The Shirt that Enthralled Reddit and Catapulted Kayla M. into 'Stardom'

In Oct. 2016, Kayla M. decided to create a counter-argument to then-presidential candidate Donald Trump's comment about female genitalia. Unbeknownst to her, this piece of cloth would catapult her into internet stardom.

Photo courtesy of Kayla M.

By Justin K. Thomas

March 17, 2018

The lead-up to the Nov. 8, 2016, presidential election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton was fraught with political intrigue like no other. Many Americans were [and still are] extremely divided with the candidates that the nomination process provided.

Before election day, an audio recording from 2005 surfaced of an off-camera personal conversation between now-President Trump and former Access Hollywood host Billy Bush.

Unbeknownst to Trump and Bush, a microphone was chronicling the now infamous discussion.

The tape featured the nation’s chief executive using the phrase “You can grab ’em by the pussy.” A reference to a powerful man’s ability to have any woman he wants.

Statements uttered by candidate Trump during the recording offended many voters and calls for his exit from the race rang across the nation.

However, not everyone reacted the same way. Kayla M., a native of southwestern Oregon and former saw-mill worker, took the president’s colloquial innuendo to female genitalia and made it into a declaration of her own power, unwittingly making herself an internet meme which has been seen by thousands of people on the social networking website Reddit.

"I had no intention of making myself a viral sensation," Kayla said. "I created the 'Don't grab my pussy' shirt on as joke to what Trump said and not as a political statement. In my opinion, it's standard knowledge that it's not okay to say what he said no matter who you are. So, I took a few pictures with it on and uploaded some images to Instagram account. And from there, it somehow got made into a thread on Reddit, and the rest is history."

Seen here in 2016, Kayla M. wears the shirt that would make her a target of online harassment for years to come.

Photo courtesy of Kayla M.

Kayla, who said that she has a very liberal point of view, lives in what she calls a very “red” or politically conservation region of Oregon. But most locals, even Trump supporters, took to seeing her wearing the black top with the outline of a cat on it as “no big deal,” she said.

“I wore it to a local bar on election night, and we had a pretty good time,” Kayla said. “People were wearing Donald Trump shirts, and they got a laugh out of what I was wearing. Hell, we were even taking ‘selfies’ together.”

Some followers on social media did not take her joke as it was satirically intended. These people took it as an opportunity to judge her look and body size.

“As anyone can see in my public profile, I have a lot of body art, piercings, and I’m not the ‘average’ size woman,” she said. “So, I don’t look like the typical person you’d meet around town.”

One long and “hateful” Facebook comment, in particular, stuck out to Kayla. A woman wrote, “If she’s a feminist, I’m glad that I don’t call myself a feminist.”

Kayla responded to the woman’s reply by saying it was uncalled for and full of hate.

Kayla says that she has collected nearly 50 variations of her meme and saved them.

This includes memes of Kayla depicting a photo illustration of what some people would consider an attractive woman wearing a “Trump – Make America Great Again – 2016” shirt and Kayla with hers’ side-by-side. It was tweeted by Oscar-nominated actor, writer and producer James Wood who said, “I think they are both getting what they want…”

“I didn’t know about his tweet until very recently,” she said. “But, it did give me a laugh. I know that in my opinion, Woods is on the extreme right-side of the political spectrum but to include a tweet of two women that did not give him consent to post their likenesses online is not cool. Say what you will about me, but now this woman could be targeted as a sex object, and that isn’t right.”

Since the meme’s publication in 2016, Kayla and her husband’s private information was “doxed,” or released to the public through the internet with malicious intent. She has now taken significant steps to prevent it from happening again, she said.

But, the notoriety also has given her the chance to inform people about online harassment and how they can overcome the negativity.

“If becoming a joke on social media had happened to me three years ago, it would have destroyed me because I was in a horrible mental state,” Kayla said. “Now, I’m stronger than ever. The meme has given me a way of sharing my experience with thousands of people who may not have the strength to stand up for themselves.”

As to Kayla’s future, she says that she plans on keeping herself busy and living her life the way she wants, no matter what other people say about her alternative lifestyle.

“Eventually I want to become my own boss,” she said. “Fingernail design is one of my passions, and you can constantly find me giving lessons to people all the time. So, I eventually want to get my state-board certified nail technician license. I feel that because I’m ‘different,’ it would be a great fit because it allows me to always be creative, and that’s what I’m all about.”