Amy Fox

Writer. Editor. Feminist knitting designer.


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Introducing Solidarity (the knitting pattern)

Solidarity hat Katie

The beautiful, smart and funny journalist Katie Davies, rocking the hat over Christmas.

I’m so excited to announce that my very first *official* feminist knitting pattern is now on sale at LoveKnitting.com – and that I will be donating half the profits to Women’s Aid. Check it out here!

The Solidarity hat was inspired by two things. Firstly, as with so many designs, it was all in the yarn. Mirasol Miski a beautiful 100% baby llama in a soft green which I instantly knew I wanted to pair with a snowy cream (the two together remind me a little of my grandmother’s wallpaper from the 1970s).

Secondly, it was the 2014 Feminism in London conference, in which there was a lot of talk about how feminism is not just individual to each person, but a movement of togetherness – of women joining together to make change, much like the craftivists who attended and spoke at the event.

It was this idea which inspired the interlinked Venus symbols which make up the body of the hat’s Fair Isle pattern. They don’t just represent craftivists or even just feminists, but all women – the women in my own family and friendship circles, who are constantly inspiring me; the women of the past who were saved from poverty by their ability to make a living from their knitting; the millions of women around the world who feel like they are fighting a losing battle against oppression. If we don’t stand together and support each other, how can we possibly hope for change?

One of my oldest and most wonderful friends Phanida, who is months away from becoming an actual medical doctor. Bow down.

One of my oldest and most wonderful friends, Phanida Fung, who is months away from becoming an actual medical doctor. Also she looks super cute here.

And with all that in mind, I am so happy to be donating half the profits from the Solidarity hat to Women’s Aid, to help end domestic violence against women in children (unfortunately the other half is still needed for the “helping Amy pay her rent” fund – one day we may all live in a post-capitalist society in which I can afford to give away my patterns for free, but sadly today is not that day).

With thanks to Katie Davies and Phanida Fung, my two brilliant models and friends; the wonderful designer Jane Burns for her excellent advice, friendship and pattern-checking skills; and Loveknitting.com for helping independent designers to navigate the murky waters of VATMOSS.

Detailed shot of the Fair Isle pattern.

Detailed shot of the Fair Isle pattern.

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What is a feminist knitting designer?

Yarn and business cards

When I decided to go freelance last year, the first thing I got excited about was the business cards. I instantly knew what I wanted my tagline to be:

writer – editor – feminist knitting designer

“Are you sure?” asked my father, looking at the design. “Don’t you want it to be a bit more… professional?”

“It’s memorable,” was my reply. “People will see it and they’ll just have to ask me about it. And then when they actually need a writer or an editor, they’ll remember me!”

So… what does it mean to be a feminist knitting designer?

Well, it’s simple, really. It means that I’m a feminist and I’m a knitting designer, and that I sometimes try to combine the two.

Outside of the crafts world, there can sometimes be a bit of a tendency to look down on knitters and stitchers and cupcake bakers as being un-feminist. Germaine Greer famously said that “women have frittered their lives away stitching things for which there is no demand.” After all, didn’t we leave that kind of thing behind in the 1950s? Aren’t we just perpetuating unhelpful stereotypes of essential femininity? And so on.

Well… no. For me, there’s something very feminist about making things with your own hands and reconnecting with your creativity and your past. It doesn’t have to be expensive – you can pick up balls of yarn for little more than a quid – and it’s a skill that has been passed down through mothers and daughters for generations. My own mother taught me to knit when I was about 13, and my great-grandmother was a professional knitter; I still use her old needles from time to time. When my family traced back our family tree a few years ago, we also found at least one male ancestor who was a framework knitter in Leicester, my hometown.

And while that personal connection is not always the case for many people nowadays, all it takes is a quick google search to find hundreds of workshops, blogs and YouTube videos – predominantly by women – which are passing on that knowledge too.*

Knitting is not a closely guarded secret. It’s a thing that makes people happy, that they love to share with others. There’s no snobbery or nastiness – your first wobbly scarf will be celebrated with as much enthusiasm as your second bit of proper Fair Isle, or your twelfth patchwork blanket.

