The Pussyhat Project launched by students at Pierson Middle-High School under a newly established club, Pierson Feminists United, has unfortunately created a cat fight between students, parents and the community.
The pink pointy hats recently graced the heads of thousands of women who marched throughout Washington, D.C. and the rest of the country in January as an endorsement of women's rights following the election of President Donald Trump
. Therein may lie the fur ball in this showdown.
Students, along with parents and some community members, knitted the hats as a fundraising effort for the well-known East End non-profit organization The Retreat
, which assists victims of domestic violence. The hats were sold during school hours with the knowledge and permission of school administrators, which unleashed a torrent of criticism from some parents.
Organizers of the club agreed to refer to the hats as "cat hats" rather than pussycat hats, as the term "pussy" has historically been a rather unflattering reference to female genitalia. Further confirming that the hats are merely "a symbol of the movement to demand fair treatment for women in today's society."
According to the Pussyhat Project website not related to the school, the global outreach of the project is to "Create a concrete, accessible, thoughtful way for those who cannot attend activism events in person to be heard and represented, develop meaningful, respectful connections among people who care about women's rights, and create a framework for community and personal agency from the local to the national level."
Several parents have weighed in with their displeasure that the hats were being sold during school hours; that the hats represent a political statement; and the name itself is offensive, while members of the organization and their supporters counter that the hats are just a symbol to demand that women in today's society receive fair treatment.
As is the unsettling common practice nowadays, the disagreement revealed its claws on social media, where the hissing and spiting finally drew the attention of Channel 12 Long Island news network, whereby 16-year-old Natalie Sepp, the president of Feminists United, became entangled in a rather large ball of yarn with one parent in particular. The fur flew, and while others tucked their tails under the rocking chair of controversy, and licked the milk from their mouths, it was left to Sag Harbor superintendent Katy Graves, to issue a statement that "the district supports the equal rights of all of our students and encourages their freedom of expression through positive actions."
After several meetings and conversations with interested parties, it was decided that the hats would only be available for sale after school. Perhaps one lesson here may be to acknowledge the civic and national responsibility our teens feel compelled to take a stand against, and applaud their devotion and awareness to causes bigger than themselves and their community.
The all-girl music and dance group, The Pussycat Dolls, Pussy Galore of James Bond film fame, and of course, our four-footed feline friends have yet to offer any comment on the controversy, nor has the soft Pussy Willow been swayed in either direction.
For more information about the Pierson Feminists United, visit www.facebook.com.
Eileen Casey spent many years working in the television and music industries in New York City on the "ABC In Concert" weekly series, as well as several prime time network and cable television specials. An award-winning journalist, editor, and artist, and former Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com, she enjoys staying warm in Charleston and cool in the Hamptons.