A friend told me she was feeling discouraged. She said she was thinking about taking a break from social media — just a few days, maybe a week, maybe more. Why? Too much Trump. Too much Trump all the time. Too much Trump in too many aspects of her life. Health care? TMT. Immigration? TMT. Clean water, LGBT, equal pay, worker’s rights, renewable energy? Too much fucking Trump. She was having a really really hard time finding anything positive to focus on. The entire world was turning to shit right in front of her, and she just wanted to turn it all off.
I completely understand that sentiment, and wasn’t about to attempt to dissuade her. But I did want to offer some encouragement. “There’s a pink pussy hat on display in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London,” I told her. She said, “What?” I said, “The Victoria and Albert, the world’s largest museum of design and decorative art, they’ve just added a pink pussy hat in their collection.”
Which is true. They actually have. Take a look:
My friend is still going to take a short break from social media, but at least she said the fact of that hat on display made the future of the world seem less bleak.
Let’s face it, the pussy hat is a pretty unlikely symbol of resistance. But it’s one of the best examples of the intersection of fashion and politics. It’s also maybe the most organic example. The pink pussy hat concept grew out of a singular and highly unlikely confluence of ideas and events. We had Comrade Trump talking about grabbing women by the pussy. We had — and this still strikes me as astonishing and improbable — Trump as the President-Elect. We had women organizing a march, partly in protest of Trump’s treatment of women, but also to support a variety of causes and policies threatened by a Trump presidency. We had a date for that march. January 21st, the day after Trump would be sworn in as president. And we had Krista Suh, who lived in California, who was planning to attend the march in Washington, D.C.
“I wanted to do something more than just show up. And I realized as a California girl, I would be really cold in D.C. — it’s not tank-top weather year-round. So I thought maybe I could knit myself a hat.”
And she did. She knitted herself a hat out of pink yarn. And in a mocking salute to Trump, she gave it cat ears. Her friend, Jayna Zweiman, also made a pink pussy hat. So did another friend, Kat Coyle, who owned a yarn shop. Then Coyle created a pattern for the hat, and distributed it widely and freely on social media. Facebook, Ravelry, Instagram, Twitter — and hey, other folks shared the design and the idea. To use a sadly over-used phrase, it went viral.
Do you know how many women knit? Probably not. I don’t either. But it’s a LOT. Women made themselves hats to wear at the March for Women. Then what the hell, they started making them for others folks who planned to attend. A lot of women who couldn’t attend a local march began making pussy hats to support those could attend. There was suddenly a large, dedicated community of pussy hat knitters, making hats and giving them away. Some gave them for free, some in exchange for the cost of materials and shipping, some donated their hats to a cause they supported and those causes used the hats to raise much-needed funds. It was (and still is) a remarkable display of selflessness. Love and selflessness.
When they shared the design and pattern for the hat, Kuh and Zweiman asked knitters to do something else:
We’re asking that when you knit a hat, that you also include a note to the marcher. This creates a tangible way for the marchers to connect with the knitters who can’t attend.
Admittedly, the pink pussy hat is an imperfect symbol. Lots of folks have objected to it for one reason or another — and many of those objections are valid. But I’m not sure there IS a perfect symbol. The pussy hat has the advantage of being both highly visible and easily recognizable. I’m told the basic pattern is relatively quick and easy to make, but the design is also flexible, allowing the knitter to express her creativity. And if that’s not enough, it’s relatively inexpensive to make.
Think about that for a moment. Think about all those photographs you’ve seen of the Women’s March. Think about that ocean of pink hats. Then remember they were all made by individuals. These weren’t mass-produced by machines, and they aren’t the product of an astro-turf political machine like the Koch Brothers-sponsored tea party. Each pink pussy hat you see was made by hand as an act of love and resistance. That’s pretty staggering, isn’t it.
You know you’ve tapped into something pretty powerful when you can get aging white guys to wear a pink knit hat. The V&A Museum in London gets that. They have what they call the Rapid Response Collecting gallery, which is focused on contemporaneously examining how politics and popular culture manifest themselves in design and art. It would be hard to find a better example of a spontaneous, organic fashion response to political conditions than the phenomenon of the pink pussy hat.
As I’ve said before, I like the hat. I like that the hat stands for resistance to the Trump agenda. Even more, I like that it represents solidarity with lots of causes I believe in. And even more than that, I especially like my pussy hat. It was made by a woman I’ve known for years but never met — a woman I like and respect. I like knowing that she made it specifically for me.
Let’s face it. Pink is not my color. But I wear the hat anyway. I don’t wear it very often, mainly because the weather has been unseasonably warm — but when I put it on, it connects me to every other person who has worn or made a similar hat. That, I think, is incredibly cool.
I have no idea if this pink pussy hat business will last. I hope so. I hope the hat and what it stands for will be a bulwark against Too Much Trump Syndrome. I hope the passion and dedication (and yes, the sense of whimsy) that sparked the creation of the hat withstands the Trump onslaught. For my part, I plan to follow the suggestions included with my hat.
Steam iron inside out if needed.
Wear it and stand firm.
May it keep you safe and strong.