On January 21, 2017, 5 million women joined together to march for gender rights, immigrant rights, LGBTQ rights, religious rights, minority rights, sexual assault survivor rights–basically, human rights. Photos captured on that day, regardless of location, all replicated the same thing: a sea of pink so vibrant, loud, and fearless that it became a voice in itself. The culprit behind this now-iconic image is the Pussyhat: a fuschia-colored, hand-knitted cap with two distinct cat-ear shapes.
The concept of the Pussyhat was started by the Pussyhat Project: a project whose mission was to one, “Provide the people of the Women’s March on Washington a means to make a unique collective visual statement (a sea of pink hats) which will help activists be better heard and” two, “Provide people who cannot physically march on the National Mall a way to represent themselves and support women’s rights by creating and gifting pussyhats.”
Behind the scenes, however, the Pussyhats brought people together through the production of the hats themselves. The project created instructions for a simple, but distinctive hat, and asked knitters to start making them in preparation for the march. Knitters spread the word, non-knitters supplied them with materials in exchange for the hats, and from there, an elaborate network of unity was created. Knitters would write notes to the hat-wearers, reflecting their support for the march, and their personal stories behind why they were doing so. Having these hats made by actual human hands, with intention, rather than by factory means, made the hats so much more human–thus, giving them a voice. Each hat represents the person that made it, in addition to the person wearing it. As a result, a simple article of clothing becomes a powerful symbol. Fashion becomes protest. Materialism becomes meaning.
Women’s March on Washington still hasn’t finished its work. Its last effort in their movement was on March 8th, for International Women’s Day. Even though that has passed, they are still continuing with their campaign “10 Actions / 100 Days.” Get notified for future efforts here, and let your voice be heard, if you wish.
Written by Vivian Chen
Featured Image by Brian Allen for Voice of America