The Women Behind the Pussyhat Project
Today the Presidential Inauguration took place and we officially have a misogynistic sexual predator and Muslim-hating bigot for president. As a feminist and believer in equal human rights, he stands for everything I oppose. I will be marching with my fellow feminists tomorrow, not in Washington D.C. like I wish I could, but in the sister march in Milwaukee, WI during Riverwest FemFest weekend. Uniting us marchers and equal rights supporters across the country is the Pussyhat Project. As a way to identify fellow feminists and create community, the Pussyhat Project brings together knitters, sewers, and those who crochet to unify the movement. As it says on the mission statement on their website:
"The Pussyhat Project aims to 1. Provide the people of the Women's March on Washington a means to make a unique collective visual statement which will help activists be better heard. 2. Provide people who cannot physically be at the National Mall a way to represent themselves and support women's rights."
Thousands of people have been knitting since the election, and over 100,000 Pussyhats have been made! Craft stores are selling out of pink yarn, #pussyhatproject is trending on instagram with over 22,000 posts, and with only 18 hours to the Women's March on Washington, the ladies behind the Pussyhat Project took a little time out of their busy days to answer a few questions about how this all came to be. Keep reading to hear from the Illustrator (Aurora Lady) and one of the Co-Founders of the Pussyhat Project (Jayna Zweiman).
Sarah Sickles for Pink Things: Hi there! So can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
Jayna Zweiman, Co-Founder: I was born and raised in the Boston suburbs.
My undergraduate degree was at Brown University in visual art and economics, and I earned a Masters in Architecture from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. I was a White House Intern in the National Economic Council for President Bill Clinton. I worked at a startup (that was like Pokemon Go, before Pokemon Go, but not Pokemon at all) – that was really about leading people through a city. I worked on projects such as Imaging Detroit, which was a film festival and pop-up agora in Detroit; I’ve helped curate a show called “13.3%, which is an exasperated reply to those who say: there are no women making architecture”. So in a way, this combination of architecture, economics, and understanding of social media have really come together in this project and it’s really incredible/wonderful to put those things together.
Aurora Lady, Project Illustrator: Hi! I'm a Los Angeles-based illustrator and Glitter Evangelist. I like drawing things for rad people, making delicious vegan food for my friends and family, taking stuff that is one thing and making it into another, and overturning the patriarchy.
PT: How did you get involved with Knitting? The PDF for the project mentions knitting circles to be a place for powerful gatherings of women, a safe space. Are you a part of one and can you tell me about your experiences with it? Is there one particular moment from these events that stands out to you?
JZ: I first got involved with knitting because of a fellowship I earned to go to Haystack Mountain and learn sculptural knitting with Katharine Cobey. It’s probably important to mention that I have been recovering from a concussion for 3 years and wanted to learn something new, so I roped Krista [Suh, Pussyhat Co-founder] in with a Groupon to learn crochet at The Little Knittery.
For me, The Little Knitery became a quiet community place in the middle of a vast city. The regulars are incredible people - mostly women - who are excellent conversationalists, supportive, strong, and creative. After the election results, it was the place I wanted to be.
AL: I actually don't know how to knit or crochet! I'm a sewer. That said, I have plenty of friends who do knit and crochet and have been so sweet and kind in trying to show me! I've been part of my fair share of crafting circles and there is little that feels more comfortable to me. It's intimate, it's a discovery, it's often practical, and it's soothing. Most spaces could stand to learn a little something from these types of get togethers.
PT: How did the Pussyhat Project come to be?
JZ: Krista and I were inspired by the language of the Women’s March – being pro-women’s rights, and that women’s rights are human rights. Krista was determined to go to the Women’s March in D.C., and being a LA girl, she knew she would need a hat for the east coast weather.
I’m recovering from a concussion, which means that travel and being in crowds is really difficult for me right now. Knowing that I could not make it to the Women’s March in DC, I was motivated to figure out a way to represent myself and others who would not be able to physically be there.
So it was a mix of how to create something meaningful at the march and how to make that process of creation inclusive, [resulting in the] Pussyhat Project that has two parts: 1. Creating a sea of pink hats at the Women’s March making a bold and powerful statement of solidarity, and 2. Giving people who will not be able to march - whether for medical, financial, scheduling reasons – visibility and a way to support the marchers and women’s rights.
Kat [Coyle, the Owner of The Little Knittery] made the pattern and Aurora did the artwork. Volunteers have been incredibly committed.
