Trump said it. The media went crazy with it. Women were pissed! Insulted. How dare he be so vulgar. How dare he reduce us to our genitalia. Nasty bastard. But then, something changed. Women started using it. Making signs about it. Making hats. I have to admit I was a little taken by surprise.
Maybe it’s a little like Black people using the ‘N’ word. Reclaiming and recasting. Maybe. But let me offer some insight on that: it doesn’t always work. It can be divisive. Just ask Black people. Whenever you take a pejorative and try to make it a slogan, you can never quite shake the negative. That’s why it was a pejorative in the first place. Remember where it came from.
There are various theories of the “P” word’s origin, but we didn’t have anything to do with any of the definitions, almost none of them good. It reduces us to our genitalia. It can be dangerous. When men started calling our vaginas the “P” word, it wasn’t because they respected us.
Look, I like my pussy as much as anyone else. I want my daughters to have access to birth control if they want it, abortion if they choose it. But let’s consider the things Trump and his minions are planning and poised to screw up — public education, foreign policy, housing, the environment, income, jobs, healthcare (in general, and for women, specifically). It’s all about priorities, and in the grand scheme of things, where does pussy fall in the triage?
It depends on who you are. If your kids are in public school, you live in public housing, you have federal job or your skin is anything but White, there’s a whole bunch of stuff that’s coming that’s going to hurt you — not potentially but for damn sure. If you don’t have those problems, pussy comes first. If you do, well, pussy has to get in line.
When Trump called Mexicans rapists and murderers, said a judge would be biased because “he’s a Mexican” and championed the wall, where were you? He wasn’t talking about you. When Black women, men and children were being shot, shackled, dragged, tazed…where were you? Wasn’t your tribe. While Black women are fighting to get jobs to earn 65 cents on the dollar and Latina women 58 cents, where are you? Mad about 78 cents.
Of all the platforms you could choose, you chose to focus on pussy. Truth is, it’s your womb they’re after. But once again, even when you called yourself marching against them, as White women you followed right in White men’s footsteps. But who did they go after first? Underprivileged women around the world. Who will be hurt most when they go after Planned Parenthood? Poor women. If you’re going to scream about pussy, consider whose pussy is really at stake. Then ask what we really care about.
As a Black woman, I don’t like to talk about pussy in public. Because you see, that’s all I’ve been to White America anyway. My sex. As an archetype, I’m either sexless Mammy, oversexed Jezebel or sexually emasculating Sapphire. Yes, Black women care about reproductive rights, but we’re less concerned about someone grabbing our pussies than we are being able to afford the healthcare to take care of them. We’re more afraid we’ll lose education, housing, protection from the police. Honestly? Our pussies are the least of what we’re worried about.
That’s ok. We know this is your movement. You can talk all you want about it being intersectional, but when pussy is the central theme, it really has nothing to do with us. Just look at those hats. How seriously, really, do you think White men are going to take someone wearing a pink knitted cap with ears? I’m sorry, but you may well have played yourselves. I’m sure there were some, but think hard — of the few women of color you saw at the marches, how many were wearing pink pussy hats? More likely, they were wearing headwraps, hoodies, baseball caps or hijab. Wonder why?
If you’re looking for revolutionary head gear, there are better options. You could have chosen any of them, and if this were truly an intersectional movement you would have. Consider…
The Phrygian cap. A soft, conical cap with the top pulled forward, associated in antiquity with people from Eastern Europe and Anatolia, including Phrygia, Dacia and the Balkans. Because it looks kinda like the pileus, a felt cap worn by emancipated slaves in ancient Rome, it stands for freedom and the pursuit of liberty.
Hijab. Some might argue this headwrap embodies male domination, and they might be right. However, many women wear it willingly as a symbol of their culture. Considering the anti-Islamic sentiment in America and the real danger it poses for women for wearing hijab (even if they opt for baseball caps), White women wearing hijab would have been a true show of solidarity. It would have made a real statement about intersectionality. Hijab got a poster. I don’t think the pussy hat will.
Headwrap: You probably thought Black women just wore headwraps to slay despite bad hair days. For most of us it means a lot more. Culturally, African women wear head scarves to ward off evil spirits. In slavery, Black women wore headwraps while they worked. In Louisiana, the obligation to have African women cover their hair rose all the way to legislation with Tignon law. But instead of being embarrassed, Black women wore head scarves as a sign of courage and unity. The unique way an African woman wrapped her head scarf was a way of holding on to her individual identity. We turned an object of oppression into one of empowerment. My daughter wraps her hair. I wrap mine. Warding off evil spirits? Simultaneously demanding respect for individuality and recognition of a unified community? I don’t know, but that sounds right for what you say you stand for.
Rebozo: Mexican women wear this long, flat garment many ways, but usually folded or
wrapped around the head and/or upper body. They use them to block the sun, keep warm, carry babies and bundles. Soldaderas, women fighters who kicked ass in the Mexican Revolution used them to smuggle guns, ammunition and supplies. That sounds pretty fierce, don’t you think?
Just picture it: millions of White women wearing African headwraps, hijab or rebozo. With respect (i.e., no embroidered labia or Hello Kitty versions). The police might not have been quite as accommodating, but that would have been a statement. That would have cast the protest in a different light. That would have scared the living hell out of some people. That is what intersectionality looks like. Instead, you chose pink pussy hats. Don’t be surprised if they don’t take you as seriously as you’d like.