The knit pink caps protesting President Trump are “white-focused and Eurocentric,” critics argue
The claws are out for pussyhats.
The knit pink caps invoking President Trump and his “Access Hollywood” tape boasts are losing their cache with at least some activists, who argue the female-genitalia imagery excludes transgender people, gender non-binary folks and people of color. Pussyhats are “white-focused and Eurocentric” and emblematic of “exclusionary white feminism,” charged the Pensacola Women’s March page in a lengthy Facebook post. Put another way: Not all women have vaginas, and not all vaginas are pink.
“It goes against what the idea of what intersectionality is, which is the belief that all identities within womanhood should be welcomed and fought for,” lead organizer Haley Morrissette told Moneyish, citing a months-long discussion among her fellow organizers. “It’s being held up as the one symbol that stands for the Women’s March at this point — and because it is hurtful to a lot of people who don’t feel like it’s their symbol, we thought that we needed to address that.”
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Pink hat-clad demonstrators flooded the 650-plus marches in Washington, D.C. and across the country and more than 260 solidarity marches abroad, by the Washington Post’s count, to advocate for women’s and LGBTQ rights the day after Trump’s inauguration; between 3.2 and 5.2 million people in the U.S. attended what was considered the largest single-day protest in American history. The Women’s March drew criticism after it originally borrowed its name from the Million Woman March — a 1997 protest by African-American women — and stirred some racial tension. A lack of arrests was met with allegations of white privilege.
The Pussyhat Project, launched as a “unique collective visual statement” at the Washington march as well as a means for non-marchers to join in, attributes the color choice on its website to pink being “associated with femininity” — but insists it wasn’t picked to represent some people’s anatomy. “Anyone who supports women’s rights is welcome to wear a Pussyhat™,” the FAQ explains. “It does not matter if you have a vulva or what color your vulva may be. If a participant wants to create a Pussyhat™ that reflects the color of her vulva, we support her choice.” (Reps for the movement did not immediately respond to an interview request.)
And not everyone takes issue: Lilianna Angel Reyes, a trans Latina woman and co-executive director of Detroit’s Trans Sistas of Color Project, called the pussyhat “a play on words that shows power” — and, acknowledging the criticism, said “it doesn’t read that way” to her. “When I was at the March on Washington, I felt so included,” Reyes told the Detroit Free Press. “I felt embraced. It was a beautiful thing. I never once felt excluded for my trans-ness or my woman of color-ness. I never had that experience at the March on Washington, or at the women’s conference, and I’m sure I won’t have it at the March on Lansing.”
But Morrissette, the 27-year-old community service director for the Black Women Empower Collective, called the hats “a knee-jerk reaction” to the President’s infamous 2005 “grab ’em by the pussy” tape. “I think it was an understandable response previously,” she said. “But now that we’ve gotten through a year of having him in office, now we have to move on to other things by raising awareness of the diversity of the issue of womanhood.”
To be clear, Morrissette added, the Pensacola chapter isn’t calling for a total and complete shutdown on pussyhats — or even necessarily discouraging people from wearing them at marches planned for later this month. “I want women to wear whatever they feel like represents them,” she said. “But I also want them to be aware … if it’s going to hurt somebody else that’s in the audience standing right next to them.”
Women’s March Michigan founder and president Phoebe Hopps, herself the proud owner of an Etsy-purchased pussyhat, echoed the sentiment. “We hope to (mobilize) so many people to the polls next year,” she told Moneyish, “and if the hat that I’m wearing is going to make a difference of reaching out to different communities or not, I won’t wear it.” While demonstrators should feel free to wear whatever they like, she added, they might “just read a little bit up on why some people might not appreciate the hats.”
“There’s things that you do and you just don’t know they may be wrong and they’re hurting other people,” said 36-year-old Hopps, who became an activist after the 2016 election. “But once you find out they’re hurting other people, maybe you change your behaviors.”
I wanted a hat that was more inclusive than the #pussyhat, and to the point. So, I made a sweet peach hat to wear to the #womensmarch. (Pattern: https://t.co/8PgxkGg1kX) #craftivism https://t.co/833zsXxHml pic.twitter.com/tNzTgd7Nmq
— Jasmin Knitmore (@DahlingDaughter) December 30, 2017
San Jose, Calif., resident Jasmin Knitmore, a 35-year-old knitting podcast host who asked to be identified by her professional name, opted to make a “peach hat” symbolizing impeachment after discussions within her politically active knitting group. White women can do better than efforts that are largely “performative, not substantive,” she added: “We need action from everybody right now, particularly the people in power … Just making a hat and sitting at home doesn’t make you a hero, and it certainly doesn’t make you an ally when people say, ‘This makes me feel excluded; this doesn’t represent me.’” While she’s glad pussyhats had a stunning visual impact and drew more people to both crafting and political action, she added, “it’s been a year, and we can all do better to be more inclusive of others.”
Kay Holt made protest pussyhats for herself and her mom last year, she told Moneyish in Twitter messages, but later learned from a transgender friend that “the big, loud focus on pussies had the side effect of propping up the ignorant idea that genitalia equals gender, and made a lot of trans folk feel excluded and even endangered at protests.” Since the women’s marches “drew a lot of their strength” from movements like Black Lives Matter and the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, the Framingham, Mass., 37-year-old said, she honored them with patches on her hat, along with a nod to transgender pride.
“When we err, even in spite of our best intentions,” she said, “it’s important that we correct our mistakes and do the best work we can to repair the damage we cause.”
Sweet trans pride flag patch to make my pussyhat more inclusive. Need to make BLM and NODAPL patches for it, next. pic.twitter.com/bjwyvOOHS0
— Kay T. Holt (@sandykidd) February 1, 2017
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