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Subversive Stitching: The Pussy Hat

The TRC has a new acquisition: two pussy hats (TRC 2017.0186 and 0187). Pussy hats are hand-made, square-shaped caps made from wool or acrylic yarn, usually coloured pink. They can be knitted, crocheted or sewn. After Donald Trump won the US presidential election in November 2016, American knitters attempted to make over one million of such hats, to be given as gifts for marchers to wear at the Women’s March in Washington, DC. Patterns for the simple hat were shared via the Pussyhat Project website (www.pussyhatproject.com) and Facebook; many craft shops hosted groups of knitters making the hats. There were news reports of craft shops in different American cities being sold out of pink yarn. The deadline was 21 January 2017, the day of the Women’s March.

When a pussy hat is worn on the head, two tips appear, similar to a cat’s ears. This is not the origine of the cap’s name, however. The word ‘pussy’ in English is an insulting term for a woman’s genitals. In October 2016, during the presidential election campaign, The Washington Post newspaper released a video and accompanying article on lewd remarks made by Donald Trump about women. Recorded in a television studio parking lot in 2005, Trump told a television host: “I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn't get there, and she was married. …I'm automatically attracted to beautiful [women]—I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. Just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you're a star they let you do it. You can do anything ... Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything."

The remarks outraged many as condoning sexual assault. Trump was forced to apologize publicly for the remarks. #Pussygrabsback became a popular hashtag; an artist put the words across a picture of a snarling cat’s face and created a popular T-shirt. Knitters Krista Suh and Jayna Zweiman of Los Angelos, California (USA) thought of creating a symbol for women’s solidarity and so launched the Pussyhat Project: "It's reappropriating the word 'pussy' in a positive way….Wearing pink together is a powerful statement that we are unapologetically feminine and we unapologetically stand for women’s rights." Their knitting instructor, Kat Coyle, created a pattern that could be easily customized. All three wanted to celebrate the traditionally female work of knitting and crochet: "Knitting circles are sometimes scoffed at as frivolous 'gossiping circles,' when really, these circles are powerful gatherings of women, a safe space to talk, a place where women support women."

By December the group had collected sixty thousand hats, sent to them from all fifty US states—and from Europe and New Zealand. The pussyhat had gone international. So had the Women’s March. Scheduled for 21 January 2017, the day after Trump was inaugurated as US President, the March’s aim was to make a powerful statement for human rights. The organizers hoped two hundred thousand people would show up. Instead, over half a million came. Crowd specialists calculated that the protest march drew three times the number of people Trump’s inauguration had attracted. More than four hundred similar ‘Sister Marches’ took place all over the US, involving an estimated two million people. There were almost 200 further marches in solidarity all over the world, throughout Europe, Africa, Asia and the Pacific, South America. There was a march in Iraq; another one inside a cancer hospital in Los Angeles and yet another on a research ship in Antarctica. Three thousand people gathered in front of the National Museum in Amsterdam for the March and another one thousand in the Hague. Worldwide between three to four million people participated on 21 January. And a good number of them wore pink pussyhats.

The pink woollen hats now in the TRC collection were made by the Rev. Ramona Scarpace on a circle frame. One (TRC 2017.0187) was worn on 21 January 2017 at the Women’s March in St. Paul, Minnesota (USA) by the knitter's partner, the Rev. Georgianna Smith. The official police estimate for the number of participants at this march was ninety thousand people.

23 February 2017. Shelley Anderson

TRC in a nutshell

Hogewoerd 164, 2311 HW Leiden. Tel. +31 (0)71 5134144 / +31 (0)6 28830428   info@trc-leiden.nl

Opening times: Monday to Thursday: 10.00-16.00 hrs, other days by appointment.

Bank account number: NL39 INGB 0002 9823 59

Gallery exhibition, 3 April - 29 June: From Kaftan to Kippa

Entrance is free, but donations are always welcome !

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Financial gifts

The TRC is dependent on project support and individual donations. All of our work is being carried out by volunteers. To support the TRC activities, we therefore welcome your financial assistance: donations can be transferred to bank account number NL39 INGB 000 298 2359, in the name of the Textile Research Centre, Leiden. Since the TRC is officially recognised as a non-profit making cultural institution (ANBI), donations are tax deductible for 125% for individuals, and 150% for commercial companies. For more information, click here
 
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