Anti-Trumpism, the radical feminist “Resistance” movement, and “She Persisted” activism is alive and well among academics at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in the upstate New York city of Rochester. The institute is hosting a “craft activism” art exhibit, entitled, “Crafting Democracy: Fiber Arts and Activism” from August 1 to October 25, 2019 at the city’s public library, the Rundel Memorial Library Building. The art exhibit is partly supported by a grant from the Farash Foundation.
RIT is a private institute which offers undergraduate and postgraduate programs in science, technology, engineering, and the fine arts.
The institute’s press release boasted that two of its professors curated the art exhibit, which includes “handcrafted pussyhats, subsersive embroidery (‘resist’), protest banners and quilts are among the politically charged textiles inspired by the rise of President Donald Trump.” For reference, “pussyhats” are pink, yarn-spun hats with two pointed edges mimicking female anatomy and often worn by anti-Trump radical feminists during protests.
The curators are Hinda Mandell, associate professor in the communication school, and Juilee Decker, an associate professor of museum studies. They claimed the art exhibit explores “craft activism,” a phrase coined by writer and crafter Betsy Greer, and examines the 2016 presidential campaign between Trump and Hillary Clinton and the post-election “aftermath.” The press release said, “Thirty works by local, national and international contributors express outrage over gender and racial injustices through the language of yarn, thread, embroidery floss, silk, cotton, linen, wool and other materials.” It added the following:
“One of the most recognizable recent examples is the cat-eared hats worn by protestors during the televised Women’s March on Washington in January 2017. While one pussyhat stands alone, thousands demand attention, and the sea of pink pussyhats symbolized solidarity in support of women’s equality and reproductive rights.”
Mandell was quoted as saying, “Craft has a long history, particularly among women, as tools to express their voice in the political arena. Through the exhibition ‘Crafting Democracy: Fiber Arts and Activism,’ we seek to continue the dialogue about how the process of making can reflect people’s voices—from all demographics and backgrounds—in the political arena.” She said, “The fact that the crafting of pussyhats created a worldwide run on pink yarn demonstrates that people turn to craft as a mechanism to enact change and express dissent when politicians, political parties, and political legislation seek to trample on human rights and human decency.”
Also, Mandell is publishing a book in October 2019 on the “Pussyhat” movement entitled, Crafting Dissent: Handicraft as Protest from the American Revolution to the Pussyhats.
According to the press release, there is a “Pussyhat Project,” which is a “social movement focused on raising awareness about women’s issues and advancing human rights by promoting dialogue and innovation through the arts, education and intellectual discourse” according to its website. The website claimed, “The Pussyhat™ is a symbol of support and solidarity for women’s rights and political resistance.”
Decker compared the art exhibit to the accomplishments of former Rochester residents Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, who ironically championed causes that the modern Left would consider extreme:
“Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass called Rochester home and built networks that sought to make good on the promises of democracy and reform,” she said. “Their suffragist and abolitionist work was conducted while residents of this city, and they are buried at Mount Hope Cemetery. Their spirits are cultivated in our exhibition where themes of democracy, activism, social justice and human rights reflect unique local roots but also plunge into the 21st century.”
For context, among Rochester voters, in 2016, 54% voted for Hillary Clinton while 34% voted for Donald Trump.