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A Microinfluencer In The Knitting Instagram Community Incited A Lot Of Drama After Naming Her Yarn "SJW" Terms

Knitting has become an online breeding ground for contentious sociopolitical debates — who knew?

Posted on February 19, 2020, at 11:22 a.m. ET

A trail of controversy and drama is following a woman named Maria Tusken in the online knitting community after she used terms she deemed as "social justice warrior lingo" for a recent yarn giveaway.

Some of the names of dyed yarn include "gaslight" (lime), "microaggression" (pale blue), "problematic" (bright orange), among others. The collection is called Polarizing Knits.

The giveaway, announced on Thursday, has inspired a barrage of heated comments, both vehemently against and ferociously in support of Tusken.

While some have now called her Instagram account, which has nearly 12,000 followers, an "unsafe space," the entire stunt is ironically a collaboration with a YouTube channel called Unsafe Space. The channel dedicated to ridiculing and criticizing actions of so-called social justice warriors, or SJWs.

According to an appearance on the channel a few months ago, Tusken said she became "the most hated person in the knitting community" after she tried defending a fellow knitter who was accused in a post of fetishizing a trip to India. The line of knits is her response to the backlash.

"I am naming yarns after SJW lingo," she says, chuckling, in the latest YouTube video.

When reached, Tusken told BuzzFeed News that the names "are inspired by current culture and words/phrases that are popular right now."

"Of course I have my own political beliefs, but I am open to listening and learning from all sides," she said.

"I am using words that people from both sides of this 'debate' use. For example, some people use words like 'woke' and 'purity spiral' and 'virtue signal' to describe the actions of those they oppose. And then the other side uses words and phrases like 'problematic,' 'emotional labor,' and 'sitting with my discomfort.' No one owns any of these words."

People do not seem to appreciate the commentary she's making with her yarn colors.

"This is trying-to-be edgy at an embarrassing level," someone wrote. One person called her actions "truly disgusting."

Instagram

When these critical comments started showing up, many of Tusken's fans rushed to her defense.

"Beautiful colors!!! Glad to see that your not letting the 'bastards' get you down!!!" a commenter wrote.

"I really pray you see where the hate is coming from and take a stand. She did nothing wrong," another added.

The drama only grew from there. Karlyn Borysenko, an organizational psychologist based in New Hampshire, told BuzzFeed News she had several comments she wrote on Tusken's post flagged for "bullying or harassment."

Borysenko, who is a knitter herself and active in the online community, believed she was being punished for "trying to counter-balance the bullying going on."

"I tried to say happy, empowering things," she said. "I was trying to be positive about it."

Borysenko, who is very vocal about her own political ideologies on Twitter, has been actively tweeting about the drama.

Karlyn Borysenko

Critics of Tusken believe she and others are missing the point.

Twitter user @BitchyKnitter, who wanted to remain anonymous, told BuzzFeed News she immediately recognized the yarn names as mockery. She thinks it's diverting a lot of the attention away from sincere "issues that affect" people.

"As for so-called online brigade against policing language and mobbing, I think a lot of it has been overblown," she said. "People are being called bullies, when all they're really trying to do is speak up about issues that affect them."

BuzzFeed News reached back out to Tusken about these criticisms. She has not yet responded.

Tuskenknits is just like all those hack opinion piece writers: say something deliberately to get people mad. When people get mad, sit back smugly and say "see how right I am?"

@BitchyKnitter said these strained tensions in the knitting community have been boiling for a while. She believes it's because it's an innocuous activity that attracts many different people of different ideological backgrounds.

"What I think is really happening is that the same political conversations that are happening worldwide — about racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and other social issues — are also happening in the knitting world," she said. "This isn't surprising, because knitters are people too, and knitting as a hobby cuts across a lot of different demographics."

CORRECTION

Tusken became embroiled in controversy after defending a fellow knitter in the community. A previous version of the post misidentified her as a friend.

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