Intuition Pussy Party / by Casey Whitaker

:An Interview with Krista Suh, Creator of the Pussy Hat Project

I cannot tell you how much getting to do this interview meant to me. Krista Suh is power and inspiration and the entire thing felt like I was talking to an old friend. It’s the same tone she sets in her book. She is wisdom and grace. We talked about all the things like maintaining a movement, reaching across the aisle, RBG, and how to trust yourself to make your own waves. I hope you enjoy!

Casey: So diving right in, do most people know that you are the founder of the Pussyhat Project?

Krista: I don’t think so, I think a lot of people know what the pussyhat project is which is a really awesome thing, I think it takes more of a fan so to speak to know about the origins of the project. Also this is a compliment to the project and the pussyhat that it’s so ever present and feels like it’s been there forever in a way that it doesn’t really occur to someone that someone came up with that idea. That’s why I wrote the DIY rules because I want to point out that all these great ideas do have humble beginnings and come from ordinary people. And once something gets big or famous or well known it’s like we suddenly exult it to this amazing thing that only few people can do but if you read my book (DIY Rules for a WTF World)  or check out my website (www.kristasuh.com) It’s obvious that everyone can make their ideas into these huge things.-I mean I came up with the idea in my car. I wasn’t on some mountaintop somewhere thinking away, it was pretty mundane actually-had humble origins I’ll say.

Casey: And for the ones that don’t know, do you think they would be surprised to know it was started by a woman of color?

Krista: Oh for sure yeah. I think that it doesn’t really cross people’s mind, it almost goes unnoticed in a way that an Asian American woman created it especially since there’s been a lot of criticism of the hat some from the stance that it’s not inclusive of people of color which is kind of ironic since I am a woman of color.  In some ways it doesn’t matter because what they’re really railing against is white feminism and saying to be more intersectional and I’m actually in agreement with that.

Casey: Circling back to the election,I felt the same way after about giving everything but my voice. When the results began I was working a 'high powered women in business' party for Hillary in downtown Chicago and as the numbers kept coming in the crowd started to disperse and at the end of the night as I was finally leaving there was just one man popping all of the balloons in the arch to get rid of it and it was a living metaphor as he popped every- single-dream-of -mine and as sad as I was I also had in the back of my mind I guess my intuition, something you talk a lot about in your book--this voice saying the country wasn’t ready but it will come in your lifetime. What was your first reaction to the news?

Krista: Honestly I was in denial, especially going to bed that night. I still thought some hail mary would happen and if the illuminati were real then if would be fixed by the morning and I woke up and it was really stunning actually. I couldn’t quite believe that I was in this world where a man like Trump could become President and a woman like Hillary could not become President and it was really demoralizing. That week there was a rise in calls to therapists, it was documented in the news and on my end my therapist and life coach actually cancelled on me because she was so distraught and that was just the state of the world. And I really felt like I had campaigned for Hillary, I had donated money-so there was my time, my money- and it hit me that I had just not been using my voice. And when I looked at the blog posts on my website I realized I had not been speaking up at all and I was scared to. I was hoping that time and money would do that because that was easier somehow and it would take bravery to speak up. You know-what would people say about me? How could I hold my own in a political conversation? And then something snapped inside me and I decided I had to do something. So just as simple as doing a post a day with a picture of myself because I couldn’t be afraid anymore to put myself out there. I do think it’s a problem plaquing a lot of women where I know back then I was so scared of any photo that went out of me, I would look at it for a second and like it and then starting thinking oh you know this and then that-things that other viewers would not really care about but all of a sudden it’s the only thing I can see. I do think unfortunately that that’s an active metaphor about how women feel about putting themselves out there, it’s like if we’re not perfect then we can’t put ourselves out there and I realized that was holding all of us back so I started making these daily posts and reaching out to my creative arts friends and pouring my heart out and asking what can we do? And around that time news of the women’s march started and I just knew I would go and then I was in my car one day and came up with the idea and launched right into it. I started it with my knitting teacher Kat Coyle who I brought in to help make the knit pattern. Then I wrote the manifesto, it was really a lot of woman power coming together.

Casey: Kind of in the vein of the last question, I feel like I have started to reach across the aisle and try to understand the opposite point of view more so than before-what do you think about liberals dating trump supporters and do you think it’s important to have those conversations now with people who have the opposite point of view?