AL: I was brought in after Jayna and Krista had already hatched this plan and talked to Kat about the idea. I was pumped! I got started drawing for the project right away and haven't stopped since!
PT: Why Pink?
AL: Because this is still a question that has to be asked.
JZ: Pink is the color associated with women in our culture. We thought through other options, but pink made sense from the start. Pink is unapologetically feminine (anyone across the gender spectrum embodies some mix of “masculine” and “feminine”) and we unapologetically stand for women’s rights!
The color has been more controversial than I had anticipated. What is good about that, in my mind, is that there have been some very productive conversations about femininity and being a feminist. A feminist can wear pink (or any other other color)!
PT: How can others get involved? Where can they get the hats at the march if they were unable to make one?
JZ: The process is really exciting: a knitter knits a hat, and she can learn how to do that from patterns/videos we have up on our website, or they can go to a knit-along or knit party (people are really open to teaching), and we’re asking that when you knit a hat, that you also include a note to the marcher that says something to the effect of, “Dear Marcher, the women’s rights issue I care about is this (a great way to share your individual perspective), and here’s how you can contact me.” This is really a tangible way for people who won’t be at the march to reach out to the marchers, and then the marchers can reach back, creating this huge global connection during the march.
When you’ve made your hat, and you’ve written your note, you’re ready to go! You can give it directly to a marcher, drop it off at a dropsite, or you can post on social media that you have one to give and you can send it somewhere or give it to someone locally. I guarantee you someone is going to want it.
If you want to wear a Pussyhat for the Women’s March, but don’t have one yet, we’re going to have a distribution point in Washington DC for Wednesday/Thursday/Friday, and then Saturday morning we will also be distributing from a point very close to the start of the march (follow us on twitter for day-of logistics, it’s @pussyhatproject).
Readers can also make and wear Pussyhats after the march. The Women’s March is just one step in the fight for Women’s Rights.
AL: Wear your hat out and about, not just at the march! These hats are not only conversation starters, they are identifiers and can unite folks who recognize what they stand for. Learn to knit, crochet, or sew. Be public about how intersectional feminism is not only non-negotiable, but necessary in our quest to improve the world we live in. Above all, show up! This means taking an active role in communicating in politics on the local and national level. You might not think you are an activist, but I have no doubt that there is something you do well that you can contribute to a cause or movement that needs your help.
We've been telling folks to ask a friend who knows how to sew/knit/crochet to help them make their first creation! I love that a lot because it creates community. At the march people who have made extra hats will be distributing them. You'll have to keep and eye or ear out for where an extra might pop up!
PT: Are you marching in the March on Washington? Where will you be? Why are you personally marching?
AL: I'll be in San Francisco!
JZ: I will not be marching on Washington, but my hats will be marching for me! So much of this project stems from what it feels like to want to be present at the March. The notes from knitters to marchers are a way to connect. Making hats are a way to connect.
I am marching because I believe Women’s Rights are Human Rights.
PT: What do you think about the remarks that this demonstration won’t get anything done?
JZ: The Pussyhat Project has already been successful. People who have never been politically active before are coming together and making something happen. We have created a framework for people to be active in women’s rights going forward.
AL: I do not care about those remarks. I have art to make.
PT: What are your thoughts on the current political climate?
JZ: 2016 was a rough year. The political climate is becoming more and more partisan. The language of the women’s march is great - it is PRO women, not necessarily ANTI-Trump. I think that subtle distinction is incredibly important. The Pussyhat Project is PRO WOMEN! I have been floored and touched by the depth of emotion and commitment that people have shown as part of this project. It makes me feel hopeful for the future.
AL: I go back and forth. I am discouraged and disgusted by so much, and at the same time ready to run my teeth through my lips and bleed for how fucking awesome and inspiring folks are for galvanizing and organizing for what they believe in. I have strength because I am constantly shown strength by badasses in the past, present, and future.
PT: What can lawmakers do to support us, as marchers?
AL: Listen to us. Stand up with us. Take action. Be relentless and ruthless to those that you know are hurting and oppressing folks who are marginalized.
JZ: Listen, listen, listen. Vote accordingly.
PT: Do you have any additional thoughts to add?
JZ: PHP represents solidarity, support and representation for women’s rights.
We represent not just the marchers, but also all of the people who support the marcher’s and women’s rights.
We represent a pro-active, positive and personal approach to political activism.
This email was conducted via email and has been condensed and edited.
Images courtesy of the Pussyhat Project.