The Trial of Pink Pussy Hat

White Liberal Feminism Takes the Stand

I am a white liberal feminist. I wore a pink pussy hat to the 2017 Women’s March. And while I am not ashamed to claim the former, the later admission does make my cheeks burn a bit in retrospect. Like the many white women who donned pink pussy hats, especially for the first march, I was eager to show solidarity. I was high on “we are in this together!” yet didn’t pause to examine how my enthusiasm could discourage others from participating.

Symbols speak volumes. They say a lot about inclusion and exclusion. Their simplicity and accessibility make them the perfect packages for covert meaning, whether intentioned or not.

Symbols, therefore, require interrogation.

Court Transcript

Defense: Please state and spell your name for the jury.

Pink Pussy Hat: My name is Pink Pussy Hat. P-I-N-K. P-U-S-S-Y. H-A-T.

Defense: Thank you, Ms. Hat. Tell us, what do you do?

PPH: Well, I am a hat. A pink one. And I have small little cat ears. Like a pussy cat.

Defense: And what is your significance?

PPH: As far as I can tell, I am supposed to celebrate female genitalia. More than that, actually. To take back the word “pussy” after President Trump’s remarks about it.

Defense: To what remarks are you referring?

PPH: You know, when Trump said “grab ’em by the pussy.”

Defense: I see. Ms. Hat, what is your goal?

PPH: To keep women’s heads warm during the women’s marches. That’s what I’ve been doing since 2017. And providing a common rallying point for women. At least, I have been trying to do that. Last, it is a way for women to feel involved in the marches, even if they can’t be there in person.

Defense: Thank you, Ms. Hat. No further questions, Your Honor.

Judge: Your witness, Ms. Prosecutor.

Prosecution: Thank you, Your Honor. Ms. Hat, you say your goal is provide a common rallying point for women, is that correct?

PPH: Yes, that’s right.

Prosecution: But it is true, Ms. Hat, that you don’t really mean all women, do you?

PPH: No. I mean, yes. I do mean all women.

Prosecution: But you are pink correct?

PPH: Yes.

Prosecution: Are all pussies pink, Ms. Hat?

PPH: I’m not sure what you —

Prosecution: Do pussies come in other colors, Ms. Hat?

PPH: Sure, there are many —

Prosecution: So, pink is a rather exclusive color for a pussy, isn’t that right?

PPH: Umm, I am not sure what you mean by exclusive. . . .

Prosecution: Only a white woman’s pussy would be pink, correct?

PPH: Well, I don’t think any pussies are really pink. Maybe more flesh-colored, whatever that might be. I think pink is meant to be a symbolic color, more like “girl power,” I guess.

Prosecution: Ms. Hat, let’s leave color aside for a moment. You are a “pussy” hat, correct?

PPH: Yes.

Prosecution: Meant to, in your words, “celebrate female genitalia,” correct?

PPH: Yes.

Prosecution: And that is how you define women, Ms. Hat, by the presence of a pussy, correct?

PPH: I’m sorry, what?

Prosecution: You just told us that you are a “pussy” hat — Isn’t it true your very nature prohibits recognition of women in all their forms?

PPH: I don’t . . . I hope not. It’s just a pussy. Like, a pussy cat. See my ears?

Prosecution: Do you believe the concept of “woman” is defined only by sex — by one’s physical organs?

PPH: No, I love trans people! Is that where this is going? I have a friend who is trans!

Prosecution: Forgive me for my skepticism, Ms. Hat. Is the jury to believe you are simply naïve? You intended to co-opt the women’s march from the moment you were knit, didn’t you? You are a symbol of the white woman’s feminism! Proof of white women’s — -

Defense: Objection! Your Honor!

Judge: Ms. Prosecutor. Make your point without haranguing the witness.

Prosecution: Yes, Your Honor. Ms. Hat. Isn’t it true you were designed by two privileged white women?

PPH: No, actually. Well, I am not sure how they self-identify. You’d have to ask them. Krista Suh is the daughter of a Korean-American dad and a Chinese-American mom. I don’t know about Jayna Zweiman. I know all four of her grandparents emigrated from Eastern Europe, but —

Prosecution: Thank you. Ms. Hat, you were present at the 2017 women’s march, were you not?

PPH: Yes.

Prosecution: And the 2018 and 2019 marches, correct?

PPH: Yes.

Prosecution: Do you plan to be at the 2020 march?

PPH: I think so. I mean, it depends on if people want to wear me. It’s up to them.

Prosecution: And you must have seen reactions to your presence at these events — do you seriously maintain you have no idea you may be seen as offensive?

Defense: Your Honor, the witness never said that!

Judge: I’ll allow it.

PPH: I guess I can understand. But I never meant to make anyone feel bad. I want to help women come together.

Prosecution: You want to help only certain women come together, isn’t that right?

PPH: No! I want all women to march together! To support each other! I swear that is all I want! I guess I just thought, because I am a cute little hat . . . I mean, I can’t really hurt anyone, right?

Prosecution: Ms. Hat, are you aware last year organizers in Humboldt County, California cancelled their march because they were afraid the march would be, and I quote: “overwhelmingly white”?

PPH: Oh. No, I didn’t know that.

Prosecution: In fact, these types of concerns have plagued the march since 2017, correct?

PPH: Umm, yeah. I have heard there is a bit of . . . um, conversation. Did they really cancel that march last year?

Prosecution: And there has been in-fighting and conflicting ideas for the purpose of the national Women’s March among its leadership. You’re aware of that, too, correct?

PPH: I’d heard that. But that is ok, right? I mean, isn’t there always some bickering among different people and groups in times of change? Have you seen Hamilton?

Prosecution: Ms. Hat —

PPH: I’m sorry. I never meant to ruin anything. I wanted to do some good. I guess I just. . . . I just didn’t know.

Prosecution: You didn’t know you could be seen as exclusionary, is that correct?

PPH: Yes. I didn’t think —

Prosecution: That’s right. You didn’t think. And we need more from our social movements, don’t we Ms. Hat?

Defense: Your Honor, this is getting argumentative, not to mention beyond the scope of my client’s purview.

Prosecution: Not at all, Your Honor. Intersectional identities are now a foundation of social movements. We have to expect — we must expect — anyone involved to practice awareness and sensitivity.

Defense: I am not sure that is a fair standard, Your Honor. Isn’t participation, in some cases, a precursor to greater awareness? The law doesn’t specify order or causality.

Judge: I am inclined to agree with the defense. Sustained. Ask a different question, Ms. Prosecutor.

Prosecution: Yes, Your Honor. Ms. Hat, did you know many different women, women of a variety of racial and ethnic identities, as well as people with a range of gender identities, would be attending the Women’s March in 2017?

PPH: Umm . . . yes? I guess I didn’t really focus on that.

Prosecution: And when you say “focus” you mean it wasn’t a concern, is that correct.

PPH: Uh, yeah. I guess.

Prosecution: So that is a “yes”?

PPH: Yes.

Prosecution: Thank you. I have no further questions for this witness.

Defense: A brief redirect, Your Honor.

Judge: Proceed.

Defense: Ms. Hat, what are your intentions concerning the Women’s March?

PPH: To . . . to try to . . . to be something women could rally around.

Defense: Who do you have in mind to rally? Or, what type of woman did you hope to rally?

PPH: No one type of woman. Really. There isn’t just one type of woman. I get that. I just wanted to be kinda, you know, funny. Irreverent. I’m just a pink pussy hat.

Defense: No further questions, Your Honor.

Social scientist; devoted to designing spaces, policies, & programs for women all women.