A tale about how female politicians and their supporters have embraced negative tropes and found unity in becoming “nasty women”.
Democratic supporters all across America have today shown their support for Clinton by donning the trademark pantsuit before turning up to vote. More than just an amusing reference to Clinton’s classic getup, the pantsuit is quickly becoming a symbol for women’s rights and what it means for Americans to see a female potentially become the 54th President of the United States.
Images of predominantly women wearing the colourful ensembles have flooded social media today, as a private Facebook account titled “Pantsuit Nation” has steadily gained millions of members. Clinton responded to her supporters on the page in a post, stating: “Tonight, I hope we’ll finally break through that highest, hardest glass ceiling together, and use those pantsuits for the best occasion of all — celebrating!”
There are currently over 2.5 million members on the page, with numbers steadily rising. Facebook is not the only place for Clinton supporters suiting up. Twitter is also awash with a colourful display of unity in an otherwise divisive and “nasty” campaign, with followers using the hashtags #imwithher, #pantsuitnation and #wearwhitetovote.
Haters have brushed off the pantsuit as a futile attempt from Clinton to appear as “one of the boys”, but the historical significance of this spans back to the suffragettes, a group of women who pushed to be heard by their male countrymen in the UK. The suffragettes inspired a global movement, National Union of Women’s Suffrage, created in 1897, which led to the right to vote in 1918, and in the US two years later.
They wore purple for loyalty and dignity, white for purity, and green for hope. The choice for Clinton’s statement about wearing white is up for debate, but one popular theory suggests her choice of colour is a direct tribute to the white gowns of the female suffragettes.
PANTS IN PARLIAMENT: A BRIEF HISTORY
Astonishingly, before 1993 it was illegal for women to wear pantsuits in the senate until Senator Barbara Mikulski, staged a protest alongside her fellow female senators, by disregarding the former rule and showing up to work in dress pants. Ms Mikulski has gone on to become the longest-serving female senator and next year will mark her retirement after 30 years in the senate.
It’s not unusual for a female politician’s attire to make headlines. Closer to home in 2012 during Julia Gillard’s time as Prime Minister, her infamous polka-dot blazer created a stir in the media. Even the Australian feminist icon and historian Germaine Greer chimed in on Gillard’s style during her time as PM. Greer made comments on an episode of Q&A, blatantly referring to Gillard’s choice of wardrobe, expressing that she wished “she would just get rid of those bloody jackets!” After being met with laughter and a round of applause, she concluded her lengthy monologue after listing Gillard’s positive political attributes with “You’ve got a big arse, Julia!”
Throwing shade at female candidates is not a new concept, with punters chucking gender-specific slurs at one another in office as early as 1872, when leader of the women’s suffrage movement, Victoria Woodhull, ran for president in 1838, 82 years before women could vote. Woodhull was labelled a “harpie”, a witch and “Mrs Satan” by haters for her controversial views and outspoken nature.
NASTY WOMEN UNITE
The now infamous phrase “nasty woman”, was quipped by Trump in the third presidential debate of the election and has quickly been embraced by Democrats as a powerful identifier. The phrase has inspired many to embrace the negative term and proudly refer to themselves as “nasty women”, with many choosing to wear shirts emblazoned with the term, including singer Katy Perry.
The pantsuit has quickly become not only a visual identifier for what powerful women choose to support and embrace, it is a result of a number of badass “nasty” women standing up for what they believe in throughout history. Now, regardless of today’s outcome in the US, it’s not only men who wear the pants in the senate. – Caitlyn Hurley.