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Why Democratic women wore white to the State of the Union

Democrats like Nancy Pelosi and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wore suffragist white to Trump’s address.

Women Congress members wearing white attend President Trump’s State of the Union address at the US Capitol on February 5, 2019.
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

This post was published in 2019. In 2020, for the third time since Trump was elected, Democratic women wore white to the State of the Union.

It was impossible to miss the women lawmakers of the Democratic Party as President Trump delivered the State of the Union Tuesday. Each time the camera cut away from Trump, the bloc of women lawmakers in all-white ensembles could be seen taking in his annual address. And sitting behind Trump was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a cream blazer and white top of her own.

The women legislators dressed in white to make a striking visual statement about how the Trump administration has handled issues important to women, from health care to equal pay. Trump’s tenure in the White House has coincided with movements like #MeToo and the Women’s March.

Be it pussyhats, “nasty woman” T-shirts, or suffragist white, women Democrats have consistently used dress as a way to challenge Trump’s controversial comments about women as well as his administration’s policies.

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), right, is joined by other representatives wearing white, as they pose for a group photo before the State of the Union address on February 5, 2019, in Washington DC.
Alex Brandon/AP

Tuesday was not the first time the women of the Democratic Party have worn all white to the State of the Union; they first made the display in 2017. At the time, Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL) made it clear that the all-white attire was a direct response to the way the Republican Party has handled women’s issues.

“Democratic members will wear suffragette white to oppose Republican attempts to roll back women’s progress,” Frankel announced on Twitter.

Hours before the 2019 State of the Union began, the hashtag #StateOfTheWoman trended on Twitter as women lawmakers shared images of themselves in white. But on previous occasions, the members have worn other colors to make a statement about women’s issues.

In 2018, Democratic women wore all black to the State of the Union, as a tribute to the #MeToo movement and the then-recent death of activist Recy Taylor.

New York Rep. (D) Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (C) poses for a picture with other women ahead of US President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on February 5, 2019.
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Since before Trump took office two years ago, he has been dogged by claims that he is insensitive to women. He has compared women to pigs, referred to news anchor Megyn Kelly “having blood coming out of her wherever,” and famously bragged about grabbing women “by the pussy” during a recorded interview with former Access Hollywood host Billy Bush. Attendees of the 2017 Women’s March (and the ones that followed) wore pink pussyhats in direct response to Trump’s comments. Others wore “nasty woman” T-shirts in response to Trump referring to Hillary Clinton as such during a 2016 debate.

While this isn’t the first year that white has been worn to Trump’s SOTU, the large number of first-term congresswomen made the image all the more striking, and new members made the tradition their own. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) wore a white cape, while Rep. Ayanna Pressley D-MA) added a kente cloth clutch to her white jacket.

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