How to wear a pussy hat to the Women’s March without being a complete jerk

A person wearing a black pussy hat with a trans pride flag.
I think my black pussy hat is awesomesauce.

We are on the eve of the 2018 Women’s March and we’re having an impassioned argument about pussy hats.

The pussy hat – if you recall – was originally a clever response to Donald Trump’s horrific “grab ’em by the pussy” remark. Its DIY nature removed a consumerist agenda from the equation, a feat rare in our late-stage capitalist society. Also, they’re cute. It’s understandable why so many people are attached to them.

But advocates for trans and gender nonconforming people point out that not all women and femmes have pussies. Advocates for women of color point out not all pussies are pink. They are asking people not to wear their pussy hats. These concerns and requests are valid; but they’re mostly not about the hats, they’re about the priorities of the people wearing them.

If you really want to resist the political and humanitarian disaster of Trump’s so-called presidency, commit to the resistance movement that has been going on for centuries. I am speaking of course of the movement to end the systemic abuse of black, brown, trans, queer, disabled, and poor people. Unless it fully embraces, centers, and uplifts the goals of the original resistance, the white resistance will fail.

If you’re mostly concerned with wanting to wear your pussy hat and not with listening to the people who are telling you it’s problematic, you’re playing into Trump’s hands. If you take off the hat to avoid criticism, but aren’t willing to do the work of learning about and speaking up for the original resistance, you’re playing into Trump’s hands.

Pussy hats are a symbol, and symbols can be adapted. Some months ago, I asked my stepmother to knit me a black pussy hat. I was getting ready to attend a Black Lives Matter protest and the organizer had asked attendees to wear black hats. I thought that a black pussy hat would be a good way to acknowledge the specific violence that our systems inflict on black women. It prompted some great conversations.

So, if you want to wear a pussy hat on Saturday and not be a jerk about it, deck it out with symbols that represent your commitment to intersectionality. Find some blue, pink, and white ribbons and stitch them onto your pussy hat in the shape of a trans pride flag. Put a Black Lives Matter pin or sticker on one of the ears. Get creative. Show us your DIY intersectional pussy hat magic.

But then don’t be a hypocrite when you take off the hat and go back to the rest of your life. Use whatever power this society affords you to stand up for the humanity of the people who don’t have that power. Without making that effort, whether or not you wear the hat is completely meaningless.

UPDATE: Since a couple of people have asked, I want to clear some things up:

  1. There is a huge difference between stepping on someone’s toes and steamrolling their humanity. I will always stand up for the fact that trans women are women and trans rights are human rights. I don’t care how much of an asshole you think I am or how angry you get with me, I will still advocate for your humanity because you are human. Period.
  2. No person can speak for their entire community. Some trans women are fine with pussy hats, others are not. After listening to such diverse perspectives, I can only do what I think is right; and that means not letting other women control what I wear, even if it hurts some of their feelings.
  3. I always thought the pussy hat was a genius symbol not because it reflected a particular genital configuration, but because it turned the image of a weak little kitten being grabbed by a tiny orange hand into a feisty lioness, ready to fight back. Not all women have pussies, but we can all be lionesses.
  4. I want to relate to my fellow women as adult human beings. We’re going to disagree and butt heads sometimes as all adult human beings do. I hope that – whatever else we may disagree about – we can still agree that trans women are women and trans rights are human rights.

Emotional Labor

Writing songs, speeches, and essays, researching and synthesizing information, and organizing and performing at protests are all emotional labor. Please consider making a contribution to my work.

$1.00