Politics

Krista Suh: Pussy Hat Creater Grabs Back in Scripps Presents

By Anna Liss-Roy ’20

Business Manager

On Wednesday Jan. 31, Scripps Presents hosted Krista Suh, an Asian-American screenwriter based in L.A. who has risen to prominence since co-founding the Pussyhat Project last year. The “pussy hat,” a pink knit hat with ears, is a widely recognized symbol of the 2017 Women’s March; photographs of both the 2017 and 2018 Women’s Marches are a sea of pink. Ignatz Award-nominated comic book artist Yumi Sakugawa joined Suh as her interviewer.

At first glance Suh herself resembled a giant pussy hat, sporting a pink dress and pink shoes, completing the look with a pink pussy hat (obviously). As she sat, she turned her purse toward the audience; “pussy grabs back” was spelled out across it in blinking lights.

Suh described the pussy hat as a unifying symbol for the feminist cause, sharing anecdotes from the march and discussing the large showing of women who knitted and wore the hats. Though the idea stemmed from the  younger generation, “many women learned to knit from their grandmothers,” Suh  said. “It is meant to be for everyone.”

The Pussyhat Project website echoes Suh’s rhetoric in its description of the hat as “a symbol of support and solidarity for women’s rights and political resistance.” However, the design has faced criticism from many who feel that its color and emphasis on genitalia are exclusionary to female-identifying and non-binary individuals who may not share the same anatomy and to black and brown feminists whose genitalia may not be pink.

Criticism of the pussy hat project has spawned a retaliatory movement of their own: “Pussy Hats: The Confederate Flags for White Feminists,” proclaimed a headline on medium.com. Pussy hats are “white-focused and Eurocentric” and “based around the idea of biological essentialism,” wrote the Pensacola Women’s March in anticipation of the 2018 Women’s March.

After talking about Suh’s personal experiences with the Pussyhat Project, Sakugawa pressed her to address the project’s critics. “Pussy is a derogatory term that we’ve reclaimed,” said Suh. “When a dude says ‘you’re such a pussy’ he’s not saying you have a vagina. He’s criticizing feminine traits.”

Suh responded to the accusation that pussy hats cater to white feminists: “The pink was never meant to be a flesh tone thing…pink is…certainly not the color of my vulva.” Suh discussed the erasure of Asian-American identities that occurs when people assume white women launched the project. “At first I was confused because, one, I’m a person of color,” she said.

Suh addressed the argument that pink hats are a “frothy, unsubstantial form of activism,” a point often paired with the critique that the hats infantilize women. “Pink is historically associated with blood and power,” she said. “The feminine needs to be respected.”

In response to trans critics, Suh referenced the Pussyhat Project website, which clarifies the nonliteral intent of the genitalia symbol. “[We] specifically had language and manifesto about welcoming cisgender, transgender people…we had the language…” she said.

Suh’s responses to these several different angles of criticism strengthened her argument in support of the project, yet at times it felt like she emphasized the geographic diversity of pussy hat supporters and her own Asian-American identity to maneuver away from open reflection and analysis of criticisms coming from black and trans communities.

To her credit, even as she defended the pussy hat, Suh warned against telling people how to protest. “If it brings attention to [the trans] cause I’m happy to be a part of it,” she said.

“You realize you need to do something even if others might not like it,” Suh said. “Symbols are meant to be used to further the conversation and so I’m so proud of the pussy hat for doing that.”

Photo courtesy of Colorado Boulevard

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