Knitting the Resistance: The Pussyhat Project and the Women’s March on Washington

Pussyhat-wearing protesters fill the streets at the Women’s March on Washington. Photograph by Shannon Stapleton, Reuters.

If you watched the Women’s March on Washington D.C. on January 21st, you probably saw a sea of bright pink hats. They’re called ‘pussyhats’, and they’ve become a symbol of feminist resistance thanks to organizers Jayna Zweiman and Krista Suh.

Immediately after the U.S. presidential election on November 9, feminists started to plan a march on Washington to protest the President-elect’s policies. Zweiman and Suh felt that marchers needed a physical symbol to unite them. They decided on a bright pink hat with cat ears (a reference to Trump’s infamous comment about “grabbing” women’s genitalia). Historically, knitting and the colour pink have both been derided as overly feminine. A handknit pink hat makes a powerful statement: being feminine is not a bad thing. Women are no longer willing to apologize for being female or have their gender used against them. The Pussyhat Project spread like wildfire on social media, and knitters picked up their needles with the goal of knitting a million hats.

The official hat pattern is designed to be easy, even for first-time knitters. It’s a plain rectangle, folded in half and sewn together, whose corners form its distinctive cat ears. Suh and Zweiman also encouraged supporters to crochet or sew their hats – as long as they were pink. The pattern was so popular that many yarn stores reported selling out of pink yarn. Knitters sent hats to Washington D.C. to be distributed at the march or gave them to protestors. Some sold hats on Etsy to raise money for charities such as Planned Parenthood.

The hats provided marchers in Washington  with a powerful visual symbol of unity (and a way to keep warm). For people who couldn’t attend a protest in person, they provided an opportunity to thank marchers and express their support. The Pussyhat Project provided labels that knitters could fill out to send with their hats. On the label, they could introduce themselves and highlight a women’s issue they cared about. A pussyhat is more than an item of clothing: it represents a personal connection made between two people who believe in women’s rights. As a crafter and feminist, I was thrilled to discover this grassroots movement. On the day of the march, I was stunned by how many pink hats I saw in the crowds in cities all over the world. The Pussyhat Project celebrates the power of craft and social media to bring people together. The sea of pink let the new President know that we are ready to fight.

Although the Women’s March is over, the project is encouraging marchers to keep their hats or donate them to a women’s shelter. The Michigan State University Museum is also collecting them, along with selfies, signs, and other items from the Women’s March. You can find out more about the Pussyhat project at pussyhatproject.com.

-Jennifer Lee
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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