Last week, despite my support, I wrote about some of my criticisms for the Women's March on Washington. After attending, I cannot believe that I missed such a pivotal point of the gathering: pink Pussyhats. The brain child of Krista Suh and Jayna Zweiman, the Pussyhat Project was created as a witty way to throw a metaphorical punch at our new President while also reclaiming the derogatory word that describes female genitalia.
As millions gathered across the country, it was made painfully clear how successful the Pussyhat Project was. The first thing that jumps out at you in photos of the March (aside from the fact that half a million strong could pile in to the National Mall and Constitution Ave) is the wealth of pink hats covering the heads of many marchers. Standing in the crowd, it almost seemed like there were more wearing the pink hats than those who were not.
Petula Dvorak of The Washington Post made an interesting claim that the pink hats greatly detracted from the seriousness of the March. While an interesting (and disagreeable) point, I'm much more concerned about the underlying messages that pink Pussyhats send. There is an argument to be made on the importance of reclaiming a word, but in this case, it risks alienating many others. Centering a feminist movement on a female's genitalia may seem like a genuine way to help rally the troops but it's also a great way to exclude folks.
Before you exclaim that I'm just another millennial hell-bent on further dividing the left, remember that we are trying to decimate the political structure that has brought Donald Trump into power, not just return it to its non-diverse, privileged past. It's important to critique our own movement just as much we critic the opposition. Feminism is all about equal rights across all genders and when it is centered around a symbol representing female genitalia, it risks ostracizing wide swaths of potential activists. Rallying a feminist movement on exclusively female genitalia implies that feminism is only for those with female genitalia. Feminism is not only for cis-women; Vagina-centric feminism leaves out trans-folks, and many non-gender conforming folks and of course, males.
On the flip side, it makes sense to claim the word "pussy" and let it be the symbol of a movement for women's rights. But the fundamental flaw with that is the fact that not all women have pussies, let alone all supporters of the movement. While I do see the great value of reclaiming a term, especially to spite a new bigoted leader, I think the pink Pussyhat Project could be interpreted as an exercise in exclusion.