Government & Politics

Democratic women to wear black at State of the Union to support sexual abuse victims

Taking a cue from Hollywood actresses who wore black to the Golden Globes on Sunday to support victims of sexual abuse and harassment, Democratic congresswomen plan to do the same at Trump’s State of the Union address later this month. At last year’s speech they wore white to honor suffragettes.
Taking a cue from Hollywood actresses who wore black to the Golden Globes on Sunday to support victims of sexual abuse and harassment, Democratic congresswomen plan to do the same at Trump’s State of the Union address later this month. At last year’s speech they wore white to honor suffragettes. Nancy Pelosi

Women of Hollywood skipped their usual colorful fashion parade on the Golden Globes red carpet Sunday and wore black to support women victimized by sexual abuse and harassment.

Now the blackout campaign is about to hit Washington.

A group of Democratic congresswoman plan to wear black to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address on Jan. 30 to support the anti-sexual harassment efforts of the growing #MeToo and Time’s Up movements.

“This is a culture change that is sweeping the country, and Congress is embracing it,” Rep. Jackie Speier of California told NBC News.

She said she and other members of the Democratic Women’s Working Group have invited all members of Congress — men, women, Democrat and Republican — to wear black to the speech.

Speier has led the #MeToo movement on Capitol Hill. In October she posted a video in which she revealed in vivid detail sexual harassment and assault she says she experienced as a young congressional staffer.

She called Congress a “breeding ground for a hostile work environment.”

“A chief of staff held my face, kissed me, stuck his tongue in my mouth,” Speier said in the video. “I know what it’s like to keep these things hidden deep inside.”

She has encouraged fellow members of Congress and staff members to share their stories, too.

Rep. Lois Frankel of Florida, chairwoman of the Democratic Women’s Working Group, plans to give her guest ticket to Trump’s speech to someone involved in the #MeToo movement.

“What we want is to really continue the conversation about sexual harassment in the workplace, about disparity of salaries where people work in the same job, and also getting paid for the value of your work,” Frankel told The Hill.

At last year’s State of the Union, Democratic women wore all white to honor the suffragette movement and pledged to fight for issues affecting women.

There’s already speculation about whether Republican women — or any men, for that matter — will join the symbolic blackout.

This could be awkward for Republicans, given that the leader of their party is dogged by allegations of sexual misbehavior, suggests Quartz.

According to most counts, 17 women to date have accused Trump of sexual misconduct, and he was heard bragging about grabbing women by their genitals, which he dismissed as “locker room banter.”

Last month, female lawmakers led by Frankel demanded that Congress investigate those allegations against Trump, according to The Hill.

In the past, lawmakers on both sides have been willing to speak out about sexual assault and harassment, Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University’s Eagleton Institute of Politics, told Quartz.

“I think we will be watching to see what happens at the speech, and whether this is something that does cut across party lines,” Walsh said.

And what about male lawmakers? At the Golden Globes, the men of Hollywood wore black, too.

“For things to change, it’s going to take women doing their part, but men also need to talk up,” Walsh told Quartz. “So I’ll be curious to see whether there are men, both Democrats and Republicans, who will wear black on that day in support.”

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