Elizabeth Poe describes The Joy of Knitting, the small store she founded four years ago in Franklin, Tenn., as a place for women to buy yarn, knit and make friends.
Well, some women.
In a Facebook post Poe wrote Tuesday that quickly went viral, she requested that “if you want yarn for any project for the women’s movement that you please shop for yarn elsewhere.” She made clear in the post that she was referring to those who participated in or supported the Women’s March on Washington and its sister marches across the country.
“The vulgarity, vile and evilness of this movement is absolutely despicable. That kind of behavior is unacceptable and is not welcomed at The Joy of Knitting. I will never need that kind of business to remain open. Two wrongs will never ever make it right,” she wrote, adding, “As the owner of this business and a Christian, I have a duty to my customers and my community to promote values of mutual respect, love, compassion, understanding, and integrity. The women’s movement is counterproductive to unity of family, friends, community, and nation.”
The post exploded almost immediately, amassing thousands of reactions, comments and shares. As of early Thursday morning, it had been shared more than 5,500 times and had amassed nearly 8,000 comments.
Furthermore, the store’s rating on Facebook shot down to 1.3 stars. Of about 7,900 ratings, 7,200 were one-star reviews (compared to 28 2-star, six 3-star, 10 4-star and 573 5-star reviews).
Most of them appeared to have been left in the past few days and were deeply critical of Poe.
“A business should not tell other women what they can and can’t do with their bodies, nor should they speak out AGAINST women, especially when it’s a woman-owned business. BYE, the Joy of Knitting,” wrote Facebook user Kristin Luna.
“Glad that the owner of this business was so free with her close minded views and made it clear that she doesn’t want money from any of the women who don’t want [to be] sexually assaulted or who feel its important to stand up for themselves their sisters or their own rights,” Donte Stafford wrote.
However, a few users gave the store a 5-star rating and defended it.
“Proud that your store did not sell to people knitting vulgar hats for protest groups,” wrote Brenda Nelson Gavin Metz. “Someone has to stand up for America and our President.”
The store saw a similar increase in reviews on Yelp, where it now has only one star.
Poe was inspired to write the post Tuesday when a woman came into her store seeking pink yarn to sew a cat hat — a knit hat with two cat ears. These hats, made popular by the Pussyhat Project, were worn by protesters around the country during Saturday’s women’s marches.
“I said, ‘Ma’am, if I had the yarn for the project you’re looking for … I cannot condone that behavior anymore, and I just can’t sell it,” she told NewsChannel5. The language is reminiscent of that from other store owners who adopted similar policies, though on different issues, such as the Indiana pizza shop that wouldn’t cater gay weddings or the Oregon bakery that was fined for refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex commitment ceremony.
Poe told the Tennessean she decided not to support the movement after watching the weekend’s marches, including the one in nearby Nashville, where about 15,000 people marched. It isn’t necessarily the movement she doesn’t support, she told the newspaper, but the method of protest.
“This is starting to undermine their efforts,” Poe said. “I think if you want to get your point across you need to do it the right way and I just think that walking around dressed as a vulva is gross. Hatred is not acceptable speech.”
Even though, by Poe’s own account, her phone has been ringing constantly with calls both supportive and antagonistic from across the country since her post went up, she hasn’t changed her opinion or removed the post.
“I’m not perfect. I’m not trying to throw stones at this movement,” she told NewsChannel5. “I’m just telling you that we’ve lost our sense of social decency in this nation, and we’re hurting people.”
Added Poe, “I’m not against people standing up. I’m against the way they’re doing it.”