of them. After the woman took it, she said "Oh, I hope I got your faces in there." ["Hi, I'm Maureen, and these are my boobs." The story of my life.] My favorite question was, "Knitters Against Bush -- is that a real organization?" Answer: It has been ever since I made it up.

Eventually, we decided to put away the knitting and start marching. After I got home, I saw the pictures of Madeline Albright and Gloria Steinem and all of those other people at the front of the March, which makes the whole thing look much more organized than it seemed at the time. No one said "Start marching now." We just saw that it was 12:15pm, and since the March was supposed to start at noon, we left. The NMAH was near the step-off point, so we started toward the street and eventually found some crowd; once you get into the crowd, you lose all perspective.

The marching itself took about an hour. The counter-protesters were relatively few and not particularly loud, but they made up for it with these extra-huge posters of fetuses [dead and in-utero] and Hitler, and pictures of sad Jesus. Chanting was a little dicey for the marchers:

Call: What do we want?

Response: Choice!

C: When do we want it?

R: Now!

Based on the venerable "Peace! Now!" chant, this inevitably devolves into "Choice! Now!" The problem is, we do have choice now, but we aren't sure we'll get to keep it for much longer, especially if this administration sticks around, what with Bush's love of mingling church and state and his desire to pack the courts with his lackeys. Choice! Forever!

Roe v. Wade itself isn't about "choice," or about an explicit statement of the legality of abortion. What Roe says is that a woman's right to privacy [in the first two trimesters of her pregnancy] overrules the "state's interest" in fetal health. Women didn't get the right to privacy, and the right to govern their own bodies, until 1973. Bless Roe's little heart, but at this point I'd like something stronger, such as a national law mandating safe, affordable, and accessible abortions for all women. Yeah, it ain't gonna happen, but this is why we march -- because Roe is all we have, and we need to keep her intact. Keep abortion safe and legal!

After we finished marching we returned to the Mall and staked out a place to rest and listen to the speakers [as much as was possible; I didn't pick up on much] -- and knit. And people watch, since the majority of the Marchers were still coming in. Close to two hours later, hunger got the better of Alexa and I. We walked a few blocks and people were still coming onto the Mall -- after a few blocks more, we saw the end of the March. All of us became really choked up, because that's when we realized how many people had come out that day.

Forget about all of this "knitting as political statement" crap -- I'm not buying it. I knit because I like it, and do so unapologetically. Wanna question my feminist cred? Watch out for the flying needles. What I'm talking about is this: knit and make a political statement. Sure, women knit for the soldiers during the World Wars, and now we do all sorts of charity knit-alongs, but if people are really interested in taking knitting out of the private and into the public realm [and I don't mean coffeehouses], we need to take the opportunity to be overtly political. Many of the knit blogs address political issues, so Knitters Against Bush seemed like the logical next step.

One marcher who noticed our shirts and asked about them also asked how serious we are, as knitters. Dead serious, lady, and we proceeded to tell her how we got together through our blogs. She wasn't listening, but she did tell me that she and a group of her friends were trying to think of a way to use knitting in a political way, and one idea they had was getting people to pay them by the inch for knitting up all of their odds and ends of yarn into scarves. She also told me that her husband had been the photographer for a couple of Melanie Falick's books [Knitting in America was one]. She emailed me the next day for other fund-raising ideas, and I suggested that she tap into the power of blogs and have a "swatch marathon": invite everyone to send in swatches to be made into an afghan [to be given to charity or auctioned off at the end], and set up a PayPal account for people to pledge. Supporters could pledge a set sum, or, say, fifty cents per swatch, or some amount for every swatch with a cable pattern, etc. If bloggers can get together and knit hundreds of catnip mice or blankets for pets in animal shelters, I'm sure they can do wonders for regime change. [Don't get me wrong: I love the kitties, and even the doggies, having some of both myself. But.]

Washington had to contend with all of those hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people that day, and a bunch of angry knitters from around the country. T-shirts and bumper stickers are still selling, some weeks better than others, but I'll have some donations to pass along. People are still e-mailing me to have themselves added to the "Comrades-in-Needles" list of links. What exactly does "Don't unravel our rights" refer to? Pick your favorites -- so many are endangered at the moment.



Maureen McClarnon is proprietress of the blog Hairball and a librarian-in-training [in this incarnation].

She knits in Durham, NC, accompanied by two cats, a dog, and a Canadian boyfriend who helps support her habit. She wonders if "knitters" will someday be a "soccer mom" demographic.