Every spring, Seville stages a week-long fiesta that includes, among its many outlandish traditions, the wearing of skin-tight polka dot gowns with enormous ruffled flounces. Afterwards, there is endless talk about how gorgeous we all looked, and everyone pulls out phones to compare photos. When I showed this one to a group of women in my yoga class, they fell silent.
Finally one woman said, “Karen, I love the dresses but what have you two got on your heads?”
“Pussyhats,” I said. We stared at each other in mutual incomprehension.
I was astonished they didn’t know what I was talking about. Because even if they had somehow missed the massive news coverage of the Women’s March in Washington on January 21, since then European fashion designers have gone wild over the protest hats, most commonly produced in a bold shade known as “shocking pink.” You can’t spend five minutes in the waiting room of a hairdresser or dentist without opening a magazine proclaiming that power pink is the new black. Even Barbie has abandoned her sugary pastels in favor of revolutionary rose.
The Pussyhat Project was the brainchild of Krista Suh and Jayna Zweiman, who met in a Los Angeles knitting class. “When the news of the Women’s March came up, I knew immediately I would go, but I wanted to do something more that could help the movement,” recalls Krista. “And I couldn’t really think of anything until I realized, as an LA girl, that flying to [Washington] DC I would be really cold. I figured if I, as a beginning knitter, could knit a hat, anyone could. And that’s when it really clicked. If we released the pattern, women everywhere could knit these hats, and it would create, like, this beautiful sea of pink at the march.”
Krista, Jayna, and their teacher, Kat Coyle, developed a simple rectangular pattern that could be folded and stitched together. When you put one on, the center rounds over your head, leaving the corners poking up and looking a bit like cat ears. That's one of the inspirations for the name. The other, of course, is taken from some less-than-edifying remarks by the man who would become our 45th president.
“You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything,” he said, apparently unaware his microphone was on. “Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.” These remarks were offensive on so many levels, including the term “pussy,” which — as I explained to my European yoga mates that day — is a vulgar slang term for vagina. The term "Pussyhat" is a deliberate step towards reclaiming and reframing the word in a feminist context.
As news of the Pussyhat Project spread, women around the globe began knitting hats and sending them to Krista. I’m not sure even she knows how many thousands of them her team distributed to the 500,000 protesters in Washington on that freezing January day.
I’ll always regret having missed out on the Women’s March, being en route from the USA back to Spain at the time. In February, when American Resistence Sevilla began planning a march for International Women’s Day, I recalled that Sine, one of my readers, had said in a comment on my blog, “The only thing keeping me sane is knitting pink Pussyhats with my daughters.” When I wrote to her, Sine jumped at the chance to knit hats for Seville Resisters in exchange for donations to Planned Parenthood.
Today, hand-knitted pink protest hats are popping up in surprising places. During Fashion Week in Milan, held just prior to International Women’s Day, Italian designer Angela Missoni, her family, and her models appeared on the runway in Pussyhats. A photo of that moment is featured in a call-to-arms piece entitled “El despertar de la fuerza” (The force awakens, from the title of Star Wars VII) in the Spanish edition of Vogue magazine.
Being part of that awakened force myself, I know our task is daunting. “Violence against women is a world pandemic,” proclaims the most recent UN report on women and gender equality. “Between 45 and 55% of women in the European Union have suffered a sexual assault during the last 15 years.” In 2016, the World Economic Forum predicted the gender gap won't close until 2186. Even 169 years may be overly optimistic now; America's new “white, male, chauvinistic administration is setting equality back decades — and making the world a more dangerous place,” according to Foreign Policy magazine.
I didn’t get into quite this much detail with my friends from yoga, of course, but they seemed fascinated by the story and my photo.
“Did you wear those hats to the Feria?” someone asked.
“Oh, hell no,” I said.
There is a time to protest, and a time to put flowers in your hair and go enjoy the party. But my stack of Pussyhats is sitting beside me as I write this, just waiting for the next opportunity to let the world know that we are awake and ready to rumble.
Do you have a photo of yourself wearing a pink Pussyhat? Send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll add it to this post.
Jeanne, 82, in her Pussyhat. "This is crazy," she says of the current political situation in the USA. "We have to do something about it!" Amen to that, Jeanne!
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I'm an American travel writer based in Spain and currently living in California.
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