PEI

P.E.I. pussyhats: Island woman crocheting protest headwear

An Island woman has found a way to promote a cause she supports, while also putting a dent in some of the medical expenses connected to her Lyme disease.

Jenn Thistle has made about 50 of the hats so far

Jenn Thistle, 33, of Pleasant Valley knits the so-called pussyhats for what she considers 'a great cause.' (Submitted by Jenn Thistle)

An Island woman has found a way to promote a cause she supports, while also putting a dent in some of the medical expenses connected to her Lyme disease.

Jenn Thistle of Pleasant Valley, P.E.I., runs a micro-business crocheting hats and other small items. She didn't know about the pussyhat movement until her sister asked her if she could crochet one of the pink hats for her.

The pointy-eared pink tuques were distributed en masse by demonstrators and worn by the estimated half a million people taking part in the Women's March on Washington on Jan. 21.

An international movement

The pussyhat knitting project, which became tied to the march, was a response to Trump's 2005 Access Hollywood hot-mic remarks boasting about groping women.

It's exciting when I get up and I have another message asking for another hat.— Jenn Thistle

"I had to look up to see exactly what it was for!" Thistle said, noting women all around the world are now knitting and wearing the hats. "I thought well it was great, it was to represent women's rights … it's a great cause." 

Her sister shared Thistle's Facebook page Jenny's Crochets, bringing in orders and sending her crocheting needles into overdrive.

'Didn't want to turn people down'

"To date, I've done 50 hats," Thistle said, sharing that she just finished a hat ordered by a New York woman who plans to wear it to a women's march in a few weeks. She has also shipped hats to Yukon and Newfoundland.

Jenn Thistle charges $20 per pussyhat — that includes shipping anywhere in North America. (Submitted by Jenn Thistle )

Thistle said the Lyme disease affects how much she is able to do.

"I stay at home and I'm off my feel most of the time," Thistle said. Besides causing sore joints and fatigue, the illness affects her memory, so Thistle said she had to carefully record her orders, but she is happy to be busy.

"At first I didn't think I'd be able to do all the order because I had so many, but I kept doing it and I didn't want to turn people down," Thistle said, noting she's caught up now.

'It feels nice'

Her pussyhat sales are also helping with her medical expenses, she said.

Jenn Thistle says her Lyme disease limits her activity, but she enjoys crocheting pussyhats. (Submitted by Jenn Thistle)

"It feels nice all around to be supporting it and see people around town wearing the hats that I made," Thistle said.

Thistle sells the hats for $20 each — that price includes shipping. She estimates that after costs she makes about $10 per hat.

"I don't really make a lot but I figured it was for a good cause," she said. 

Craft store out of pink yarn

She believes as protests against the Trump administration in the U.S. continue, the popularity of the hats will too.

I'd like to think it [the movement] supports all women.— Jenn Thistle

Meanwhile, she hopes her craft store of choice will soon re-stock the hot pink yarn Thistle has been unable to buy.

"They've been out for several weeks now," she said. 

And while she admits the work is repetitive, "it's exciting when I get up and I have another message asking for another hat," she said.

Feminist debate

Some people have complained the pussyhat movement excludes women of colour — who don't necessarily have pink vaginas — and transgender women, who may not have vaginas at all. It's ignited a debate among feminists that some complain is distracting and divisive.

A sea of people wearing pink hats joined the Women's March on Washington in Washington, D.C., Jan. 21. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

The criticism was news to Thistle. "I'd like to think it [the movement] supports all women," she said. 

The Pussyhat Project website says only that it wants to reclaim the word pussy as a means of empowerment and the colour pink as a "very female colour representing caring, compassion and love."

"Women, whether transgender or cisgender, are mistreated in this society. In order to get fair treatment, the answer is not to take away our pussies … the answer is to demand fair treatment," the website continues.

About the Author

Sara Fraser

Web Journalist

Sara is a P.E.I. native who graduated from the University of King's College in Halifax. N.S., with a Bachelor of Journalism (Honours) degree. She's worked with CBC Radio and Television since 1988, moving to the CBC P.E.I. web team in 2015, focusing on weekend features. email sara.fraser@cbc.ca