By Lisa Gutierrez
The Kansas City Star.
Kate Haugen has been knitting her fingers to the bone lately, and she’s happy to do it.
Anytime she’s not working with the homeless in Kansas City or performing improv comedy, she’s knitting. Anytime she’s at home, she’s knitting. Even when she’s not at home, she’s knitting.
The other day she went to the first read for a play she’s designing props for, and while the actors read she finished knitting yet another pink hat with two pointy, catlike ears.
It’s called a Pussyhat, and thousands of knitters like Haugen across the country are churning them out. They’ve made so many of them that some shops ran out of pink yarn.
The hats will debut on Saturday, worn by participants of the Women’s March on Washington, D.C., and at more than 600 sister rallies across the country, including one in Kansas City.
Organizers and participants say the inauguration weekend protests are not explicitly anti-Donald Trump. But protesters planning to attend don’t like the prospect of repealing the Affordable Care Act, defunding Planned Parenthood or the appointment of U.S. Supreme Court justices who don’t support a woman’s right to have an abortion.
“The protesters march for gender equality, racial equality, LGBTQIA equality, economic justice and reproductive freedom; for equal pay, paid family leave, labor protections, clean water and air and access to public lands; and for an end to violence against women, police brutality and racial profiling,” writes Rolling Stone.
“If that seems like a lot, well, that’s the point.”
The national Pussyhat Project intends to put a homemade pink hat on the head of every participant at the D.C. rally to “make a big unified statement,” according to its mission statement.
“When I first saw this project starting, I laughed and I wanted to jump on board and I thought it was just fantastic — to own the fact that we have power and we have humor and we’re not going to sit down and shut up,” Aileen Gildea of Arlington, Mass., told the Boston Globe.
The name Pussyhat comes from Trump’s now-infamous boast, caught during a 2005 hot-mic conversation, that he could grope the private parts of unsuspecting women.
The hats will be a visual statement showing that women are united in protecting their rights, Pussyhat Project co-founder Jayna Zweiman of Los Angeles told USA Today.
“I think it’s resonating a lot because we’re really saying that no matter who you are or where you are, you can be politically active,” said Zweiman, 38, who teamed up with a friend, screenwriter Krista Suh, to launch the project in late November.
“It’s about the knitting, but it’s also about so much more.”
Allison Sowle, 22, of Kansas City can’t wait to wear her pink hat at the D.C. march. Sowle, who supported Bernie Sanders and then Hillary Clinton, feels like a fire has been lit under her.
She will wear her hat to send a message to Republican lawmakers that they have a big fight on their hands if they try to brush aside the rights of so many Americans, she said.
“I have never been more passionate about anything in my life,” said Sowle, who used to work for a local women’s crisis center and is now working on a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Kansas.
She knows people — she’s related to some — who have told her to move on, the election’s over, there’s nothing more to be done. And she’s heard the name that Trump supporters so often call people like her: Snowflake.
But here’s the thing about snowflakes, Sowle said: “When a bunch of snowflakes get together, we shut it down.”
The depth of her passion is echoed in the furious knitting and purling taking place across the country in recent weeks.
Lynn Coe, owner of the Knit 1 yarn store in Chicago, recently threw a communal “knit-in” at her shop and couldn’t believe the standing-room-only crowd that showed up. People even brought their own chairs.
“It’s surreal,” she told the DNAInfo neighborhood news website.
Knitters donating hats to the cause are tucking notes of well-wishes inside, according to the Boston Globe, before dropping them off at locations where marchers can pick them up.
“In this era of really divisive politics and the news cycle is so pessimistic and gut-wrenching, people are rallying around being politically active and standing up for themselves,” Zweiman told USA Today.
“This gives an opportunity for people to support the marchers and physically represent themselves at the march, and it’s giving them warmth and support.”
Haugen, inspired by her friend Jill Gillespie, has been knitting hats from donated yarn to raise money for charities for a while now.
She sells them at craft fairs and auctions them off on Facebook. It goes something like this: “The first person to donate $15 or more to Planned Parenthood gets this hat.”
When the national Pussyhat Project went live, she and Gillespie “sort of turned our focus to this because everybody seems to want a hat,” Haugen said.
She’s asked people to make a donation to either Planned Parenthood or ACLU in exchange for a pink hat, which she thinks helps counters the criticism from some detractors that the hats are just a fun “accessory” for the protesters to wear.
“I think everyone’s feeling sort of inspired to give back to the community with the current political climate,” Haugen said.
Haugen plans to sell Pussyhats at the “What A Joke” charity event on Thursday to benefit the ACLU.
She has a waiting list of 15 other people who want Pussyhats even after the inauguration, so she can’t put down her knitting needles just yet.
But she’s fine with that, too.
“So far every single one I’ve made was for someone I know and I’m just excited that they’re excited about speaking up,” she said.