Krista Suh ’09 spoke at an evening event in the Diana Center Event Oval about the inspiration for and symbolism of the Pussyhat Project. The simple hat-knitting initiative resulted in a sea of hand-made, hot pink cat ears flooding Washington, D.C., and many of the sister marches in cities around the world on January 21. (Before the event, Suh visited an Art History class taught by her mentor Prof. Joan Snitzer, knitting hats with students and sharing stories and advice.) Suh shared pictures and videos from the early days of the project, emphasizing the importance of nurturing one’s creative instincts and squelching the negative thoughts of self-doubt that often stymie ideas in their infancy. She told the crowd—nearly 400 strong, and many wearing the distinctive pink knit hats—that to her, the hats mean solidarity and sufficiency. She said that "I Got You" and "You Are Enough" are empowering messages that every woman can find when they see others wearing a “pussy hat.”
Suh then joined a panel with Knitty City founder Pearl Chin, Purl Soho manager Brittney Bailey, and Prof. Snitzer. Art History professor Anne Higonnet moderated the discussion. Chin and Bailey shared their experiences from their stores as Suh's movement began to pick up steam and knitters began pouring in to buy yarn and join the knit-ins, creating hats for themselves, friends, family, and even strangers. Prof. Snitzer explained that a small, tangible item can become a powerful symbol because the act of creating something with one's own hands is powerful, and that the humor inherent in the hats helped soften a strong message. The evening concluded with a final word from Suh: Reclaiming the word "pussy" is an inclusive act that also reclaims the concept of femininity, which has been long associated with weakness, and has helped to pave the way for a new grassroots movement to effect lasting change.
The event was covered by Yahoo Style.
Leading up to and following the Women's March in January, the Pussyhat Project drew dozens of national headlines for Suh and co-creator Jayna Zweiman.
Suh told the Los Angeles Times that the idea was born as she remembered her Barnard professors’ advice to incorporate a visual element to her work. “How can I visually show someone what’s going on? […] I realized as a California girl, I would be really cold in D.C.—it’s not tank-top weather year-round. So I thought maybe I could knit myself a hat.” She echoed this sentiment in an interview with the Boston Globe, noting that her art history degree from Barnard inspired her to think of herself as a performance artist, expressing her beliefs in in a manner that can have an impact on other people. Even the project’s name has significance: Suh told CBS News that the Pussyhat Project seeks to “reclaim that word [pussy]—it’s not just about trolling [Trump].”
A common thread in the media coverage is the role the hats play as conversation starters. The act of knitting the hats was also a method of stress relief for many. Suh was quoted in a Cosmopolitan story that “Right after the election, there was this national grief, and knitting is very therapeutic. It's something for people to actually do with their hands.” A Huffington Post piece highlighted the often-communal nature of knitting and the avenue that Suh and Zweiman had created for knitters to embrace community organizing, noting that many hats had been created specifically to be donated to marchers.
Suh encapsulated her vision for the Pussyhat Project in an interview with Hello Giggles:
It’s another way of uniting women all over the country, crossing barriers of geography, age, race, class, sexual orientation, etc. [...] It’s almost like 2 million women are there, 1 million marchers and 1 million pussyhat makers, all who care about women’s rights and want to be heard and demand to be heard.