Wednesday, February 6, 2019

When is it Okay to wear white?

A collection of lawmakers on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC in the middle of winter was strangely incongruous. First there were a lot of women seated together; and - more noticeably - they were all wearing white. It turns out most of them were Democrats and many of them newly elected. Pointedly Melania Trump and Ivanka were wearing black outfits.

"President Trump's State of the Union address (Tuesday, February 5, 2019) was flooded with the colour white. The bold statement, initiated by the House Democratic Women's Working Group, saw dozens of lawmakers coordinate their attire as a show of solidarity among women. Democrats taking part included newly-elected Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, who was seen wearing a white cape, and Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who wore a white vest and trousers paired with a blue hijab and red shirt. In particular, the color is associated with the suffragette movement. Early advocates for women's voting rights wore white as a symbol of purity, often alongside purple for dignity and green for hope. The suffragettes also used white to reassure onlookers that their protests were non-aggressive."

Quite intentionally (and historically) the choice of white is non-aggressive, itself a significant message in the customary political arena.  Whether it succeeds to advance its message - at least as demonstrably as intended - remains to be seen. For the time being however it bears the quietude of poetry. The photographs also draw attention to the ethnic diversity of the women - quite unlike the usual ambivalence and veneer of "suits". It highlights the foreseeable alteration of the American landscape generally; and where motherhood goes, it is predictable the hunters and gatherers will follow.

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal Party cabinet reflects a similar transition - as well as the expected lip-curling from opposition members of the Conservative Party. The New Democrats are more frequently in line with current social change and demonstrate a broader demographic.  England and Continental Europe have already begun the involvement with female political leadership. It is curious that the Americans - who so regularly tout themselves as vanguards and protectors of democracy - remain on the back burner.

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