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It’s the effect of hundreds of individuals wearing brightly-colored hats topped with cat ears. Knit at home and acquired from strangers on bus rides to DC, in hot pink and blush camo, these “pussyhats” were a mass statement against a newly inaugurated president who once bragged about grabbing women “by the pussy.”
A gleeful one, too. The mood emanating from the crowd near the Capitol, a gathering reportedly three times larger than the one at Trump’s inauguration, was warm and convivial.
“There’s so much kindness in the air. At these events, it can sometimes be hard to claim your space because there are hundreds of thousands of people in small streets, but it’s just been a really powerful expression of our values of respect and honor,” says Morgan Dixon, the cofounder and chief of programs at GirlTrek, a health organization for black women.
Her group wore true blue. “Superhero blue,” Dixon says, since GirlTrek calls its volunteers the superheroes of their neighborhoods.
Nearby, a circle formed in a packed area behind the event’s stage, and women took turns whipping off their bras (and bralettes, for the millennials) from underneath their shirts, swinging them overhead like lassos, and hanging them in the branches of a nearby tree.
“I feel like our bodies are being restricted by conventions that we didn’t design,” says Jana Cunningham of Brooklyn, after releasing her bra into the wild to whoops and cheers from her peers.
She was talking about her dislike of bras, but her comment applies more generally. For all the external displays of levity on view, from bra-shedding to glittery makeup, anger and disappointment brought everyone here. The delightful sight of a burly older man with a white beard wearing a hot pink pussyhat wouldn’t exist if our new president hadn’t talked openly about sexually assaulting women on camera.
Cas Holman was visible from yards away. Beneath her dark coat and scarf, she wore a baggy pair of navy and orange striped overalls, almost circus-like in their loud simplicity.
She explained that she got them for Christmas from her best friend, Gwen, who was dressed more quietly in shades of denim, black, and gray. (“We’re queers, we go to a lot of parades, and they’re nothing if not a party,” Holman says of her outfit choice.) Both wore pieces of fabric screen printed with the words “Imagine Equality” on the backs of their jackets.
“My friend Abby Walton made hundreds, at this point probably thousands, of these,” Holman says, referring to the screen prints. “Her way of dealing, working through this, is just making these and posting them on Instagram, like, ‘Who wants them?’”
Despite her bright outfit, Holman says she also felt weighed down while preparing her protest gear.
“For weeks, I was like, ‘What’s my protest sign?’ But it’s also been some dark times, so motivation was low in the follow-through category,” Holman says. “And at some point I was like, you know, I can actually just be there. I can just come and that matters to me, even if I don’t have a giant sign or a big costume.”