Every month, a group of men gather in a public space in the Chilean capital, Santiago, to enjoy their hobby: knitting. But for the hombres tejedores (“men who knit” in Spanish), knitting isn’t just a passion. It is also a way to promote a society that is more tolerant and less macho.

In Santiago’s business district, you might stumble across a group of men wearing suits and ties and knitting with fuschia yarn. It’s a novel sight and one that the hombres tejedores want to use to fight sexist clichés within Chilean society. They created their group a year ago to push for change in a country they find “too patriarchal”.

“We want to transform the idea of what a man should be in Chilean society”

Ricardo Higuera, 36, has been part of the hombres tejedores group since its launch.

The collective was founded by the artist Claudio Castillo, who wanted to create a space where men felt comfortable just sitting around and knitting. At first, he gave classes where guys could come to learn to knit and weave. However, on June 18, on International Knitting Day, we decided to try knitting outside, in the street. Passers-by were surprised to see a group of men knitting!

The “hombres tejedores” group gathers in the street to knit. Photo: Facebook page “los hombres tejedores”

Since then, we’ve made a point to gather in public spaces, where everyone can see us, at least once a month. Our hobby has turned political! Our group is made up of 12 guys between the ages of 26 and 42. We all work in different professions. What brings us together is the fact that we grew up in a patriarchal society that teaches us that, as men, we have to play a specific role: a man shouldn’t be sensitive, he shouldn’t cry, he has to be strong.

“In Chile, it’s hard for a man to sit on a bench and knit”

We were taught that certain activities are reserved for women, like knitting. Men are supposed to do other activities. However, we believe strongly that these gender inequalities should disappear from modern society. Firstly because women suffer the most from this machismo. However, we also think men should be able to break free from this “role” that they were instructed to fill.

This knitting workshop took place in a busy district in Santiago. Photo: Rodrigo Isla.

In Chile, it’s hard for a man to sit on a bench and get out his knitting. It might even be dangerous. Other men could come and harass him because he is doing “women’s work”.

All of this comes from the fact that women are seen as “weak”, so a man who knits must be weak, too! That’s what we want to fight. We are fighting for a society that is more tolerant and that has more gender equality. 

“Los hombres tejedores” knit in Santiago. Photo: Rodrigo Isla.

Our group is feminist. We are striving for a more egalitarian society and we stand against discrimination of the LGBTI community. But, more than anything, we want to transform the image of what a man should be within Chilean society, so that each person can live how he or she wants.

In just a year, the group’s Facebook page has garnered more than 85,000 likes. Other men in different Latin American countries — including Brazil and Uruguay — have also been inspired to pick up their knitting needles.

According to Higuera, the hombres tejedores regularly receive messages from all over the world from people who want to launch similar projects. Recently, they were contacted by organisations in Germany and Ukraine.