Krista: As far as dating, I think what I look for in a partner even if it’s just casual dating, I’m heterosexual so I don’t really find a man attractive if he’s not actively supporting my dreams and I don’t want to put a blanket statement on it-it’s really hard, I don’t think for me personally I could do it simply because if you are pro trump then you are against me. Not even as the Pussyhat creator but as a woman. I do think that a lot of the people who support Trump who are otherwise very nice people, I there is a sense of scarcity among that, this mentality that there’s not enough to go around so we gotta fight for ourselves and make sure we take care of America first whereas I think having more of an abundance mindset is not only more attractive but more effective. Not to say that there aren’t plenty of liberal social justice warriors with a scarcity mindset but for me I don’t look for somebody that’s necessarily liberal or republican but I definitely look for someone who has an abundance mindset. I think that is what will bring America forward and the human race forward. And when you talk about having conversations from across the aisle so to speak, I find that it often comes to that conversation of scarcity versus abundance. They’re coming from a place of scarcity and we can’t force them into an abundance mindset. All we can do is live it, and examify it, and invite them to it. And as I say in my book, I think the first step is really to encourage those who want to believe in abundance and want to speak up but for whatever reason feel scared to, I call it preaching to the choir except it’s a good thing because if your choir is out of tune, hasn’t practiced in a while, or is scared to sing out than that is a problem and you do need to preach to the choir. I do think that’s the state we’re in right now.

Casey: I’ve listened and read a lot of interviews you did before the book was published but now that the book is out and you have two marches under your belt, do you have any tips or advice  for maintaining a movement?

Krista: Yeah, one piece of advice that I think can apply to anyone and is the last chapter of my book called Throwing A Party. I think the party metaphor is very apt, everything I do I kind of think of as a party. The manifesto for the Pussyhat was an invitation and when it comes to parties there are hosts and then guests and I think to keep the movement going we all have to be hosts and guests and make it sustainable. I know for me I work best as a sprinter opposed to a marathoner. I think understanding how you work best and what your superpowers are and that makes you the best host, collaborator, and comrade you can be. And it makes things more fun right? And fun is sustainable. I do suggest picking one or two causes to be hosts for and doing one to four parties a year for that cause and that way you are really doing something to move people forward, you’re hosting a party in such a way organizationally that other people can just show up as guests because we don’t all have time to be a host for every single cause out there. I think that’s really important because then when you aren’t hosting your cause you can be a guest at other people’s parties and I do think that’s what moves movements forward. Also often times I see that women especially are hosts too much and then they get exhausted and burnt out and then the movement doesn’t keep going forward and sometimes I also see people being guests too much and they don’t feel like they’re doing anything and they don’t feel important and that’s not healthy for a movement either. And in that case I would encourage you to be a host once or twice a year. So that way it’s great that you’re a guest but you also have some agency as you host a party and make it creatively yours. So be a host and be a guest. And once you’re a host for something you become a better guest and vice versa. And the party could literally be a fundraising party or a documentary you make or a craftivism project like the Pussyhat. It could take all shapes it doesn’t have to be a literal party but I think it helps to think of it as a party metaphorically at least because then again it’s fun and nothing is worse than guilting people into joining your movement. Another concept I talk about is something I call Zoom in and Zoom out and some of the exercises in the book are zoom in exercises like the Midas Touch and some are Zoom out like the Twelve Houses exercise. I mention this because sometimes we are too zoomed out, that’s like when you’re being a guest everywhere and you don’t think you’re making a difference and it helps to zoom in on one thing and really concentrate on it and get to know yourself and make your life better in some small concrete way which I think crafts are great for. Like with the Pussyhat really allows you to zoom in and be quiet and be by yourself and knit and have this concrete hat that you made that had a beginning middle and end and you sent it off and that kind of thing gives people encouragement to keep going. So often we make a call to our congressman and leave a voicemail or whatever and it can feel like another drop in the ocean but when you do something and see the results in your hand that’s just helpful for morale. And then on the other side sometimes we can be so zoomed in on one thing that it’s helpful to zoom out and see the bigger picture. Recently I visited the Susan B. Anthony House while on tour and it was really powerful. I was in the room where she was arrested for voting illegally and I visited her grave and she did famously write “don’t linger at my grave, if you must stop by but move on and continue doing the good work.”  It was really empowering for me because it was time where I could realize that I’m a part of a much larger movement and even when I feel like I’m not doing enough, I’m not just a drop in the ocean I’m actually part of a larger wave. So there’s this idea of Futurism, I don’t know if you’re familiar with it and to be honest at first I didn’t really get it myself-it’s sort of like where sci fi meets activism and this woman who’s a professor at UCLA explained it perfectly she said oftentimes in science fiction you don’t see any black people, there’s this metaphorical genocide and all these authors are procuring this future without them and all these readers are reading about a future without people of color. And so it’s a big deal to make sure that we are included in that specific genre right? Where we are part of the future and how the activism parts comes in is that just like sci fi working on this world we’ll never see, activists are also working towards a future they will never see, I mean Susan B. Anthony died before the women were given the right to vote but she did her work anyway and I do feel like all of us in this movement are also working towards that future. And maybe we’ll see some change like you said you could feel it in your bones that you will see a woman President in your lifetime but it might happen after just past our time like all nine Supreme Court Justices are women.

