In January 2017, the Pussyhat Project created an effective visual unity for the Women's March on Washington, although the pink hats were also criticized as vulgar, trivial and exclusionary. This is not that first time that needlework has played a central (and controversial) role in political protest: Its associations with femininity and family life have been used to underscore contrasts between domestic morality and public policy, as well as to subvert or confirm gendered notions of decorum and citizenship. In the more recent wave of protests in the US, the role of needlework as such is less obvious, but images of police uniformed in hyper-masculine military gear confronting protesters in t-shirts and summer dresses suggest that public contests of power and morality are always at least partially mediated though (gendered) clothing. At the same time, while volunteer mask-making efforts in response to the Covid-19 crisis are not explicitly political, they were in many cases organized through the same networks that produced the Pussyhats, and mask-wearing itself has been treated as a partisan political expression. This class sets these recent cases of politicized needlework and dress into dialog with broader historical and theoretical discussions of needlework, dress, protest, art and the public performance of gender and race.
Faculty: Felicity Lufkin
Semester: Full Fall Term