How to Dress to Show Your Disapproval of Donald Trump
“For those in need of a pantsuit, consider some of the options from the fall 2016 runways.”
So reads part of an Allure story from 500 years ago (November 4th, 2016), on the decision of many Hillary Clinton supporters to wear pantsuits to the polls, in honor of Clinton’s signature, no-nonsense look.
While I was aware of the pantsuit thing, and thought it sounded fabulous, I’d been reluctant to write about it here, because I worried associating Clinton-support with a clothing choice (or, heaven forbid, a shopping choice) would somehow reinforce the notion that women are frivolous, and that a woman’s not serious enough to be president. Which is absurd — a part of feminism, not the whole of it of course, but still — is the belief that a feminine self-presentation doesn’t say anything either way about a person’s seriousness. But I guess I just didn’t want to lead with, look, pantsuits!
But, she lost. So what do we have to lose?
FASHIONISTAE, UNITE: Come up with some damn trendy thing we can all wear if we refuse to accept this abhorrent Presidency, to show strength.
— cintra wilson (@xintra) November 10, 2016
After reading the brilliant Cintra Wilson’s tweet above, my mind whirred with visions of protest jumpsuits, protest metallic boots, protest lightweight scarves. But maybe there’s a simpler (and more affordable, not to mention gender-neutral) option:
In Slate, the also-wonderful Michelle Goldberg makes the case for the protest safety pin. (Not to be confused with that other Slate article, about using paper clips as Q-Tips.) In the piece, Goldberg explains, “I’m not usually an adopter of memes; I’m suspicious of virtue signaling and hardly ever change my Facebook avatar.” But following Brexit, with acts of racism on the rise, some white people wished to label themselves as… whatever the human equivalent is of a safe space, I suppose: “It was a quick, easy way to show immigrants that you weren’t one of those who despise them and to show everyone else that you wouldn’t tolerate xenophobic abuse.”
Goldberg cites post-election hate crimes in the US (one of which may have been false) and suggests white people who’d opposed Trump do the same. Not to be all, hey, look, I’m ‘woke,’ but to be all, hey look, I don’t believe people like you should be banned from the country. And it’s a key distinction! The aim isn’t signaling a knowledge of whichever social-justice terminology and a finessed sense of when it is and isn’t OK for a white novelist to write a non-white character. It’s signaling that you consider Muslims, Mexicans, and others to be human beings. Sure, as with all signaling, smugness is unavoidable, but the aim is to benefit the pin-viewer, not the pin-wearer.
Oh, and there’s a Jewish angle: “Yesterday and today, writes Goldberg, “as I walk around in this unfamiliar new country, I see people of color and wonder if they think I’m one of the 53 percent of white women who voted for Trump,” writes Goldberg. I’ve had the same thought; that Goldberg and I are both Jewish may mean who knows what under Trump, but doesn’t change the fact that we’d both read as white in a public space, with the benefits but also the presumption of racism that this entails. And until the day comes when Donald decides we need to pin something specific to our lapels, this safety pin idea is a good one.
Phoebe Maltz Bovy edits the Sisterhood, and can be reached at [email protected] Her book, The Perils of “Privilege”, will be published by St. Martin’s Press in March 2017.