Last February, Democratic women wore white to President Donald Trump’s first speech to a joint session of Congress.
“There was so much — and still is — agitation about the president and our fears of what he was going to do to the women of our country and the world,” Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL), chair of the Democratic Women’s Working Group in the House, told Vox this month. “Of course, our fears have come true.”
So for this year’s State of the Union address on Tuesday, the women of the working group will be wearing black as a statement of solidarity with women across industries who are standing up against sexual harassment. It’s one of several ways Democrats will be responding to a speech by a president who has been accused of sexual misconduct by at least 17 women, and who will address the country in the midst of a moment of public reckoning around sexual harassment and assault. “Right now, the women are agitated,” said Frankel — and on Tuesday, Democrats will be reflecting that agitation on a national stage.
Advocates will make the issue of sexual harassment visible at the State of the Union — and beyond
“I wish we could shout back at the president” on Tuesday night, Frankel said. Instead, she and the other members of the Democratic Women’s Working Group will take a page from the actresses and others involved in the Hollywood anti-harassment group Time’s Up, who wore black to the Golden Globes. Their goal is to send “a message of solidarity with those who are seeking economic security and a cultural shift that enables men and women to work side by side, in safety and dignity, free of sexual harassment, and be paid fairly for the value of their work,” Frankel explained.
It won’t be the only message of solidarity of the evening. As Bryce Covert reports at Racked, members of the Congressional Black Caucus will be wearing red pins to honor Recy Taylor, a black woman whose white rapists never faced trial. Taylor died late last year and was memorialized in Oprah Winfrey’s speech at the Golden Globes.
Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI) will bring Danielle McGuire, a historian who has studied Taylor’s life, as her guest on Tuesday, according to CNN. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), has announced that she will bring Rose Gunter, Taylor’s niece and her caregiver at the end of her life.
Other members of Congress will bring assault survivors or anti-harassment advocates as their guests. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) plans to bring Fatima Goss Graves, president of the National Women’s Law Center, which administers the Time’s Up legal defense fund. Rep. Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH) will bring Chessy Prout, who was sexually assaulted at St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire. Frankel will bring Laura Germino, a co-founder of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, an organization that has worked to prevent harassment and increase wages for farm workers.
Meanwhile, several Democratic lawmakers, including Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), will boycott the president’s speech. Waters will deliver a speech during a BET News special, “Angela Rye’s State of the Union,” on Tuesday night, according to BuzzFeed News. Jayapal and others will attend the State of Our Union, an event on Tuesday night organized by Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, Color of Change, the Women’s March, and other groups, with the goal of understanding “the state of our nation through the eyes and experiences of women.” Speakers will include Tarana Burke, the founder of the Me Too campaign, and Ai-jen Poo, the executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance.
Sexual harassment may not be voters’ top political issue going into 2018, said Frankel. But women, in particular, “want policies and laws that protect people from sexual harassment, and they want lawmakers who are sympathetic to that, and they definitely don’t want lawmakers who are sexual predators.”
Moreover, she said, sexual harassment is an issue of workplace safety and economic security. “If you are a waitress and you have to endure pinches to get your tips or you are a hotel maid and you have to endure guests jumping you,” she said, “that is not right. And that’s about women being able to take care of their families.”
Vox · by Anna North · January 29, 2018