Pussy Hats and Gandhi Caps

The Pussy Hat Project has been on my mind — Kate has been cranking out hats like a MACHINE, with beautiful results.  So far, she’s knitted nineteen or twenty hats, all of which will be on heads at the January 21st Women’s March on Washington.

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A couple of days ago, this article in the Lifestyle section of the Washington Post really ticked me off: “Pink hats, pins, petitions: What’s the point of these anti-Trump protests?

The article, with its overtones of “happy hands at home” was shallow, patronizing, and dismissive.  Which is all the worse for how predictable it is.  Sure, if wearing a safety pin is all you’re doing, maybe you’re “just” a clicktivist.  What’s the point? Why stand on the sidelines and yell “well, that’s not gonna do anything!”?  And that article seems to have mirrored some big Facebook-group discussions that Kate has told me about, where folks are arguing with each other about how the Pussy Hats “aren’t serious”, etc.

So today, after watching the Blackish episode on Trump’s victory, Kate noticed the white hats on the men behind Dr. King, and wondered aloud “Hmm, what are those hats?”

gandhicappedmenat1963mlkspeech1

My assumption was that they were Nation of Islam hats. I was curious, so I did some Googling.  I came across this 2008 Straight Dope forum thread and this one from 2013.

The general consensus is that those are not Nation of Islam hats, but rather Gandhi Caps, associated with Gandhi’s nonviolent Indian independence movement.  In other words, they’re political solidarity caps worn by participants to show their alignment with the movement.  The BBC has more background on the history of the Gandhi cap, and its role in rallies and marches.

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Members of the Indian National Congress marching in New Delhi in 1937.

Those white caps surrounding the podium are pussy hats!

Here’s a wider shot of Bayard Rustin at the 1963 March on Washington, with a wider shot showing more folks wearing the caps.  According to the forum posters on The Straight Dope, Bayard Rustin traveled to India in 1948, and Dr. King went in 1959.  It seems totally likely that either (both?) brought back this symbol of solidarity:

Bayard Rustin Speaking at Lincoln Memorial

I have not been able to find anything on the Pussy Hat Project website talking about how a sea of pink hats at the Women’s March is an echo of the sea of white hats at Gandhi’s rallies, or at the 1963 March on Washington.  I can’t be the first to notice this, right? This has got to be on purpose, yeah?

Pussy Hats and Gandhi Caps

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