- The phenomenal success of The Pussyhat Project, which you created after the U.S. Presidential election last year as a way to stop feeling powerless, seems to stem from a refusal to cave in to fear. Do you think fearlessness is vital for creativity?
Oh, for sure. I think there’s always something we can do, even if it’s just taking care of ourselves by knitting something. If that alone was something did instead of giving into fear, that’s great. To channel that, if it’s something bigger and community-oriented, all the better. I think it did work because it was something we could all do, even if we were devastated emotionally. It wasn’t the typical ask of “money!” although that’s great, donate all you can. I don’t think it was asking for too much. In fact, it was like: all I have to do is this? And I can create this impact? I think fearlessness is key, as you say. There’s always something you can do, and if you don’t let fear get in the way, it’s easier to figure out what that something is.
- You have put together the 100 Women and People of Color Author project. How did you decide to get started with that?
All of these projects have pretty humble origins! ‘I think I’m going to be cold in D.C. I think I’m going to read more books by women of color!’ Conscientiously, you know. I already do read a lot of books by women and people of color, but as a creator myself, there’s this vicious cycle we’re in where a woman in a heteronormative relationship is asked, ‘What do you want for dinner? What movie do you want to see?’ And she’s like, ‘Oh, you know, whatever.’ And that might seem like a small thing, but I think that’s what brought fascism to America. [Laughs.] You’re saying that because deep-down you’re afraid to be seen as a demanding woman, right? Or too picky, because we all know what happens to demanding women, they’re just, like, cast out of society and then they’ll die. So whenever we say that we’re afraid that we’re going to die, it’s sub-conscious but it’s there. But if we don’t say what we want even on a small level, those consumer choices do affect us, because when they do programming for the Olympics, or really anything, you hear these studio execs say, ‘Well, men only like watching man things, but women will watch anything, so we’re just going to program for the men because we will make more money and everyone will watch that.’ Whereas, if they only program for women, there’s this perception that men will refuse to watch it, and they’ll lose money. So that accommodating thing, where we don’t say what we like, whether vocally or with money, we lose out on our own representation.
I think it’s interesting because you’re not saying something controversial, you’re just saying what you like. I think women don’t feel good about that. Even when we talk about, say, pretzels, it’s couched as a guilty pleasure; there’s some shame about what we want. I do think it becomes this vicious cycle, because if we’re not programming what we want for women, then we don’t show up in books and movies as much. So movies are made by artists who can’t get their movies made or seen if the consumer desire is not there. I think artists are the ones who could show you what the world could look like before you see it physically, particularly in TV or movies.
An illustrator drew a rendering of the Pussyhat Project for the website. For me, I could see that sea of pink so clearly, and some people could see it with words, but some people needed that visual made so they could see what it would like before we could physically make it. That inspired us to make this sea of pink. And this gets into Hillary Clinton: she got so much flak for not looking Presidential enough, or wearing this versus wearing that. You know Bernie and Trump didn’t get these same attacks. We don’t know what a woman looks like in power. And this goes back to TV and film: we could have shown people what that looked like before it happened, and helped to introduce those ideas.
- How do you define feminism?
The briefest answer is equal rights, and that it should be obvious. My personal take on feminism is that I want to create safety for women in the world. I mean that both physically, like out in the streets at night, and in terms of self-expression: we should feel safe expressing ourselves and our beliefs. To take that further, women should be able to express themselves safely more than once. If we cut women down at the first teensy mistake they make, that’s not true equality or safety. If we hold our women leaders to perfectionism, we haven’t achieved true equality.
- What single event, either personal, professional, or global, do you hope will occur by this time next year?
A lot can happen in a year. I’m thinking so broadly; I want to express this more concretely. I want women to feel more powerful. I’m personally writing a book that’s coming out in January, and I would love it if people are talking about these concepts at cocktail parties and knitting circles, you know what I mean? About how we can very actively support each other as women and feminists, to find spaces in our day when we could be implementing that support. I think that if we are all working on our personal lives, then it does add up to a collective equality. I would love it if this time next year feminism was still a buzzword. We should also find fun ways to improve our lives by being feminists. It doesn’t always have to be like, ‘Go to the polls! And feel guilty about this!’ Can we be throwing parties and connecting women in the same industry together, and get people talking? That’s what I want by this time next year.
Krista Suh is a feminist, artist, Hollywood screenwriter, and creator of the Pussyhat Project. She’s based in Los Angeles. She wants to make the world a safer place for women and to help everyone validate their own creativity, femininity, and intuition.