Harriet Tubman Pink Pussy Hat thegrio.com
Harriet Tubman (Photo: Demetria Irwin)

On Saturday, as an estimated 1 million people took part in the Women’s March in cities all over the country, someone defiled a statue of Harriet Tubman in Harlem by putting a pink pussy hat on top of the legend’s head.

The 13-foot-tall bronze statue designed by Alison Saar in 2008 is located in Central Harlem on Frederick Douglass Boulevard and West 123rd Street.  The iconic liberator of enslaved people is depicted facing South with a bag slung over her shoulder and roots coming out of her full-length dress anchoring her to the North. The lower part of her dress features the faces of the enslaved people she helped escape to freedom.

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It is a stoic and dignified memorial befitting Harriet Tubman (even if a little watered down by the fact that the fearless liberator is depicted without her shotgun).

The placement of a silly pop culture symbol of non-inclusive white feminism on top of Tubman’s head is insulting. The person who perpetrated this stunt probably thought it was a “stick it to the man” gesture of solidarity with a historical freedom fighter and modern day feminism. That person is wrong.

Leave Sister Tubman Alone

Harriet Tubman is an American hero who helped liberate hundreds of Black people during the nation’s morally bankrupt era of chattel slavery. She was a small, disabled, Black woman born into the brutality of 19th century America who despite all odds not only freed herself, her family, and thousands of strangers, but lived long enough to see the abolition of slavery.

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After being hit in the head with a heavy weight by a cruel master as an enslaved child, Tubman suffered from debilitating seizures and random bouts of unconsciousness for the rest of her life. She came to view these episodes as divine moments. In the face of racism, sexism, and ableism, Tubman persevered.

Her crusade stands alone as a testament to her drive, determination, and intelligence. Her story does not need any embellishment or flimsy connections to a modern movement that has nothing to do with her. No one is fit to touch Sister Tubman’s narrative nor lay a hand on a memorial built in her likeness.

Twitter users, especially Black women, were none too pleased with Harriet Tubman being sucked into the blackhole of pop culture feminism.

Keep the Pink Pussy Hat to Yourself

The pink pussy hat came into being after tapes of Donald Trump were released of him bragging about grabbing women by the pussy. The recording was released before the 2016 presidential election. Black people were already done with Trump and had been for decades, but this particular offense stoked the anger of white women. They clutched their collective pearls and donned pink pussy hats as they took to the streets for the Women’s March the day after Trump’s inauguration in 2017.

Polls showed that a mind-boggling 53% of white women who voted in the 2016 election, chose to vote for Donald Trump. This is in the face of their pant-suit wearing bestie Hillary Clinton being the Democratic party’s presidential nominee.

So this “I am woman hear me roar” strut with cutesy signs and those ridiculous pink pussy hats seems a bit disingenuous when more than half of voting white women cast their ballots for the man they claim to be horrified by now.

Black people (that includes Black women, FYI) have been very clear about Trump’s racism and misogynoir for years. This pink pussy hat donning 53% is one of many examples of how mainstream (ie white) feminism lacks the depth and breadth to embrace a movement that truly advocates for all women.

One Twitter user begged her fellow white women to stop with the shenanigans.

Tubman’s Freedom Fight is not Aligned with the Pink Pussy Hat “Fight”

Tubman was a true freedom fighter. Her objective was to get Black people free and she dedicated her life and her own liberty to that singular goal. The pink pussy hat brigade is a feminist lite reaction to real problems. Donning a stupid hat, retweeting a clever quip, and marching once a year does not make one a freedom fighter.

To put that piece of zeitgeist garbage on the head of a legend is profoundly disrespectful and shows a lack of understanding about intersectionality. Putting a hat on Tubman does not link these movements. It does not bring Black women into this fight.

Black women have always been our own best advocates and everyone benefits from our work because we are consistently at the bottom when it comes to wages, civil /human rights, and a litany of other topics. So when Black women’s conditions improve, there is a “trickle up” effect that everyone can enjoy.

So, pink pussy hatters, instead of making an empty and disrespectful statement/gesture, find a womanist in your life who is willing to tolerate your level of ignorance and learn a few things. If you’re lucky, she’ll tell you what you can do to be a true advocate for all women. Planned Parenthood’s president Cecile Richards echoed this sentiment when she urged white women to “do better” at the Women’s March.

In the meantime, keep your hands off of Sister Tubman.

Follow Demetria Irwin on Twitter at @Love_Is_Dope and connect with her on Facebook.