Watching Scarlett Johansson speak at the Women’s March on Washington I found myself thinking and feeling many things. Maybe that short, Joan-of-Arc-ish haircut will inspire lots of young women my students’ age to get rid of their long stringy fashion locks, I mused. Cut their hair, stop obsessing about hipster attire and get down to business. Miles to go yet, ladies. Miles to go.
Lots of things ran and pulsed through my mind as I watched the thick flow of excitement fill the streets and boulevards of the city where I spent four years as an undergraduate. All those monumental intersecting avenues, the marble public buildings, museums, and institutes. The halls of power looking strangely impotent and silent, surrounded by girl power, baby boomer indignation, woman—and men too—pushed too far. Deciding that here was the line in the sand and they would determine just exactly where it should be placed, and how it could not, or could not be moved.
As I watched—ashamed that I hadn’t gotten on a plane myself and joined the physical manifestation of years, decades, generations of neglect, exploitation, invisibility, abuse, inequality, and just plain exclusion from the dominant boy’s club of white, capitalist, bureaucratic entitlement—as I watched I loved the sheer variety (I know “diversity” is the reigning term, but “variety” is freer of political rhetoric) of marching costumes, of hand-painted, hand-lettered signs and banners. Tears in my eyes, absolutely. But then I began to focus on what seemed so obvious, and important, that it almost escaped notice.
All those pink pussyhats. “My mother knitted this for me to wear,” was a repeated theme of interviews I watched. Now we all know just how ancient a handcraft is knitting. Archetypal women’s craft. Knitting. Women have been knitting hats to warm the heads of those they love for centuries. And here we had a sea of pink knitted hats. Hats worn by marchers who had turned off Facebook, left the digital playing field behind, and traveled in their real world physical bodies to be together with other bodies, in real time and real space, moving together down a boulevard of dreams. These were not promotional hats cranked out by professional organizers. These were grass-roots hand-made hats, thus legitimizing this uncanny phenomenon as genuinely grass-roots driven. [More about those hats here.]
This was no digital exercise I saw. It was a sudden pop-up of the hand arts decorating human bodies moving through the streets on a cold January day in the 21st century.
I was stunned and gratified. Being present, showing up for the cause of defying the status quo, in hand-made paraphernalia. Here was a future I could celebrate! [photo:nbc news]
As much as any of the important, emotional, and hopefully transformational conversation that took place that day, was this re-claiming of the non-digital. Here were women moving beyond the self-congratulatory safety of FB, beyond the obsession of texting, and going way out of their physical comfort zones into the cold, with millions of sister/strangers —also wearing those hand-crafted pink agit-hats—and all I could do was hope that I would see it happen again. Soon. Often. Always.
Power to the body! the Vox Populi and its knitted pink cap!
[photo, top: business insider]