I am reading a lot of news stories about women — especially white women (more on that distinction in a sec.) — who woke up after the election devastated with the outcome, in terms of what it meant for women, people of color, gays, the disabled, immigrants.
And more than upset, these are women who are now angry with a solid, rational, active anger that is more fearsome for its persistence. For black women and people of color, this is a state of being, not related necessarily to the election (for more on this, Rebecca Traister’s “Can Suburban Women…” is a good read about the racialized underpinnings of this “awakening” narrative — to have been in a state of not-being-awake was itself a privilege, even if it didn’t feel that way).
I love clothing that conveys a sense of anger, of reserved power — but as a recent lovely essay on Daily Kos points out, meeting people where they are – literally, in their homes, and figuratively, carefully echoing the points of similarity you share — is the best tool people if you want, and need, to convince others of the need to take action. So “angry” clothes aren’t strategically great.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the suffragists, especially that last wave or two of women in the 1905-1915 years. They used so many strategies, from “nasty women” rallies to demure parades, from one-on-one conversations to emblems they wore to tell other women they were resistors as well.
Clothing was a big part of this, 21st Century Suffragist. Today we often rely on the explicit statement tshirt, but I do think you can echo a historical moment as well. A simple outfit that is doable in the summer, even in humidity, can look an awful lot like you’re a kickass 1908 suffragette, walking the parade line in the summer. The white shirt is on sale at Macys for $47.00; the skirt, which *might* be good for the heat, is also $47.00. I can say that if you walk into a thrift, you can find a longer black skirt in nearly any size, fabric, and length. Women are very sensible, and they buy practical black skirts.
I picked out some semi-walkable sandals, imagining my “woke suffragette” on the sidewalks on a neighborhood. To me, both of these are pretty dressy — truth be told, I’d be wearing my sturdy dansko sandals. But the tan-rose pair is on last-act clearance at Macys for $54.00, while the greige ghillie sandals (which looks for all the world like a style popular in the 1940s) is less than $40.00. The killer pink backpack is also at Macys, on clearance for $25.00, and is cotton, meaning not so sweaty on your back!
These are somewhat tame ideas, I know, in a summer of activism. I’ve been reading about the organizational structure of the suffragist movement, and what is most astonishing is the ways that women worked together for over one hundred years to get the vote. They had to convince men — male political leaders