The XX Factor

Knitters Across the Country Are Making Cat-Ear “Pussyhats” for the Women’s March

All pussyhats must be pink.

The Women’s March on Washington now has an unofficial uniform: a pink, knitted hat shaped to look like two pointy cat ears. Two California-based women and the knitting instructor who designed the hat have released the pattern for free online. They’re calling them “pussyhats.”

The Pussyhat Project, launched in November, aims to get people all over the country to knit hats for marchers to wear for the demonstration, which is set to take place Jan. 21, the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration. Founders Krista Suh and Jayna Zweiman, a screenwriter and architect, respectively, are encouraging crafters to make one or multiple copies of the simple rectangular “Pussy Power Hat” design and either bring them to the march or mail them to the Pussyhat Project to be distributed. The project is also providing patterns for crocheters and people who sew to make similar hats.

The organizers told CBS that one man has already made 100 hats for march attendees, and other participants have included a 99-year-old woman and a 7-year-old child who’d never knitted before. According to the site’s new hat registry, where crafters can record who they are and how many hats they’ve made, the average participant is making seven or eight hats.

There’s no official count of how many hats are being made or how many will make it to the march, but a protest uniform is a great way draw photographers, unify groups with disparate agendas, and separate Women’s March attendees from the crowds of Trump supporters that will surely show up to antagonize them. “We hope these hats will become a symbol long after the march,” Suh told the Huffington Post, evoking the post-election safety pin some wore to signal their opposition to Trump and his worldview.

But the hats certainly aren’t for everyone. The design is less than flattering, let’s say, and the pink color (the only hard-and-fast requirement set by the organizers for its “unapologetically feminine” implications) is a little on the nose. Plenty of women’s marchers will object to the color pink in general, and the idea of compulsory femininity in particular.

The hats are supposed to reclaim the word pussy from its derogatory use by garbage men and one Donald J. Trump, who infamously said he liked to grab women by them. But invoking the president-elect’s casual boast of sexual assault feels more icky than empowering to some. Like the women’s empowerment group called “Grab Her By the Brain” and period underwear Thinx advertised as “pussy-grabbing-proof,” both of which I’ve written against, the “pussyhat” would do better to establish power for women on their own terms, not in some jokey reference to the misogynist violence of the man who will be president on the day of the march. “Are the hats supposed to look like pussies? Because not all pussies are pink,” one colleague told me when she heard I was writing this post, revealing a possible branding failure the project should clarify ASAP before people start thinking they’re knitting vagina replicas.

On the plus side, the hats do resemble the knit facemasks of Pussy Riot, a worthy role model for marchers, and they will provide much-needed warmth on the frigid January streets. And unlike the other big art project connected to the march—a call for poster designs by woman-identified artists—anyone can participate in the Pussyhat Project. People can make their own hats and donate their time to make hats for others, providing some mode of connection between marchers in different states, especially those who can’t make it to D.C. but may be taking part in local protests. It presents an opportunity for demonstrators to get together in their hometowns before traveling to the march, and for those who can’t make it to contribute to the effort in a tangible way.

The best part of the hat project might be its connection to the tradition of craftivism, an art form that uses conventionally feminine crafts (needlepoint, knitting, quilting, and the like) in subversive acts of protest. Some people knit pink blankets for World War II tanks. Some cross-stitch banners against mass incarceration. Some crochet hats that look like cat ears (or, depending on the angle, pink vaginas) to wear at a march for women’s rights. Taking a domestic craft and turning it into a symbol against misogyny makes a more powerful statement than any connection to pink or pussies.