sotu 2020

Democratic Congresswomen Are Wearing White in Protest at the State of the Union

Democratic congresswomen at the 2020 State of the Union. Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

For the second year running, a cohort of Democratic congresswomen opted to wear white to the president’s State of the Union address. According to Vox, the outfit choice was intended to celebrate the centennial of the 19th Amendment, which granted white women the right to vote when it was ratified in 1920. In 2020, the Democratic Women’s Caucus, which organized the sartorial choice, wants the uniform “to send a strong, unified message of persistence in fighting for the people.”

Taken altogether, the color coordination presents a striking visual; an opportunity for the 90 members of the DWC to “present their dissent without words,” Suzanne Leonard, a Simmons College professor and director of the graduate program in gender and cultural studies, told Vox.

Last year, the Democratic women of Congress also wore white, “in solidarity with the women of the suffrage movement who refused to take no for an answer,” Representative Brenda Lawrence said ahead of last year’s address. “To an administration that has closed its eyes to women, we will be seen.” They did the same at the president’s 2017 address to a joint session of Congress, “to unite against any attempts by the Trump administration to roll back the incredible progress women have made in the last century,” Florida representative Lois Frankel said at the time.

A number of lawmakers wore green “ERA Yes!” pins as well, underscoring their support for the passage of an Equal Rights Amendment. Meanwhile, Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, the two members of the so-called squad of progressive representatives in attendance — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley having opted to boycott the event — sent an even more pointed message to the president. Trump has targeted both women with white-nationalist, xenophobic rhetoric, once advising them to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” At the State of the Union, Tlaib opted for a white thobe, while Omar tweeted, “Our presence is resistance. I am wearing my Ayeeyo’s Cambuur garbeed and bringing the Arawelo spirit to the people’s house.”

Democratic Congresswomen Protest SOTU by Wearing White