If you know me for five minutes you’ll know that I have a deep, everlasting, abiding love for all things penguins.
Which is why I had no less than five people link me to the latest call for penguin sweaters in the last week.
What is a penguin sweater? The request, which seems to be coming from multiple well meaning sites this time around, is for twee little sweaters sized for the birds to wear during an oil spill to keep them from preening and consuming oil.
However, as with most cute things on the Internet, it’s all pretty much a half-truth. It’s not a lie, so much as it is a misunderstanding. There is no need for penguin sweaters and in fact, from what I have read, the sweaters actually harm the birds more than they help them. The birds are cleaned up and aided, but not with knit goods.
The story seems to have picked up steam because a well meaning knitting store posted a request for these sweaters (the reasoning behind the original request seems to be murky-I don’t know if someone just decided to do this on their own or if there was originally a use for them prior to the discovery that putting a sweater on a penguin is a terrible idea). People thought that this was adorable (which is also part of what seems to, um, ruffle some feathers. Sorry, I couldn’t help it. Anyway, there are worries about what happens when you make oil spills look ‘cute’) and word spread, flaring up every so often.
However, all hope is not lost for the sweaters that were already donated. The rescue groups have sometimes been put in an awkward spot because they don’t want to hurt the feelings of people who did legitimately mean well-there may be an understandable desire to coming riding in as the white knight of the penguin community, making a lot of noise about ‘doing something actually effective instead of just sitting around knitting tiny sweaters.’ However anyone who has worked with the public for 30 seconds at any point since 2005 understands that you really need to watch how you present an argument or you’re going to come out looking like a monster instead of someone who just wants to educate.
So again, what’s up with the sweaters? At least one group has decided to take the sweaters and use them for the penguins benefit though not perhaps as the knitters had thought they would be used. The sweaters are placed on plushies which are then sold to raise money for the birds. So the sweaters do help the penguins in a round about way, just not the way that the knitters thought.
And no, there is currently no need for penguin sweaters.
Please, stop by this week’s Inspired Weekends!