How to Read the Signs: The Message of the Pussycat Hats



“something as simple as a hat can be profoundly and profanely illuminating, if you know how to read the signs”
– Avery Gordon*

This quote was scribbled into a notebook of mine from nearly 20 years ago. The words always intrigued me, and over the years they would haunt my thoughts, reappearing unexpectedly in moments of synchronicity, a subtle reminder that even small coincidences in life might harbor a deeper meaning.

I seldom write about my own life here, always cautious to keep the focus on broader topics that people can relate to. But a strange coincidence occurred that I’d like to share, in the hope that it will inspire my readers to pay close attention and recognize when you are being called to action.

I started selling kitty cat ear hats on eBay about fifteen years ago and suddenly, one fine day, they are transformed into a powerful icon of equal human rights, donned by defenders of civil liberties as millions of people gathered around the world to support a future built on love instead of hate. Behold the Pussyhat and everything it stands for!

So I happen to have boxes of pussy cat hats in my house. They were always a steady but slow item. I shipped one or two a month to somewhere cold and snowy. There were times my husband suggested I donate them to a thrift store, for they took up too much precious space in our tiny shed. Each time I refused. I bought some giant blue bins for the hats to protect them from any gradual corrosion wrought by time, and found room for them under the stairs and in the back of my kids’ closet. I thought maybe someday I’d give these hats to my girls (now ages 2 and 5) when they are old enough handle their own little hat business.

Along came January 21st 2017 and the start of everything yet to come. When I realized the power now vested in these hats, I also realized this is not some random lucky windfall for me. My profit per hat after seller fees and shipping costs was always meager, but I immediately assigned nearly all of it to the National Resource Defense Council. For if we are going to create a better future, we need a planet that can sustain life.

As I prepare to send a shower of cat ear hats around the world, each one now charged with powerful forces—the deep wisdom of the feminine, the infinite capacity of the human heart, the tsunami of history—Avery’s words come back to me once more . . . “something as simple as a hat can be profoundly and profanely illuminating, if you know how to read the signs.”

There is more to this coincidence than just the honor of owning a few boxes of quirky hats that mysteriously became a symbol for the largest protest in the history of the United States. For years I’ve avoided politics, most media, and even limited my social networking. I’ve lived quietly in a tiny mountain town where I can easily stay silent or neutral on controversial issues, or just bury my head in the forest leaf litter (we don’t have much sand here). I’ve devoted my spare time to reading, writing, meditating (and drinking countless cups of tea), always aware of the persistent questions that hovered around everything I did . . . How can I be a better human being . . . mother . . . wife . . . friend . . . daughter? How can I help people live more fulfilling lives? All the while the evidence of my values lay hidden in my closet, as if the cause I am meant to advocate was chosen for me long ago. Hearken to the signs, the amusing the magic of the world.

Now, as millions of people gather around the world to create a better future, it is time for everything to emerge. I have more to offer than hundreds of pussycat hats. I have a voice, an analytical mind, a creative streak, and a profound connection to the natural world, and I have the courage, the strength, and the motivation to use them all.

As each hat travels to adorn the head of an intelligent and awakened human being, I also heed the call to engage with the world, to find the words and the actions that will inspire us, awaken us, and heal us. For the time has come for every single one of us to decide what our role will be in creating the future we want for our loved ones, for humanity, and for the earth that sustains us all.

What You Can Do To Help Make History

View Photos from the 2017 Women’s Marches Around the World

How the Pussyhat Became a Symbol

* Avery Gordon in Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological Imagination