This may betray my age, but I have to admit, I hated those pussy hats that people wore to the Women’s March last January and probably will wear to the protest this January 20 as well.
It’s not, however, as if the organizers did not have good intentions and a powerful message in advocating for them. The PussyHat Project’s website explains it beautifully:
Why is “pussy” in the name Pussyhat™? We love the clever wordplay of “pussyhat” and “pussycat,” but yes, “pussy” is also a derogatory term for female genitalia. We chose this loaded word for our project because we want to reclaim the term as a means of empowerment. In this day and age, if we have pussies we are assigned the gender of “woman.” Women, whether transgender or cisgender, are mistreated in this society. In order to get fair treatment, the answer is not to deny our femaleness and femininity, the answer is to demand fair treatment. A woman’s body is her own. We are honoring this truth and standing up for our rights.
WASHINGTON, DC. – JAN. 21, 2017: (Photo by Damon Dahlen, Huffington Post)
I like their dedication to putting a new powerful spin and redefinition of a word traditionally used to degrade, debase, and denigrate women, but those old associations still reactivate old wounds, at least for me. I still feel the breath knocked out of me when someone, even with the best of motivations, calls me a pussy. I like cats, but I don’t want to be characterized as someone who hisses, scratches, attacks, bites, or plays with her prey and then kills it. Even worse, I don’t want to be labeled as “pussy” in the other sense of the word, as someone who lacks courage, is too afraid to take risks, who runs from confrontation, who gives in. We really need a new word.
Renewing a church, “a church for our daughters” will definitely not be a task for the defeated, the disillusioned, or the drained, and it would definitely not be for pussies. It would instead be for, okay, I’ll say it, those empowered PUSSIES, imaginative, practical, idealistic, energized, doers. Perhaps “PUSHIES” would be a better word? Or is that too aggressive? Too nasty? Too hard to make into a hat? Let us know what you think. Really.
Of course, I’m aware of the head-knock hardness of the task before us. With the Catholic Church, we are not dealing with a democracy, with governance by the people through the people’s elected representatives. How much more difficult it is to influence change in a church like ours when there are few, if any, options for bringing pressure to bear, especially via people’s marches, letters, calls, etc. When you have a job for life, you can just put on your headphones, close down your mailbox, and drown out the noise. No wonder people’s protests under dictatorships seem so especially fierce, the people storming, surging, refusing to back down. What courage, what fortitude they have!
It goes without saying (although I will), we who work for justice and inclusion in ministry for all in the Catholic Church have more in common with those who are challenging dictators than those challenging the democratically elected. Fiercely storming and surging will probably get us nowhere, but refusing to back down, courage, fortitude – now we’re talking resources we can use.
I remember the conductor on the train we took to the Women’s March in Philadelphia last year. At one point, he sang to us over the loudspeaker: “Power to the people!” He rocked it and he was right. We always have the power. We can do this. Put on your pink – purple – whatever color suits you – mitre hats and let’s go!