Casey: RBG!! I saw the movie last week by myself and I cried twice and laughed a lot, everyone needs to see it!

Krista: Yeah! She has that quote too when a reporter asks her how many women need to be on the Supreme Court for it to be fair and RBG says nine and the reporter is taken aback and Ruth just says well for so long it’s been all male and no one had a problem. She goes on to say that she wants to see all nine as woman and it not to be shocking, that’s the goal. I also think she practices great self care, when she works out with her trainer, I said oh my god yes she really has to stay healthy because we really need her on that bench!

Casey: Now as far as this purposeful idea of taking action to meet your goal of empowering others. After my own experiences I decided to write a full length play about a year ago about violence against women and was by far the most amazing experience of my life. Talk about  the magic of a gift meeting pure passion for a cause that you truly believe in-

Krista: Wow. Just hearing you talk about this gave me goosebumps. Thank you for doing that work.

Casey: yeah and then sharing women’s stories and encompassing all the different types of abuse within this issue, not just physical but emotional and eating disorders and everything in between and filling a campus (that was heavily featured in a collegiate rape documentary called Hunting Ground) that needed to heal and hear that powerful message, it was truly amazing and it makes me wonder what did it feel like when you saw the sea of pink hats for the first time?

Krista: Well I was there giving out hats with a lot of volunteers and kind of just running around in that mode of organizing and then one of the volunteers took me aside and said you need to take a moment to take this in, you did it and I said yeah yeah I get it kind of brushing it off and then this National Geographic photographer Claire came together and showed me this trick to get off the ground and had me climb this guardrail and I’m 5 feet tall so just seeing 2 feet off the ground all of a sudden I could see everything and I saw the sea of pink and I thought oh my god this is amazing. And around me everyone was wearing a pink hat but I thought well of course they’re wearing one like the way your mom laughs at your jokes, of course she’s gonna laugh, she has to! But when I saw that expanse of people that’s when I really felt it and just that level of teamwork and all the meaning packed into each individual hat, each one was so handmade that there was just hours of work in all these hats that I could feel the love of that. But not just the knitters were heroes, everyone was-the marchers were heroes for physically being there in person and representing and the bravery of putting on these hats. I do think that’s why the hats haven’t been co opted by the other side because it takes bravery to wear something so feminine.

Casey: If I didn’t do comedy I have always wanted to be an organizer or continue to focus on getting my play about violence against women out there. In your book you talk about getting in touch with your intuition and how to separate it from fear so adding to that idea,how do you decipher between which passion to lead with? And follow up, are you still pursuing screenwriting or has being a published author and activist taken all of your attention? Do you believe we even have to chose one thing or can we all have our cake and eat it to?

Krista: Oh I’m all about the cake and eating it too but also going to chapter two, The Pharmacy, we really get to choose and prescribe to ourselves but to do that we have to know ourselves. I know I like to have at least two projects to work on because when I’m procrastinating on one I’m often working on the other project and there are so many things I’m interested in that I want to put out into the world that I found collaborating with other people really really helps me and they can keep the wheel rolling when I’m off working on another project. Now that works for me but I wouldn’t say that was a statement to every woman out there, instead I would say to really listen to your intuition. Is it an inhale period where you want to scatter your seeds to the wind and see what takes hold? or do you want to be in an exhale period where you’re gonna hone in on one project and really see it through. Both are valid and I think what’s dangerous about these questions we ask ourselves is that they can quickly turn into an excuse for a doubt. I think a woman’s right to choose goes far beyond reproductive rights. We get to choose how we see the world and how we want to frame our own story and I hope women start to frame themselves as the hero of their story instead of the victim. So no matter what you choose there’s no reason to tear down your choice and if you end up changing your mind later you can! I think for some reason when women decide to take a risk we feel like we have to justify it or poke at it or tear it down. It’s in the movies all the time, so many of our stories that we put out there are women taking a risk only when something terrible has happened like a divorce or something and at that point they decide to move and take on a new job or start their own business but it’s only after they’ve lost everything do they feel they have the right to take a risk. I mean men take risks far more often and its approved of like oh he’s so brave. I think being aware of that double standard is really helpful when you’re making decisions about your own life. Kind of separate in your head what’s a patriarchal bullshit thing and your actual intuition.

