3 Ways to Shut Down Pussyhat Haters

Like most people in my circle of friends, after the election, I was left in a dark place. I wanted Hillary to win for women and girls everywhere, but I needed her to win to prove that progress isn’t perfect, but that it’s at least a given and not something we should have to continue to fight for.

I, like many people I knew, was left questioning pretty much everything I thought I knew about politics, about America, about the world. And after a while, I was more than mourning the loss; I was downright depressed. How was I supposed to look my students in the face and say that everything was going to be OK? How was I supposed to raise a daughter knowing that she would know the word “pussy” before her 5th birthday? How was I supposed to tell my girls that they could be anything they wanted to be?

I lost interest in a lot of things I used to love. Teaching and coaching, sure, but that could have been the product of the end-of-the-semester blues so I wrote it off as such. But when I started to lose interest in knitting and sewing, food, and yoga – and when I started falling asleep on the couch at 7 PM for no apparent reason – I knew something had to be up.

Top that off with the fact that I wanted so desperately to attend the Women’s March on Washington but didn’t think I could. I just wanted to do something that felt like action, but it was too expensive, too hard to leave a toddler, I’d miss a Speech tournament, I had never done anything like this before, I didn’t want to go alone…

And, just in the nick of time, I saw a post somewhere on my social media about the Pussyhat Project. If you haven’t heard about it, check out the link. (Go ahead. I’ll wait here.) The jist of it is that these women want to outfit all of the marchers in handmade – knit, crocheted, or sewn – pink cat hats. The idea is to create a stunning and noticeable visual statement at the march (and to keep the marchers warm, because it’s January in D.C. and it’s going to be COLD!) that protests our President-Elect’s use of the word “pussy” by reclaiming the word as our own, all while reclaiming the color pink – one that has been used against women to demean them – and the concept of handmade items that traditionally fall in the realm of women’s work.

I jumped right on board. I’ve made over 30 hats, and will continue to make them right up until the day of the march. I will probably be knitting one on the bus on the way there. (Oh, did I mention I abolished all of those reasons floating in my brain for why I couldn’t go and bought a Rally Bus ticket? Because I did! AND I COULD NOT BE MORE EXCITED!)

I knit. I sew. I’ve made a lot of hats. (This isn’t even all of them!)

But, you know, hatters gonna hate, right? I’ve heard a lot of arguments against the use of these hats lately as the project has gained momentum and, while I see where these people are coming from, I disagree. If you’re a Pussyhat Project Proponent but are at a loss for what to counter, then here are some things you can say to those Pussyhat Pessimists’ arguments.

Argument 1: These hats are silly. We need to be taken seriously.

You’re right. They are. I have been wearing mine every day since I finished it, and I will admit that I feel weird about it. As one of my students said on the Speech tournament bus this weekend: “That’s an interesting hat choice for a grown woman.”

This isn’t about one woman wearing a silly hat, though. It’s about over 150,000 women and men – angry women and men – wearing them in solidarity, and when the world sees us connected by this symbol, it will be powerful.

Also, I hate to say it, but we have a President-Elect that says silly things. (And hurtful things. And demeaning things. And downright damaging things.) Sometimes, you just have to meet your opponent on their level to get them to pay attention. And he will be paying attention. This man gets rattled. Easily. 150,000 people marching against him, when the spotlight is supposed to be on him, decked out in pink Pussyhats… He’ll say something about it because it’ll get to him.

Correction: He’ll tweet something about it. But it’ll still get to him.

Argument 2: Pink is not the right color for this. Why choose such a girly color? And why cats? Why not vaginas or something more revolutionary?

Pink is exactly the right color for this. Black or white wouldn’t make the intended visual statement, and Democrat Blue would just confuse the issue. Would you prefer purple as something girly but not too much so? Like Hillary Clinton’s concession pantsuit, all that does is blend the red and the blue, which isn’t want we want at all. Green? Yellow? Orange? It’s a women’s march. Pink has been used for and against women for a very long time, so why not reclaim it for this, an important women’s issue?

As for the cat imagery, let’s never forget that kitties have claws. And it isn’t our fault he used the word “pussy” to describe women’s genitalia, opening himself up to endless cat puns. I hate to be the toddler here, but he really did start it.

More importantly, though, these patterns were meant to be easily accessible to anyone, even those without a lot of experience. Crocheting an elaborate labia would be time-consuming and something only the most elite crafters would be able to do, which would not only defeat the purpose, but go completely against the accessible and intersectional nature of the event itself.

Argument 3: Why waste your time making hats when you could be doing something more productive to “Dump Trump.”

Well, as a matter of practicality, it’s D.C. In January. It is going to be cold. More importantly, though, this project was a way to channel anger, frustration, and astonishment for those of us who needed something to do and weren’t sure where to start. This project has been a lifesaver for me, and not only because I had something to do with my anxiety. Knitting (and other crafts) are so meditative that I had no choice but to slow down and become very mindful about my next steps. It helped me organize my thoughts and clear the post-election fog from my brain.

