Point of View: The #Pussyhat Project

“Pussyhats” were everywhere at the Women’s March on Washington last month.

By Helen Atkinson-Barnes

Why the “pussyhat” is the perfect symbol for the Women’s March on Washington: the pink hat is visible and recognizable, simultaneously feminine and feminist. It is playful, with cute cat ears, and a play on the word “pussycat.” It is cozy, to keep us all warm on a January day and to ward off the coldness of this new administration. It is personal, each hat is unique, all variations on a theme, each hand-made with a different pattern or shade of pink or texture of yarn.

At the same time, the hat connects us with marchers across the county—and with those who couldn’t come but who sent along their handmade hats to share. It is knit, a traditional craft with echoes of “knitting circles” and of the literary “knitting” of history and stories.

And finally, the pussyhat is deeply subversive. It gives voice to the sexual harassment and sexual assault endured by millions and espoused by our new commander in chief. It grabs back. It reclaims a word, “pussy,” as in “get some,” that has been made vulgar, and has been used to put down, objectify, and justify the assault of women, and also used to insult boys and men by associating them with women, as in “you pussy.”

The pussyhat project also strives to empower women as agents of our own sexuality, and simultaneously, the hats make the word  “pussy” sweet, safe and G-rated again.

It seems to me that in a profound way, the Women’s March represents a massive, updated version of the traditional “Take Back the Night” vigil. Unfortunately, we all now feel the need to “take back the day” as well, since our new president has so openly dismissed, diminished and demeaned us, and, both personally and politically, threatened to grab us all by the pussy.

I was proud to participate in the Women’s March along with my mother and my daughter, family and friends in Washington, across the globe, and right here in Sag Harbor.