Like many in the quilt world, I’ve watch the shaming/defending of Alex Veronelli and Aurifil go by this week. Here are three posts that I think sum up the conversation quite well:
- Abby Glassenberg began with a thoughtful piece about her perceptions of Alex’s jokes in relationship to his position as the face of Aurifil.
- Florence of Flossie Teacakes followed up with her thoughts on how she likes to be marketed to.
- Angela Pingel pointed out that in the fuss, we might have missed how supportive Aurifil is of the non-famous artists in our industry.
Before I start though, disclosure:
- I have been using Aurifil threads for several years, and recommended them in my book with no sponsorship at the time.
- I buy my Aurifil piecing thread by the cone because that’s how much I like it. And yes, I’ve tried all the other threads out there. I used to work for a well stocked shop so I had a lot of opportunity to test things. I always come back to Aurifil.
- I have reached out to Alex for threads to share with participants in my upcoming threadwork workshop, and was promptly sent a very generous package for the students. Full spools, too, not 10 yard samples.
- I’ve met Alex on several occasions, and found him to be a professional and respectful man, who is genuinely excited about making a great product and getting it into the hands of people who sew. I actually think he’s as much of an awkward introvert as I am, the sort of introvert that puts on our public faces because we care about the work we’re doing.
- I’ve never heard any representative of Aurifil disparage the threads of another company. They just sell their selling points. I like positive marketing.
- I reached out to Alex to partner a collection of threads for my book, not knowing that, like the book, the lead times are looong. It’s not going to happen for Quilt Talk, but he told me to call when I’m cooking up the next one. And I will.
And so onto the task at hand…
The definition of a Bully Pulpit was coined by Teddy Roosevelt: A bully pulpit is a position sufficiently conspicuous to provide an opportunity to speak out and be listened to. We bloggers write because we have something to say and want to be heard saying it, hoping to achieve that sufficiently conspicuous position. Everyone loves to be heard. And with the privilege of free speech and access to any number of free blogging platforms comes, of course.. responsibility.
The current political climate in the US is one of deep polarization. The extremes command the headlines, and the choices offered to us are very clear black vs. white options, with no room for the gray between. Frequently the choices are presented to us with inflammatory language. “Support Hole-less Donuts, or you’re a DONUT MAIMER.” Where in this statement is the option for “I prefer creme filled” or “Croissants forever!”
I think this polarizing thinking has been applied to Alex. If you like him, you’re not a Feminist – gasp! If you don’t like him, you MUST publicly declare it, and burn your thread stock, and picket your local store that STILL carries it, and whip up all your friends into an equal frenzy, and possibly even split your guild into two over it.
Where’s the gray area? Where is there the space for “I like Aurifil, and Alex, but perhaps not that last joke on Alex’s personal feed”? I mean, really… isn’t there a person in your life that you like a lot, but whose political, religious, cat, and endless cute grandkid posts on FB exasperate you? And I need to point out that, yes, the internet blurs the lines between the professional and personal, but if you follow Alex’s personal feed you are effectively in his house. (For more on this, look up Erika Napolitano – and full disclosure, she cusses.)
I understand Abby’s discomfort, although having been raised in Europe, my worldview has less puritan and more Monty Python-esque humor embedded in it – and yes, yes, YES, I’m a feminist*. One who enjoys the occasional dirty joke and hot beefcake pix of fellas in kilts. Sheesh. I think Florence brings a better perspective to it… “Hey Aurifil… market to me like I’m smarter.” Angela rightly exhorts us to see the bigger picture before we vilify a single facet.
My advice? If you don’t like something, look away. Don’t keep looking at it. Just. Walk. Away. Don’t buy the product if you don’t support the company’s mission. Extreme example: don’t keep watching porn so you can complain about how awful porn is. If you have excess energy to burn, get frothy about other, bigger issues like music and arts education for kids.
BUT – if you’re going to go further, then get involved constructively. Don’t just say “I don’t want to see that and if you don’t take it down I’m going to flay you in a blog.” Reach out in private for a meeting FIRST, and bring some possible solutions to the table. Don’t just wave an inflammatory banner. And don’t be a bully. Contrary to the current climate, no legislation needs to be enacted every time someone disagrees with something. We are a diverse crowd – let us support each other’s differences.
Look. I will ALWAYS defend your right to think what you want to think, and act the way you see fit. You get to publicly or secretly enjoy a joke or two – or not. You get to boycott what you don’t like, and speak for what you love. YOU GET TO DO WHAT’S BEST FOR YOU. But when you have a Bully Pulpit, please use it carefully.
* My feminist activism is here.
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