Suffragette White on a Woman of Colour

| by Rida Chaudhry |

On November 7th, 2020 not only did the first woman but the first woman of colour to hold a seat in the United States presidential office walked on stage in a stunning white pantsuit and a silk pussy-bow blouse. Kamala Harris walked with pride and promise across the stage, understanding what her nomination meant to the millions of girls watching. Her outfit, though seemingly a simple fashion choice, served as an important homage to the suffragists and powerful women that have come before her, paving the way for her success.

As a woman, a person of colour, and an aspiring politician, I had goosebumps watching her speak with such triumph and strength. I felt liberated.

The pantsuit, in a striking Suffragette White, painted a beacon of victory on this symbol that has been a prevalent sight in the women's suffrage movement. Popularized in the 20th century, women wore this distinct colour with pride and prosperity. White became an emblem of unification. A democratized uniform across the movement erupted again and again; in 1978 with the March for the Equal Rights Amendment, Geraldine Ferrero accepting the DNC’s vice-presidential nomination in 1984, Hillary Clinton accepting her democratic nomination in 2016, the 2019 and 2020 state of the Union addresses, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ officiation into congress in 2020. The pussy bow blouse peeking from underneath Harris’ blazer reminded the crowd of another strong woman in politics, Margaret Thatcher  who, in 1979, became the longest serving prime minister of the United Kingdom and one of the only women to have held the seat thus far. Furthermore, it served a reclamation of the style after Melania Trump sported it amidst her husbands “grab [women] by the pussy” locker room talk. This historic outfit attributes closure to a chapter of administration that has objectified and diminished a woman's deserved respect in society.

It is, however, important to recognize the glorification of representation in government. Whereas Harris’ actions in office have not adequately represented the needs of the BIPOC community in the past, she served as the prime moderate candidate for vice presidency that Americans across the political spectrum could rally behind. Nevertheless, Harris is laying the foundation for future women of colour to receive recognition for their contributions and surpassing the glass ceiling in politics through her nomination.

Kamala Harris knew what she was doing and who she was standing with when she walked on stage with such confidence. She did it well.

What a woman wears does not equate to her quality yet we unfortunately live in a society where a woman is scrutinized based on her dress rather than accomplishments. Kamala Harris reclaimed this notion, using fashion as a tool to signal her strength and the determination of the women that came before her. Elongating this momentum into her words, Harris paid homage to all women. As she claimed, “equality and liberty and justice for all” a sense of intersectional recognition and triumph flooded my body.

Written by Rida Chaudhry, second year major in political studies