Krista Suh (left) and Jayna Zweiman (right), Pussyhat Project co-creators. Courtesy of Forbes.
Troy High School

Commentary: Lessons from pussyhat creator Krista Suh

Everyone knows the pussyhat. The day after the inauguration, thousands of women flooded to the nation’s capital for the Women’s March, creating a sea of pink and a force to be reckoned with.

Now, I think it’s time we learned a thing or two from woman who started it all– Krista Suh, the creator of the Pussyhat Project.

Suh is actually an alumna of my high school, Troy High School, and of course I jumped at an opportunity to interview her for a feature story in the school newspaper.

The Pussyhat Project had already garnered so much publicity and had been featured by giants like the Los Angeles Times and The New Yorker. Meanwhile, I was just a wide-eyed high school journalist who had no idea how to create a unique angle on a topic that had already been so extensively covered.

It turns out that all I had to do, as cheesy as it sounds, was to be myself. Because I have one single advantage over these seasoned, Pulitzer-prize-winning, big-shot journalists: I am currently living through the same experiences that Suh did over ten years ago.

Being an Asian American girl and a Troy student are experiences that Suh and I share, so hearing stories about her life put my own in perspective. Here we were at this ridiculously competitive high school, trading our health and our youth for academic success. People seemed to no longer care about issues that truly mattered in the world, waking up in the morning every day only to work for themselves. I had never found anybody as bothered by this as me, until I met Suh.

When I got on the phone with Suh, she proved that someone like me could go on to do something meaningful with their life. We talked about the pussyhat project for a while, but the majority of the interview was actually about our experiences in high school and various life lessons.

If I’ve learned anything useful in these past three years of my high school career, I learned them from this phone call. This one goes out to all the young people of the America, to the girls, and to the people of color. I hope these truths shake you like they shook me.

1. Perfectionism is stifling and it should not stop you from speaking out.

“For years, I felt like I shouldn’t speak up unless what I had to say was absolutely 100 percent vetted and 100 percent unimpeachable,” Suh said. “And that’s kind of impossible. That’s really stifling and I think that women and people who are minorities feel like we have so few chances to speak, so when we do get a chance it better be perfect. It holds us back because when we’re not vocal we don’t make as much progress.”

2. Throw out the imaginary rubric.

“In high school, especially a competitive school like Troy, there’s the drive to get good grades,” Suh said. “Try to see where you’re grading yourself, where you’re having this rubric to judge yourself when the rubric doesn’t have to be there at all. At a certain point it’s actually very debilitating. I was more successful at work, at relationships, and at art once I let go of the self-criticism.”

3. School is not the be-all end-all.

“Some of our best and brightest people, especially in the Asian American community, are being wasted because we’re throwing them on hamster wheels to get good grades,” Suh said. “But is that really what’s going to create change in the world? Getting out of school and realizing what I really wanted was a process, but if we could start earlier we could create amazing stuff.”

These are important lessons that I really needed to hear. Anyone could be the next Krista Suh, someone who has created a nationally recognized symbol that will go down in history.

With the momentum of the Pussyhat Project, Suh will continue to lead the women’s rights movement and be absolutely unafraid to speak out.

“There are people in this world that benefit from me being silent, and there are people who benefit from me being vocal,” Suh said. “I realized that I’d rather help those people who benefit from me being vocal.”