For me, feminism has always been about celebrating women’s achievements as well as fighting gender inequality – because part of that inequality is that women are conditioned not to celebrate their own achievements. We’re not supposed to boast when we’re good at something or agree when we’re complimented – just to sit quietly, humbly waving away any praise bestowed on us.

Not so in the world of knitting. When I’ve gone to craft shows I have found them full of women and men praising each other’s work without jealousy or bitterness, excited to show off their latest designs and ideas, encouraging each other to try something new. There’s a release and a satisfaction in an environment which is about supporting each other. It’s peaceful. It’s often environmentally friendly. It’s the kind of safe, warm, creative world that, as a feminist, I would love to become more universal.

And, on the flip side, knitting and other crafts can be thrillingly subversive when they’re used politically. Let’s not forget the many feminist crafters who are doing incredible, important work around the world: the brilliant Wool Against Weapons activists protested Trident last year by knitting a seven-mile long scarf to stretch between two atomic weapons sites in Berkshire, then repurposed the scarf into blankets for people in need; charities like Knit for Peace distribute handknitted items to those who need them most; Stitch n Bitch groups are bringing women together; projects like Significant Seams support vulnerable people in the community. And you know the suffragettes LOVED a hand-stitched banner back in the day.

It was these women, and more, of whom I was thinking when I designed my first official feminist knitting pattern. Stay tuned, guys, it won’t be long now.

*Before you start, of course there is room for men too, and of course eradicating the gender stereotypes around knitting is a thing that would benefit everyone. But at the same time, I get fuzzy feelings about an industry that is full of women working together in relative harmony. What can I say? It’s a paradox that I’m willing to live with for now.


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Could Taylor Swift be my next feminist hero?

With the release of Taylor Swift’s fifth album, Amy Adams celebrates the feminist awakening of one of the world’s biggest popstars.

Taylor Swift on the Speak Now tour in 2012. Photo: Flickr/Eva Rinaldi

Taylor Swift on the Speak Now tour in 2012. Photo: Flickr/Eva Rinaldi

With her fifth album releasing today, there has been a notable shift in Taylor Swift’s message. In the press she is known mostly for her songs about famous exes, and a couple of years ago the non-Swifty media had reached almost dizzying heights of speculation. Just how many men has she dated and what were the age differences? How do the exes feel? Straight guys must be terrified of going near her lest they become no more than a catchy chorus in her next single!

There was a time when Taylor Swift couldn’t even be seen making eye contact with a man without it appearing all over the media. As the rumours stacked up, the “maybe SHE’S the one with the problem!” vibe grew ever stronger. (God forbid that a woman play the field, ditch the men she doesn’t see a future with, and then sing about it. After all, it’s not like men have ever written scathing songs about their exes, have they Ed Sheeran?)

But in a world where the narratives of Taylor Swift’s relationships are seen as public property, I’m proud to be a fan of a woman who reclaims control of those stories through her music. No matter how much they are spun out of all recognition, she is determined to have the final word. So even before she self-defined as a feminist, I was still happy to put her in the “empowering female musicians” category and listen to 22 on repeat for days on end.

But things have changed between her last album, Red, and now. The most obvious is that Tay-Tay hasn’t been dating anyone at all for well over a year and a half. “I feel like watching my dating life has become a bit of a national pastime,” she told Rolling Stone earlier this year. “And I’m just not comfortable providing that kind of entertainment anymore.” Instead, she’s made more female friends, moved to New York, openly identified as a feminist for the first time, and bought another cat.

Of course, every right-minded single lady in her 20s is morally obligated to love cats, but it’s the feminist awakening that I care about most. Since befriending Lena Dunham, she has been regularly talking about feminism in interviews and calling out sexism wherever she sees it. Significantly, part of that discussion has involved admitting that she didn’t always understand what the term meant, and that she held many of the same assumptions and prejudices that continue to make feminism a dirty word amongst the “why not rebrand it as equalism” crowd.

But as more and more female celebrities come out in favour of the movement, there’s a lot of talk about how they’re not doing the work of “real” feminism. All this standing in front of a giant neon sign is just detracting from the difficult, dangerous and uncomfortable work of ending violence against women and fighting economic inequality. Now, I don’t want to say that this opinion is invalid, because of course those are very, very different and important goals. Improving the lives of women should remain central to feminism, and I’m not saying that 21st-century feminist debate begins with Beyoncé and ends with Emma Watson.

