Pussyhat Creator Krista Suh On Knitting A Community Together In Scripps Event

By David Allen
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Calif.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Krista Suh, who created the “Pussyhat” simply wanted a cap to keep her head warm for the post-inauguration Women’s March. So, with friend and fellow knitter Jayna Zweiman, and knit shop owner Kat Coyle, they created the hat. The punning name of the pussyhat sought to reclaim the slur as a form of female empowerment.

Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Calif.

It’s no secret that Krista Suh came up with the bright pink emblem of female resistance. But as the project is bigger than she is, her involvement has tended to stay under her pussyhat.

“It’s fun to go out in the world and connect with people,” Suh told me Wednesday, beaming. “It’s fun to say, ‘I’m the one who came up with it.’ They’re like, ‘what!'”

The co-founder of the Pussyhat Project was in Claremont Wednesday evening to speak in Scripps College’s Balch Auditorium, and we got to talk beforehand as well. She amplified that theme of casual sisterhood from the stage as she took note of a few people in the audience of 100-plus, almost all of them women, who were wearing pink knit hats.

“I see someone wear it in a crowd,” Suh said, “and feel an immediate connection.”

Flying back to Los Angeles from the women’s march in Washington, D.C., in 2017, while wearing her pink hat, Suh found her seatmate was a man in a red Trump hat. “We had a really interesting conversation,” Suh said dryly. In line for the airplane’s restroom, a woman wearing her own pussyhat whispered, “We’ve been looking out for you.”
“It wasn’t ‘you’re the creator of it so we’re going to take care of you,'” Suh explained. “It was ‘you’re one of us.'”

For her appearance in Claremont, Suh wore a neon pink dress, evil-eye knit gloves and a pink pussyhat. And she carried a purse that on one side has the slogan “Pussy Grabs Back,” lettering which lighted up when switched on. (Imagine being a purse-snatcher and seeing that.)

Like the pussyhat, that was a response to Donald Trump’s boast on tape about stardom giving him license to “grab” women’s genitals without asking.

Suh had wanted a cap to keep her head warm for the post-inauguration Women’s March and, with friend and fellow knitter Jayna Zweiman, and knit shop owner Kat Coyle, came up with the idea. The cap is simply a rectangle that when worn appears to form pussycat ears. The punning name of the pussyhat sought to reclaim the slur as a form of female empowerment.

The pattern was posted online for free so it could be duplicated easily. And it was.

As Suh’s friend Yumi Sakugawa, who interviewed her onstage at Scripps, put it, the hats became “visual shorthand for the feminine resistance.”

When I asked if a particular sight or story stood out, Suh said a mortician wrote the project after the 2017 march saying that a decedent had set aside clothing to be buried in, including a pussyhat.

“That was incredibly moving to me,” Suh said. “The Pussyhat Project was only 2 1/2 months old at that point, and yet it had so much impact on her in that time that she wanted to wear it in the afterlife.”

Yet Suh, who grew up in Rowland Heights in a traditional household, had doubters within her own family.

Suh’s parents — her father is Korean-American, her mother Chinese-American — were not initially fans. When he saw the designs at Thanksgiving 2016, her father said, “Krista, I think this is a really stupid idea. It’s stupid name. The name will turn people people off. It’s certainly turning me off.”

“Ten years ago, it would have crushed me,” Suh, now 30, told me. But at that point, the project was well underway, and she could only thank her father for his concern. Her parents now are supportive and were in the audience Wednesday.

His objection did raise a question. I was happy for the chance to meet and write about a change agent like Suh. (May I call this piece about a knit-cap creator a yarn?) But I’m a little embarrassed to say the word “pussyhat” aloud.

As I mentioned the event to a couple of colleagues this week, I found myself barely saying the “p,” an attempt to de-emphasize the possibly offensive word.

(If I remember my childhood ventriloquism lessons correctly, to avoid moving your lips, T substitutes for P. Maybe the squeamish could say “tussyhat.”)

Seriously: Is this like the N-word, or “bitch,” words whose use should be confined to those trying to reclaim it for themselves rather than the rest of us?

“You can say it. I think ‘pussyhat’ is so much easier to say than ‘pussy,'” Suh told me. “Some people call it ‘the pink hat.'” She respects that too. But around women’s issues such as reproductive rights and health, silence isn’t golden, she added.

The hat has been criticized by transgender activists and some minorities who think it somehow excludes them. A response on the project website says all are welcome. And Suh said: “I’m a person of color.”

“‘Pussy’ doesn’t always refer to female genitalia. To me ‘pussy’ is a derogatory term we’ve reclaimed,” Suh said onstage. “When a man calls another man a pussy, he’s not saying he has female genitalia. He’s saying ‘you’re really feminine right now.’ The feminine needs to be respected again. It’s not respected now.”

Pink wasn’t meant to represent a flesh color, she added. It’s simply a color associated with women and thus is deemed weak — and yet in the context of female empowerment projects strength.

As I grew up in a household where Ms. Magazine was around and consider myself a feminist, I’m receptive. And the sight of older women in pussyhats, including at Suh’s talk, is moving, a sign that this isn’t simply a millennial thing but an avenue for connection between generations.

Yes, it’s just a pink cap, but like white roses at the Grammys or black attire at the Golden Globes, symbols have meaning.

“I think symbols are so powerful. Rituals are so powerful. The symbols and rituals of women are not taken seriously,” Suh said. “When women like something, we call it a guilty pleasure. Men wouldn’t call ‘Monday Night Football’ a guilty pleasure. We’re not allowed to like things.”

Suh was at Scripps in part to promote her first book, “DIY for the WTF World,” with knit patterns, advice on finding inner courage and more. It’s a step into the spotlight for her.

“I’m really proud of the pussyhat, but I’m not special because I thought of it. Women and girls have great ideas all the time and we talk ourselves out of them,” Suh said

“Do your own pussyhat,” she urged her audience. “Do whatever wild, crazy idea you have.”

Her own wild, crazy idea became a symbol of 2017. How crazy is that? We’ll see whether it’s remembered as an of-its-time novelty, or whether the pussyhat has legs.

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