The Pussy Hat Movement; Finding a Voice through Craft

“I’ve interviewed 195 pussy hat makers so far,” said Donna Bowman, Ph.D, a Professor from the University of Central Arkansas. “I’d love to interview you in the next week or two, ” she said.

I was surprised at the rush of gratitude and happiness that filled me upon learning she wanted to talk with me. Nobody had asked me about my burst of creativity from November, 2016 until January, 2017, when I knit 29 pussy hats, contributed them to marchers from coast to coast, and witnessed a resurgence of HOPE.

Painted in Waterlogue

Professor Bowman’s call–and an online survey–provided me the first opportunity to talk to someone about how making pussy hats affected me. How that project had energized me and reconnected me with the world. Our talk–and the preparation for it–opened up a floodgate of emotions and memories of my route to becoming a “craftivist,” and it helped me find the words that I had lost (along with hope) when Trump was elected.

“Craftivism is a form of activism, typically incorporating elements of anti-capitalism, environmentalism, solidarity, or third-wave feminism, that is centered on practices of craft – or what can traditionally be referred to as “domestic arts”. –Wikipedia

In November, 2016,  reeling from the disastrous election results that put a hate-mongering maniac in the White House, and unable to find words to speak about the dismay, depression and incredulity I felt, I turned to knitting–charity knitting. It was something I could do without words, making things that might make a tiny bit of difference for a person undergoing chemo, or having undergone a mastectomy.

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Sometime in early December of that year, I learned about the Women’s March on D.C., an event that seemed to have no clear focus; it was to be for all kinds of things: human rights, racial equality, women’s rights, the right to affordable healthcare. But mostly, the March held right after Tump’s inauguration, would be a way to demonstrate that women were not going to go gently under Trump’s misogyny, racism, bigotry and disdain for freedom of expression.

I agreed with the wide range of positions the March organizers espoused. But I didn’t think there was any point in showing up for the Women’s March down on the Mall. I didn’t think anyone would go, and that the few people who did show up would be humiliated–and possibly harmed–by the Bully’s supporters in town for his inauguration. I’d stay home. But I wished there was some way I could show my support for the March.

Then I learned on Facebook about the pussy hat, a symbol of The Resistance to everything the Bully stood for. The pussy hat was a symbol of pride, feminism, and equality—and everything the Bully was against, and the protest organizers were calling for marchers to wear wear them. I made myself one to see how the pattern knit up. I posted a photo of me and my hat on Facebook. That’s when things got interesting…

Through social media, I began to get requests for hats for good friends. Then requests for hats for friends of friends. Then requests from neighbors. I knit like a fiend, sending finished hats to Pennsylvania, California, Chicago, and North Carolina. Friends posted photos of themselves wearing the hats, and I felt so good that I had contributed these small things to support their Resistance.

I think the pussy hat stands for pride and I appreciate that it stands for the feminist movement, for women who were using their voices and not sitting down and being quiet. It stands for solidarity.” –from my interview with Professor Bowman

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When I wore my hat in November and December, people laughed and shouted out, “Cute hat!” At first, I seemed to be the only one in my vicinity who was making them, because I could always find the pink yarn that the pattern called for.

But then, as January, the time for the March, drew closer, the pink yarn–of any kind–disappeared. Desperate for pink yarn, I found myself in a Michael’s store, crawling up on shelves to get to unopened boxes of yarn the *might* have been pink. I pulled all the yarn out of the bins (neatly), searching for pink, and put everything back when I couldn’t find any. I called all the local and even some distant yarn stores, looking for the yarn, disappointed for myself, but thrilled that there seemed to be HUGE demand for the yarn. That indicated that maybe more than just a few marchers On January 21st, the first full day of the Trump regime.

  “Pussy hat making was not akin to Betsy Ross sewing the flag. But sort of.”         –from my interview with Professor Bowman

I often met other women who were also looking for pink yarn, and we would spendIMG_2320 companionable minutes discussing what we could do to substitute colors, like knit with variegated yarn that might have some pink tones in it. Or where we had “heard” there might be some pink yarn. We talked about why we were making the hats, and about how distressed we were over Trump’s election, and how incredulous we were that he could have won. We found temporary solace in our craft and our misery.

I didn’t watch even a second of that idiot, Trump’s inauguration, but the next day, I decided to see if any of the local tv stations were covering it. I was prepared to feel humiliated by a poor turn-out, so when I got my first view of the enormous crowds, I burst into tears of joy, of surprise and gratitude that so many women had made the trip, had come to DC to march–with their pussy hats.

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According to Wikipedia, an estimated 3,300,000 – 4,600,000 people participated in the Women’s March in United States, as did up to 5 million worldwide.  Organizers of the event reported 673 marches worldwide, including 20 in Mexico and 29 in Canada. In DC, they overwhelmed the subway system and were so numerous that they had to stop marching and just stand there.

Once it happens in a generation that a spirit of resistance is awakened,” said Rabbi Sharon Brous. “This is one of those moments. Our children will one day ask us ‘where were you when our country was thrust into a lion’s den of demagoguery and division,'” she said.–USA Today

I watched for five hours, crying often, but feeling that all was not lost, that with this many women willing to fight back, we could resist, but more importantly, that we could take action to vote in Representatives who could do something to change the bleak future under Trump’s reign of horror.

Since that day, I have contributed often to my Democratic Representatives, Senators and Attorney General. I call, email and FAX these people often to let them know how important various issues are to me. I am signed up for various alerts that allow me to be apprised of votes going on or debates on issues that are critical, and which connect me directly to who I need to be speaking to. I make regular donations to organizations who are leading the legal resistance to Trump’s unfair (and often illegal) Executive Orders. I’m not going to go quietly into an early grave dug by a demagogue.

I felt such alienation… when I saw the foaming at the mouth, enraged, Neo-Nazi, ‘lock her up’ people who were not just coming for Hilary, but they were coming for everything that I thought was good about America.” — from my interview with Professor Bowman

And this is a good segue to what I spoke of before: how important, how vital it is for a creative person to be able to talk to someone about our creative work.  When I had no words, my knitting provided communion with like-minded others. When I was silent in despair, knitting connected me to other knitters making the same hats and we could talk and find solace. And when Professor Bowman interviewed me, I was able to see my uplifting experience in a new, fresh light and to reconnect to the vitality of the project.

When I thanked Dr. Bowman for the experience, she said, “One of the roles I play in the aftermath of this, in the scholarship of this, is giving people the chance to recall and reflect on that experience and bring it into the present. Just remembering being a part of that very large, very significant moment…” What a deeply gratifying experience it was to be listened to so carefully. And to spend time swimming in that movement again.

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