However, I don’t think that this makes their contributions any less worthy or exciting. The fact that these highly influential women are speaking up at all is a shift that could sway the opinions of millions of people who are starting their own feminist journey.

It’s a step. They’re all steps. But when individuals take steps together, society begins to move. Gateway celebrity feminism isn’t taking away from more serious feminist activism. It’s just that: a gateway. And once we’re through, there should be room for everyone, doing lots of different kinds of work, united by a common belief that all genders should be treated with the same amount of respect.

Taylor Swift has been called the “voice of a generation” for years. But the 16 year olds who were once dreaming of a love story are now in their early 20s, and they’ve survived an economic downfall, political unrest, and a world that seems intent on tearing itself to pieces.

Taylor Swift is not the same girl who wrote a homophobic lyric in Picture to Burn, one of her earliest singles. She’s not even the same girl who subsequently changed that lyric in her music video, and stopped singing it in concert. In fact, she’s come so far that she’s now started actively queering her own lyrics on stage.

Of course, anyone who noted the the cultural appropriation in her video for Shake It Off will also know that she still has a lot more to learn. I’d like to see a feminist who hasn’t.

We’re all on a journey, and we can’t expect every new feminist to instantly know how to change the world – but we can welcome them into the fold, forgive them for their mistakes, and help them to grow.


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The top five things I love about myself: why every woman deserves a list

Learning to get past your insecurities and love yourself is a long and difficult process, but the rewards when you succeed make it all worthwhile.

"Loving myself isn't arrogance or self-importance – it's the only way I know how to keep going." Photo: Amy Adams

“Loving myself isn’t arrogance or self-importance – it’s the only way I know how to keep going.” Photo: Amy Adams

“I don’t understand why I suddenly had a crisis about fancying women,” I was telling my housemate Ollie about a particularly weird night out. “I mean, fancying women is one of my top five things about myself.”

This – admittedly slightly outlandish – statement was met with confusion. “Top five things? Is that normal?” he asked.

“Yeah,” my other housemate Hattie chipped in. “Mine are like, four personality quirks, and then either my butt or my boobs, depending on the time of the month.”

“EXACTLY.”

It wasn’t always like this. I’ve only recently had a list, and I’ve only had the capacity to make a list for a little longer than that.

I was constantly told that I was a beautiful child, but like all women in the UK, by the time I was older I had been raised in a society which simultaneously told me I was too unimportant to speak, and too boring if I didn’t.

By 13, my nose had grown quicker than the rest of me, and one of the cool kids told me that if I sat on the back seat of a bus, I could drive it with my face.

It’s stupid – of COURSE it’s stupid – it’s a story I love to tell after a lot of wine when I’m laughing about how far I’ve come since school. But when I was sitting at that table at that age, I felt hurt and humiliated and I couldn’t tell anyone about it later because I knew the only normal reaction to such a ridiculous statement was more ridicule.

Those experiences continued, and when you’re young it’s hard to separate the idea that you’re ugly from the idea that the rest of you is worth nothing as a result. Our appearance is so tied up with our self-worth, that being a good person can feel pointless if you’re not beautiful too. It took years to unlearn the lesson that I was ugly and uncool and I didn’t matter. I had to move to university; I had to have my heart broken and survive stronger than before; I had to buy a killer red lipstick.

Loving myself isn’t arrogance or self-importance – or at least not entirely – it’s the only way I know how to keep going, and it didn’t come easily. The first time you look in the mirror and tell yourself you look hot, it seems like a joke. But you have to keep kidding yourself until it starts to feel true. Most people can find something they like about themselves, even if it’s just their favourite outfit, so there’s always somewhere to start.

And once your confidence is built up, other areas of your life might start to make sense too. When your own insecurities begin to fade, it’s harder to let people treat you badly, because you know you deserve better. It’s also easier to forgive and have sympathy for the mistakes of others, which are so often caused by insecurities. After all, you’ve been there. Now that you’ve got some distance from that mindset, you can fully appreciate how toxic it can be. And of course there’s no need to explain the difference that a little extra confidence can make in a job interview or on a first date.

