In the lead up to the Women’s March last weekend, Pussy Hats were a thing. Women and men unified in the quest for pink yarn, a set of needles or a hook, and set out to make pink hats with little points on top.
A sea of pink decorated the marches. Samantha Bee joked that if you want to get white women unified in a cause, you should just give them a craft. (I think there’s some truth to this statement; it’s not just a satirical comment.) I did set about making a pussy hat, but didn’t finish. So instead, I wore my pink Mickey Mouse/Cheshire Cat ears. I figured that a literal pussy hat would suffice to represent. I’m still going to finish the hat, and I’m still going to wear it with pride.
Before the march, a couple blogs were sent out about how the pink hats were in fact acts of gender normalization. In one article, author Holly Derr writes,
Not to rain golden showers down on the pussy parade, but I’m not sure that pink, cat-eared hats are a great symbol for the largest women’s march in years. The infantilizing kitten imagery combined with a stereotypically feminine color feels too safe and too reductive to be an answer to the complex issues facing women today. For example, while the March claims intersectionality as central to its platform, and the Pussyhat Project claims to be speaking for both cis- and transgender individuals, the latter’s conception of what it means to be a woman is remarkably narrow.
Which, of course, gave me pause. I’m no fan of pink, because I do feel that it is overused as a color of girlhood, but I am a huge fan of having animal ears on my hats. The accusation of this being both infantalizing and stereotypical is a fair assessment, and was that something I wanted to endorse?
She goes on to write,
Furthermore, the Pussyhat Project is engaging in a form of gender essentialism, which asserts that the gendered characteristics of femininity are directly linked to the biological characteristics of femaleness and, specifically, the presence of a vagina. This binary is one that feminists have fought against for years, arguing instead that femininity is a social construction assigned to femaleness and that females can be feminine or masculine or any combination of the two, as can males.
Gender has become a tricky conversation, and it’s one that I honestly can’t discuss. I’m comfortable with my gender and sex, and American culture rewards me for also being willing to play within certain expected norms (such as being straight, a mother, and willing to wear a dress). This has afforded me a place of privilege. But I have enough compassion and empathy in my heart to know that the struggles of many of my friends and family are real…but I can only provide sympathy as an outsider. That’s a difficult place to have to reside.
So what message do I want to send with the Pussy Hat? I like the fact that they’re pink and distinctive. This means that they’ll stand out. Imagine, now that the march is over, seeing a woman wearing this hat. It’s like a call to solidarity. When I was driving up the New Jersey Turnpike on my way home from the march, I would see women in line for the bathroom, and it was like, “Yep. We’re in this together.” And, for me, the issues we’re marching to protect aren’t just those for women. They are the issues of common sense and compassion that will have an impact on EVERYONE. To reduce the hates down to a gender issue ignores the larger message that they’re trying to send. Plus, it ignores the fact that women chose to do this. This is how women chose to express themselves: by throwing stereotypes back into the face of the people who reduce them to stereotypes.
What are your thoughts on the hats and what message they send?
I also see something else in the hats. I see pink Bat Hats. Yep, like Batman.
So, I’m going to be like Batman, and be the vigilante hero America deserves.