Fashioning a Protest: What Does an Activist Look Like?

In recent years, protest attire has gotten more casual. During Occupy Wall Street in 2011, people showed up in jeans, T-shirts, hoodies, and shorts, making it easier to mobilize in their cities. This unassuming style of dress strayed from the idea that participants needed to unify through a particular uniform. However, one of the prominent symbols of resistance during Occupy Wall Street was the Guy Fawkes mask. The mask, which is now a ubiquitous symbol within many movements, was worn to represent the antiestablishment, or anti-government, sentiments of the “99%.” That particular interpretation used on the masks was developed by illustrator David Lloyd and was popularized by the film V for Vendetta, which centers themes of oppression, totalitarianism, and fascism.

WASHINGTON, DC – OCTOBER 06: U.S. veterans who did not want to give their names don Guy Fawkes masks while demonstrating in front of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce October 6, 2011 in Washington, DC. Inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement that began last month in New York, large and small occupations have sprung up in cities across the country. More than one thousand people gathered and marched from Freedom Plaza in downtown Washington. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)Chip Somodevilla

In 2017 at the Women’s March on Washington, the pink “pussy hat” was chosen in part as a protest against vulgar comments Donald Trump made about the freedom he felt to grab women’s genitals, as well as to “de-stigmatize the word ‘pussy’ and transform it into one of empowerment,” according to the Pussyhat Project’s website.

“The pussy hats were effective for communicating solidarity at the time,” says Abrego. “Knitting, like most textile arts, is largely connected to the history of women’s work and domestic labor, so the crafting of the hats takes on some extra significance there.” In addition to knitted hats, “sartorial messaging,” as The New York Times describes it, made way for the embellishment of shirts, pins, and patches with bold statements such as “My pussy my choice,” “No,” “Herstory,” and a sea of other slogans that resonated with onlookers as well as fellow marchers.

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 21: Demonstrators attend the Women’s March on Washington on January 21, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Noam Galai/WireImage)

Noam Galai

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