“I know” has become my standard reply to a colleague saying how great my outfit is. But after a while, it became more than just self-affirmation. It became a mantra. I don’t just love myself, I love the idea of loving myself, and so should every other woman who’s ever been made to feel small. When I snapchat my face with the words “look how hot I am!” I’m not just showing off, I’m trying to set an example. I can never get annoyed by girls taking selfies because I just want to give them a standing ovation.

Women, wear that cute dress if it makes you feel great. After all, Christina said it best – you ARE beautiful. And the sooner you know it, the better.


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#twittersilence: it’s not for everyone. Here’s what it is for me.

I – like many, many others – have spent the last week thinking a lot about feminism and online abuse. And as I’ve been trying to decide whether or not to participate in #trolliday, a few things have started to occur to me.

Of the women on twitter whom I have been following, the argument has been split between two main camps. The problem is, I kind of agree with both.

Someone like Caitlin Moran will be missed today. If I still had it in me to care about Doctor Who, I would be sad not to have her running commentary of the weird talk-show-slash-possible-fight-to-the-death that will reveal the twelfth Doctor tonight. The argument that twitter would be a much worse place without outspoken women will be felt by her simple 24-hour absence. More importantly, the act of leaving twitter for a day will fuel a wider conversation about abuse. Helen Lewis explains that position pretty well.

But many, many other women are continuing to tweet their anger about sexism, because silence concerning abuse has not, historically, gone well for the abused.

Each approach works for the people who chose it. So what should my response be?

The thing is, my silence on twitter wouldn’t necessarily be missed anyway. I don’t tweet an awful lot as it is, and I very rarely tweet about feminism. For one thing, I am usually talking about something else. For another, there are many people I know who talk about it far more eloquently than myself. But there is a part of me – and it’s not a part I’m particularly proud of – that sees the abuse other women get, and thinks “I don’t know if that’s something I want to open myself up to”.

So in a way, I’ve already been silenced for far too long. As someone who is perfectly happy to identify myself as a feminist, and talk about feminism in my life away from the internet, that doesn’t really make any sense.

So instead of being silent today, I’m going to speak out instead.

And the message is simple – it is completely ridiculous that women are so often met with death threats and rape threats just for saying that they want to be treated equally to men. How twitter should respond to a fault of society is a different argument completely. However, the way that people treat each other in public spaces is everybody’s business, and they should never treat each other like that. Ignoring the problem is not a helpful response for those on the receiving end of daily insults and threats. If it came from someone they knew personally, no one would be telling them that to respond would only make things worse, so that should just sit down and take it.

I am a feminist, and I object to a world that treats men and women differently. I am adding my voice to the critical mass of objections.

Sexism does still exist. Women and girls are killed and abused all around the world simply for being women and girls. It cannot be denied that they are held to a different standard than men – to see that, you only need to turn on your TV and compare the number of visible mature men to the number of visible mature women.

Of course, both women and men are also abused for their race, sexuality, class, religion, nationality, mental health, weight, disability, appearance, clothes … gender is just one of the many targets of discrimination, but that doesn’t make it – or them – any less important.

There are many kinds of sexism. Almost every woman I know has faced some form of street harassment. Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head for speaking out for a woman’s right to an education in Pakistan. Marte Deborah Dalelv was arrested for having sex outside of marriage after reporting a rape – the fact that she was pardoned after international outcry does not make it okay. Within the last couple of months, a medical student I know was told by a surgeon at her hospital that she wouldn’t get ahead in orthopaedics because one day she will want to have a baby; another told her that she will find it easy because she can simply use her boobs. Neither mentioned her medical ability.

Sexism still exists. Some people’s silence today will speak louder than their presence. Some people will continue to shout about it today, and tomorrow, and the next day.

I am protesting in my own way. I am saying, as thousands of other women are saying, that sexism has to stop. The world will be a far, far better place without it.

In a debate on Channel 4 news the other day, Jon Snow asked whether the issue was bigger than twitter, and was in fact a social problem.

“Yes it is, Jon,” writer and activist Laurie Penny replied.

“Then why aren’t we dealing with that?”

Exactly, Jon Snow. Exactly.