Pink 'pussyhat': A symbol of challenge to Donald Trump

A group of women gather at Knitty City in New York to make their pink Pussyhats in preparation for protests for women's rights following the election of Donald Trump.
A group of women gather at Knitty City in New York to make their pink Pussyhats in preparation for protests for women's rights following the election of Donald Trump. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (AFP) - New York actress Wendy Peace is learning to knit for the first time - for a cause. She is one of thousands of women across America making hats for those marching on Saturday (Jan 21) in a giant protest against Mr Donald Trump in Washington.

But they are not just woolly hats. They are pink "pussyhats" - with cat ears.

More than 60,000 hats have already been made for the Women's March planned the day after Mr Trump's inauguration in the nation's capital, with thousands more on the way.

"It's not just a protest, it's a call for action," said Peace, explaining that she picked up the knitting needles because she was so moved by the expression of solidarity after the most divisive US election in living memory.

Marchers say they want to vent against an incoming Republican administration they fear will roll back women's rights.

The PussyHat Project all began when two California women went online to post a knitting pattern for a "unique collective visual statement" for the march, which is being attended by celebrities like Katy Perry, Julianne Moore and Cher.

Since then, the response has been overwhelming.

Organisers chose the play on words for "pussycat" and "pussy" in an attempt to claim back the derogatory term for female genitalia that Mr Trump used about groping women in a leaked Access Hollywood tape.

At Knitty City, a cozy yarn studio in Manhattan, about 20 women wearing pink "pussyhats" gossip together as they knit hats for other protesters.

"It's very emotional," Peace told AFP, shedding a tear. "We are trying to take back the word pussy and I think unfortunately a lot of us has been grabbed in the pussy and I think it's really important that we stand together."

The vast majority of New York voted for Mr Trump's rival, Democratic former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, who won the popular vote but lost her bid to become the first woman president of the world's most powerful democracy.

"One hat is a curiosity, but 100,000 hats is a movement," said Ms Maxine Levinson, 68, who has already made 15 of them and who has been teaching at Knitty City since the store opened.

"Knitting is a way to alleviate your anxiety, to alleviate the anger that you might have," she explained. "It's a connection with women that are marching."

Despite sex assault allegations, fat-shaming a former beauty queen and taking a controversial stance on abortion, Mr Trump won 42 per cent of the women's vote and a majority - 53 per cent - of votes from white women.

Millions of women who did not vote for him now worry that gender rights and other progress on women's health care, access to contraception and abortion could be chipped away under his administration.

"We still don't have financial equality, we want that in the workplace, but more importantly we don't want to see the rights we fought and have won for taken away," said Ms Levinson.

"We want health care, to support Planned Parenthood. We don't want the government to tell us what we can and can't do with our bodies," she said. "We want rights for immigrants, we want voting rights."

Although the organisers distributed a pattern and recommend a particular type of fuchsia yarn from Uruguay - many have their own take, embellishing the design and mixing colours from rose to violet and black.

New Yorker Cecile Helgesen, 49, and her 10-year-old daughter Scarlett are both planning to march in Washington.

"It's important for her to know that there are a lot of other women out there that will support her no matter what, and that our number is so much more than one single man," said Ms Helgesen of her daughter.

"Relaxation, learning to do things by yourself, resilience and independence - they are all things you can learn from knitting," she said.

"She'll need the skills to make it during the four, or God forbid it, the next eight years," she added.