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Woman of 2018, Gina Martin, is among other strong females in politics who are sporting stand-out statements through dress, while making a difference.
It’s midday on Wednesday 16th January 2019. I’m mindlessly swiping through Instagram on the 243 London bus, when I see Gina Martin’s post (pictured above) on my explore page. I am stopped dead in my tracks (or rather, my thumb is).
My gaze is drawn to Gina, who is pictured sporting a pink shirt and pink denim jeans outside the Houses of Parliament, accompanied by the caption “WE FOUGHT THE LAW AND WE WON”. Just like that, I am instantly aware that a victory for women in the UK has been achieved, through the signpost of clothing.
On 15th January 2019, The House of Lords approved the ban on “upskirting” – the act of taking a photograph underneath a person’s skirt or dress without their consent. Gina fell victim to this act 18 months prior at a festival, and has since fought tirelessly to change the law with the help of her friends and family.
Interestingly, Gina is not the first woman in a political sphere who has made a bold statement through her choice of dress recently. Vanessa Friedman wrote a piece for The New York Times about American Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and the orange MaxMara coat she wore to a meeting with Trump at the White House.
(Nancy is also seen standing out in the New Committee photo pictured below, wearing a hot pink suit and matching pumps).
Vanessa Friedman’s article was met with a backlash, including statements such as: “Shame on you for feeling the need to remind us that although Ms. Pelosi is a highly accomplished politician and fearless leader, what she is wearing is equally important. You owe her and all women an apology.”
Friedman responded, defending her right to critique, and outlining the importance of intelligent (and relevant) fashion commentary in a political space. She acknowledged that she understood their point of view, “There is no question fashion has been used as a tool to dismiss women in the past. But there are reasons my colleagues and I consider what a politician — male or female — wears, well, worthy of consideration.”
The point being that – in both Nancy Pelosi and Gina Martin’s case, their dress is a sign of strength, solidarity and female power.
“It seems that some critics just can’t accept the fact that an unapologetic democratic socialist […] can also wear designer clothes.”
That said, there is evidence of critics using fashion as a means to dismiss other women in power. Einav Rabinovitch-Fox’s piece for The Conversation, titled “Criticism of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s clothes echoes attacks against early female labor activists”, demonstrates this.
Einav likens the criticism of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s clothing to Clara Lemlich’s cause in 1909, in which female workers dressed well in order to be taken seriously, during a protest for higher wages. However, they were accused of undermining their cause in doing so.
Einav defends Alexandria, (the youngest woman to ever be elected to congress), stating – “It seems that some critics just can’t accept the fact that an unapologetic democratic socialist […] can also wear designer clothes.”
What is significant here, is the response, albeit good and bad, to what these women wear in a political space. It outlines the fact that fashion is always, a conversation.
It would seem that the backlash to Vanessa Friedman’s article, is yet another misinterpretation of feminism and it’s cause. This attitude echoes that of the media frenzy of 2018, in which man-sized Kleenex and Gingerbread Men were wrongly the central topic of feminism debate. Some argue that this behaved as a tactic to distract the public from the “real issues” that surround feminism.
According to Girts Avotins, (an Florida based graphic designer / art-director), the colour pink, is used to “communicate energy, increase pulse, motivate action, fascinate and encourage creativity”. – It is no accident that pink is Gina Martin and Nancy Pelosi’s colour of choice when making a statement in politics.
In this case, fashion communication provides a strong: “Don’t mess with us” message, to men like Sir Christopher Chope, who shouted “I object!” when the upskirting bill was first introduced to Parliament.
In a time of Brexit chaos, “Gingerbread People” and Sir Christopher Chope’s objections, Gina Martin’s feminist can-do attitude and pink attire in politics is refreshing. It marks a brash and visible step forward for women and an uplifting success story to kick off the New Year.
In 2019, here’s to more pink politics, and less media coverage of toxic feminist debate.