Moreover, this project was intended to foster connections between people, and allow people who couldn’t attend the march a way to send a piece of themselves there. Knitting, crocheting, and sewing is all about making connections – connecting loops and knots of yarn, thread, and fabric together, sure, but also connecting crafters with other crafters. I even saw a post on Instagram that was a box of hats, each with a note saying that the hats were made from her late mother’s stash of fabric as a way of allowing her mom – who had died in December – to participate in the march. That, right there, is the epitome of love, and love trumps hate, which is possibly the most important message we can send right now.

Photo Credit: Instagram User @mckfly

Also, these crafts were and still are typically considered “women’s work;” something that was expected to be done in the home, alone, but soon knitting circles, sew-ins, and other craft groups emerged to connect people together. The natural outcropping of this is some discussion about more revolutionary topics in safe spaces for women to do so. That tradition has continued with several knitting parties across the country to make Pussyhats and discuss the next steps in our “craftivism,” and our resistance. I attended one at Women and Children First Bookstore in Chicago last week and it was amazing. It just felt so good to be with women who all cared deeply about feminist issues, and who all still felt dejected about the election results, and who all felt passionately about crafting for the cause. (See also: that point up there about making connections.)

Photo Credit: Women and Children First Bookstore

 

Photo Credit: Veronica Arreola

 

If none of this works and you love the project while some of your feminist friends still hate it, you can tell them they by no means have to wear one, and then continue to rock your Pussyhat with pride. But, if you are going to the march and you can, pack an extra. I wouldn’t be surprised if they eventually give in to the power of the pink Pussyhat.

14 thoughts on “3 Ways to Shut Down Pussyhat Haters

  1. Meghan hoyt on

    Crocheting an elaborate labia…. made me laugh out loud all alone!!! Thanks for the awesome explanation.. I’m trying to get to the Chicago March!!

  2. I was reluctant at first but have signed on to the concept. I am going from Chicago to the D.C. March with my sister, daughter and a friend. Meeting up with my sister’s daughter-in-law who is coming from Japan and her Granddaughter coming from NY. I have knitted a bunch of hats and plan to bring extras to pass out. I loved your post and was inspired! I am reminded we are Stronger Together!

  3. I’m crocheting as many hats as I can and going to D.C. My adult children, male and female, will be joining me from other states, marching with me, wearing my hats. I’ll be giving them away on the bus there as well.

  4. Valerie Tobin on

    Thank you for putting this in the best way I’ve seen to date. I first saw something about the pussyhats on FB, and immediately plowed through my yarn stash to find some pink yarn, got the simple pattern, and knit a swatch, seized my yarn and needles and set to work. My knitting club is divided politically and some had very intense reactions to the entire thing, which I find sad, but I felt it was too important to me, personally, for many reasons, to continue. While I have not been able to make as many hats as I would have liked to, at the very time this whole thing started, my husband and I were quite sick with really bad colds. We’re way better, but the timing stunk. Anyway, I got some made and will be able to give them to people I know who are going to the March. For me, that’s a happy ending.

    • Ashley on

      In such a divisive era, we are not going to all agree on politics, and when we disagree, we are going to do so vehemently. The most important thing, which I think you have discovered, is that if something is important to you, you need to speak out and speak up. Do what YOU think is right, no matter what. If that is making hats, then awesome. Disagreement is OK and expected.

  5. I have knit a few hats myself and am proudly wearing them and think it’s amazing that you knit so many! To bring me down from my post DC march high I saw a lot of criticism going around (especially on the internet) on the hats and how they promoted “white feminism” (I don’t know that they did), didn’t do enough to promote intersectionality, and even left some of our trans sisters feeling excluded. How have you reacted to these criticisms? I’ve tried to stay positive and give a cleared message on the pussyhat but am left wondering if maybe I am not being critical enough/ taking the response seriously (which I think would be important in promoting intersecionality, no?)

    • Ashley on

      Hi Karen. I have seen a lot of criticism on the internet about the hats, too. It’s tough when something we have bought into heart-and-soul is criticized, especially when it made such a visual impact.

      I have yet to respond to any of these criticisms, mostly because my policy in the internet is that, unless it’s someone I know personally or someone who is speaking directly to me, I don’t have the time or mental energy to engage. I just listen (or, in this case, read).

      But, since you are asking, here’s what I think (and I will probably write a full post on it later because this is important stuff, but I haven’t really finished thinking through it yet): As far as it promoting white feminism, I’m not sure that’s true. One of the two organizers of the project itself is not white, and the pattern itself was made accessible for even the most novice of knitters, regardless of race. Some of the criticisms I read had to do with women of color feeling left out because their “pussies” aren’t pink like white women’s are, to which I would respond that they clearly did not read the mission statement of the project. The choice of pink was meant to be subversive since pink is the color of “girls” and femininity and had nothing to do with the color of a vagina.

      As far as our trans sisters feeling excluded, I hear that. Completely. The popularity of the hats and the sentiment behind them gave way to a host of pussy-centered signs, costumes, etc. Add to the top of that the fact that there are still a lot of women who call themselves feminists who do not accept trans women as part of the movement. However, the fact that our President spoke about sexual assault, using the word “pussy,” makes it empowering to reclaim the word. I think there is a way to both reclaim the word/make a statement that sexual assault is not OK and to not exclude those who do not identify with that part of a woman’s anatomy, but I don’t know what that way is.

      But, all of this could be my privilege as a white, cis, straight, able-bodied woman speaking.

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