This is Emily. Last month I was thinking about the power of finding the right words. Meanwhile my daughter Emily, my lover of words, was thinking about using a visual to make a statement. Emily was knitting pink hats.
Photos from the more than 600 marches worldwide on January 21—the largest mass demonstrations ever—are awash in a sea of pink pussy hats. Even if you didn't understand the symbolism of the hats, or know that the makers proudly call them pussyhats, you would have to have been living under a rock to have missed them.
While each individual that marched had their own reason for being there, the pussyhats kept the focus on the group—the shear mass of people driven to stand up and speak out. Every photo on the news and in the media had a pink glow.
My very favorite photo was by Matthew Pillsbury for the New York Times. The shot, about halfway down the screen in that link, shows the Washington Monument in pristine focus in the center of the image. In the foreground the crowd blurs into a colorful mass dominated by the color pink. It is a strong image—maybe even worth a thousand words. (BTW, you should follow Matt on Instagram.)
Liberals are accused of being fractured and disorganized. (See the recent New York Times article.) The reality is that the liberal agenda encompasses varied view points and themes precisely because we believe our diversity makes our country great. Those simple pink hats, made by thousands of different hands, and made in hundreds of thousands of variations, represented our diversity and created a visual that spoke louder than the individuals. The hats spoke the unified voice we don't always have AND they made for great images.
The hats were a symbol. But they were also an action. Behind each hat was the person who made the hat. Often it was the wearer but just as often it was a friend, neighbor, or relative. Knitting the hats provided the maker with time to ponder and process the election. They gave those that couldn’t march a way to participate and express themselves. Emily gathered with knitters in NYC (most women older than me) to share stories and a little bit of their lives while they shared yarn, needles and patterns. Community was built. Connections were forged. Clumsy fingers learned to manipulate knitting needles. Hats were knit and crocheted and sewed. And for a brief time each maker was in control. To quote Emily's super-articulate friend Abbie, "Let people protest in pink pussycat hats, let them use their craft as a way to process the election. We can remind people to take direct action without telling them not to wear pink (or black, or any other color for that matter)."
One friend's store became hat central as she and her customers made stacks and stacks of hats each with a written message of strength. Another friend made dozens of hats and used her proceeds to support Planned Parenthood.
I really don't like the color pink. Growing up in a family of four girls I've always rejected the overtly feminine. But I've marched twice in the past four weeks and both time I’ve worn my pink hat. The symbolism of the action is not lost on me.