The wearing of the color black became associated with a new meaning at this year’s Golden Globes Awards, where both women and men participated in sporting the color on the red carpet to make a statement on sexual harassment in the workplace and advocate for movements such as #MeToo and Time’s Up. Now, Congressional members have adopted the idea, leading to the announcement by the Democratic Women’s Working Group (DWWG) or Congressional women in the U.S. House of Representatives, which includes plans to wear black to the State of the Union Address on January 30.
The anti-sexual harassment movements of #MeToo and Time’s Up were first highlighted when women came forward with stories of sexual harassment and assault in the Hollywood industry. As more claims of sexual misconduct and assault surfaced, it was evident that the problem spread throughout all industries of work.
Government has been no exception. Over the past few months, several members of Congress had to resign as a result of their actions, including Senator Al Franken and Representative Trent Franks. President Trump himself, the leader of the State of the Union as well as the country, has been accused of sexual harassment/assault by at least 16 women.
Representative Lois Frankel told Teen Vogue in an interview that the action of wearing black to the State of the Union address, however, is not about Donald Trump, since the problem prevails throughout almost all industries. “I want to emphasize this: Wearing black is not about Donald Trump,” she said. “He’s about himself. We are about showing solidarity with a movement that’s much bigger than the president, and obviously he’s not the poster child for it. What we are concerned about…[are] ordinary folks, from waitresses who are being pinched and they need their tips so they don’t say anything, or hotel maids who are being attacked by guests. We’ve heard stories in the tech industry and from coal miners. There are so many stories out there of mistreatment in the workplace…. We want to hear from ordinary people in these industries. We want to hear from experts who can give us recommendations [on] how we can improve the law, and we want to try to do that on a bipartisan basis.”
“This is a culture change that is sweeping the country, and Congress is embracing it,” said Democratic Representative Jackie Speier, who has been a key member of bringing the #MeToo movement to Capitol Hill.
Though it is evident that merely wearing a specific color does not take legitimate action on the conflict at hand, the women in Congress are working towards making a physical difference. Jackie Speier, as well as Lois Frankel and other members of the DWWG, are initiating legislation for governmental interference on the occurrence of sexual harassment and assault in the workplace. They intend to hold hearings later in this year on this subject, a matter in which is predicted to be bipartisan.
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) December 1, 2017
This is not the first time that women in Congress have used uniformed protest either. Last February, Democratic women wore white clothing to Trump’s first joint address to Congress, a nod to the women’s suffrage movement in the early 1900s. With a modern take on it, the white represented advocacy for things such as Planned Parenthood, affordable healthcare, equal pay and paid leave.
With the current statement of black, however, Lois Frankel reiterated the purpose of the clothing choice, saying, “I want [young women] to know that this is a new day. We see so many courageous women coming forward today, and so our wearing black is…saying, ‘We’re with you. We’re not only with you; we want you to know that those of us who are in Congress and have the ability to try to do something about it, in terms of the law, that we’re going to try to do something about this. And our message to young women…is to let them know that when they have the courage to come forward, or the courage to resist, or the courage to persist, that we’re with them.”