Casey: I know we’ve talked some about the exercises in your book and this idea that you were not only sharing your wisdom but also a plan of action to put the lessons to work in real time. In comedy the best live bits are ones that the audience gets to be a part of as its happening and your book had that quality. I loved how it enforced this message that we all matter and we can all take the time to find ways to give self care and listen to ourselves so my question is, if you could add a chapter now what would it be?

Krista: Yeah! This has become more clear to me recently while on my book tour but going back to my chapter called The Valid Stamp, I talk about one of the greatest tools of Patriarchy is the idea that there’s one right way of doing something and that’s how we have millions of women at the top of their game still thinking that they’re frauds. That they’re imposters right, because they think on some level that they’re doing it wrong and in the last few months I’ve come to the conclusion that that’s not just a tool for Patriarchy that IS Patriarchy. Patriarchy we all know is not man versus woman and to me it’s not even masculine versus feminine. In all the great anthropology traditions, masculine and feminine can be so different-sometimes sky is masculine and earth is feminine and vice versa. Or black is masculine and white is feminine, and vice versa-yin and yang there’s not a lot of cohesion there right? So it’s not really about masculine versus feminine and to me Patriarchy is the idea that there’s only one right way to do something and if you’re not part of the current ruling class then guess what? The way you’re doing it is wrong. It’s a very neat trick and to that end I feel like the antidote to Patriarchy is creativity. Creativing is constantly proving that there are so many right ways of doing something.

Casey: And finally, do you feel the love from empowering those around you everyday? When I was getting ready to write the play I would listen to so many different women’s stories because I wanted to get it right. Violence against women isn’t a topic-I just wanted to get it right. And it was like I had an invisible stamp on my forehead that said tell me your story and I will listen and it was wonderful and so many women opened up to me about their experiences, so can you speak to that feeling and also do you ever feel like you carry the stories and emotions of others? How do you make sure to take care of yourself so that you can continue to serve others?

Krista: I think as I was doing the Pussyhat Project, in the heat of it, those two months between launch and the march, I could feel in my body that I was being a channel of some sort.

Casey: Yeah. I use the word vessel when thinking back on it.

Krista: Yeah, all of these emotions are going through me and as artists we aren’t creators but channels and if this idea from up above or the universe comes to you it’s your job to channel it and I think it’s really important to have self care so that the channel is clear for the idea to be pushed through almost like an artery. If you don’t take care the artery can develop plaque and build up and then the idea can’t flow through.  But what I’ve discovered now is that the channel goes both ways, I knew I needed to bring ideas from the universe into the world but I didn’t realize that also the world’s feelings go out into the universe through me and this Pussyhat. People had told me that this was the first thing that brought them out of the grief after the election and while on book tour just last week I was in Sante Fe and this woman just casually said she loved the project and that she was a retired engineer and she was older and she said when she was working there were never a women on the construction sites and whenever she would go they wouldn’t take her seriously and all the men would pinch her and grope her to the point she would get home and have bruises on her butt and that was completely normal and ok at the time and in that moment I felt not even sadness but just so much for her.

Casey: Yeah and it’s not really a burden but it is new information that you’re taking in and letting it affect you.

Krista: Right. And I think it’s important to do that. For instance when the March for Our Lives when the shooting at Parkland High School happened I actually felt nothing that day and I then the shootings that followed most recently in Sante Fe and I think that type of apathy is how the Patriarchy wins.  And now with people speaking up I feel my heart to start to crack open again and I think it’s a great thing for activists and craftivists to be mindful of. We are all in this. I feel that finding that balance of being sensitive enough to be empathetic in this world and be a part of it but not being so overly sensitive that you just shut down or you’re in so much pain that you can’t do anything to help.

Casey: Well Krista, it was such an honor and treat to have this chat with you.

Krista: Yeah, I’m happy to do it, I think Woke Brown Feminist is really important place for people like me and people who might feel like they’re new to activism, I think it’s a great way to get people in on the party.