When millions of protesters took to the streets for the Women’s March in January, many donned knitted hot-pink hats with pointy ears that soon became symbols of the movement. The hats were the brainchild of Krista Suh ’09.
She came up with the idea—together with co-creator Jayna Zweiman—soon after the election, feeling “devastated by the results.” When she heard about the Women’s March, “I knew I would go, and I was trying to think what more I could do,” she says. A native of Los Angeles, where she works as a screenwriter, Suh alighted on the concept of the pussy hat: the name refers to a hat with cat ears while reclaiming the derogatory term for women’s genitalia as a means of empowerment in the wake of Donald Trump’s boast that he may grab women, with or without their consent, by their genitalia.
Suh and two friends created a pattern and posted instructions online November 22, so people unable to attend the march could participate by knitting hats for others. Word spread through social media, news articles, and knit shops, which reported shortages of pink yarn. Suh estimates that more than 100,000 hats were created. Photos of the January 21 protests held worldwide showed seas of pink hats.
Suh was inspired to create the hats by her experiences at Barnard, particularly two studio classes she took with Professor Joan Snitzer, who taught her “how to alchemize feelings and thoughts into something tangible and useful and inspiring,” Suh says. She also cites an article by former president Debora Spar in which she discussed “how women all over the country are isolated in their problems, and it was time for people to band together and address these issues politically.”
Since graduation, Suh has worked as a screenwriter for TV, film, and Internet projects. She is currently co-writing an action-comedy movie with female leads with the writer of The Dukes of Hazzard.
The Pussyhat Project continues to work with hundreds of yarn stores around the world for “Pussyhat Gatherings” and mobilized knitters to make hats for International Women’s Day in March. The hat, which appeared on the cover of Time and The New Yorker and was added to the collection of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, has become a worldwide symbol of activism. —Eveline Chao