The aesthetics of female protest have evolved since 1848. Of course they have, because women too have evolved. But like any evolution, some parts of the past are retained, such as the slogans on picket signs or the Redstockings symbol…

The thing is that in 1848 the signs read “Women Unite for Women’s Liberation”, whereas in 2022 you’re much more likely to see signs that say stuff like “Less Toxic Masculinity, More Toxic by Britney Spears”. Even celebrities get involved, wearing well-meaning bulletproof vests emblazoned with “Peg the Patriarchy”, or ballgowns smeared with the blood-red message “Tax the Rich”. Female protest is a serious topic based around serious issues, but when it comes to aesthetics, it’s also fun! There’s power in the joy that women bring to their protests in the face of real issues. Body autonomy and choice results in a host of pink Pussyhats. Equality results in bare boobs on Instagram. Marches bring a whole lot of pink. Just look at women’s protests and tell me they don’t ooze camp. Tell me it’s not pop culture. You see, it’s because, as women, we can have a complex conversation while making an optical explosion — we can really make it *pop*. You don’t believe it? Let’s take a glance.

Dress code

Within the world of female protest, when it comes to the sartorial, we notice the threads of history in the ‘dress code’ — a fashion evolution of the revolution ‘look’. Suffragettes in the early 1900s knew about the importance of clothing, the power it held, in the same way that we know about it today — for instance, SlutWalk or women in suits. Using colours like purple, green and white, the Suffragettes created their own identity. It was strategic and meaningful: purple for dignity, white for purity, and green for hope. It was their brand. Modern day feminists do the same thing. Under the umbrella of #MeToo, the Time’s Up movement saw black clothes on the red carpet at the Golden Globes. Issa Rae — actress, writer, and producer — summed up the meaning behind the bold move perfectly, “What I love about it is that it’s not just wearing black to wear black.” She referred to funerals being for grieving and also for celebrating life. “In a good way, it just feels like the death of old Hollywood.”

Everybody heard the dehumanising remark Donald Trump made about freely grabbing women by their genitals. As women, we felt the urge to speak up against the misogynistic male gaze. So the Pussyhat was born. Female protests were awash with pink hats with kitty ears — a means of destigmatising the word and reclaiming our power. Colour is important. But feminism has no singular uniform; sarotirally it extends in many directions, even into fiction. Women donned scarlet-red cloaks and white hats, echoing Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale and known as “modesty costumes” across the world for causes like revoking the 8th amendment in Ireland, which outlawed most abortions.

Worn by thousands of women attending protests all across the world, these garments are almost like costumes; they highlight the storytelling, hyper-visual nature adopted by rebellion to seek change, to find a new way to communicate with the opposition and systems of power. Women wore the same look for their Trump protests in 2018. When Atwood was creating the image of the handmaids, she was very intentful about the garb, taking inspiration from Western religious iconography, “... the Wives wear the blue of purity, from the Virgin Mary; the Handmaids wear red, from the blood of parturition but also from Mary Magdalene.” ...