Kyrsten Sinema’s Swearing-In Look Was A Daring Queer Assertion

Sugar and spice and every little thing good: That’s what femmes are made from.

Femmes, that’s to say feminine-of-center LGBTQ people, are additionally made from energy, dedication and now, with the swearing-in of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), senatorial gravitas.

Sinema is the nation’s first overtly bisexual senator and solely the second out LGBTQ senator. Mainstream media is fizzing, like a freshly popped bottle of prosecco, over Sinema’s super-femmey swearing-in ensemble: a pearl-trimmed white sleeveless prime that featured her gloriously toned arms, and a floral-print wiggle skirt, a grey furry stole, glitter-dotted purse and 1950s movie noir waves in her hair. And to maintain her heat within the Washington chill? A pink overcoat. The look was Sen. Rita Skeeter. It was “Elle Woods Goes to Washington” meets “The Lady Can’t Assist It” — a style flip that was unforgettable in its audacity.

This isn’t the primary time Sinema’s clothes has created a stir in politics. Earlier than this swearing-in slayage got here “Tutu-gate”: Sinema’s rival in her race for this Senate seat, Republican Martha McSally, ran a marketing campaign advert that referenced Sinema’s option to attend an anti-war protest occasion in a pink tank prime and tulle skirt. “Whereas we had been in hurt’s manner in uniform, Kyrsten Sinema was protesting us in a pink tutu and denigrating our service,” McSally mentioned. “We want sturdy leaders who perceive the menace and respect our troops. Kyrsten Sinema fails the check.” It was an try to make Sinema appear each unpatriotic and light-weight.

Queer model is available in many varieties, from Hannah Gadsby’s professorial comfortable butch styling to Lena Waithe’s full-on stud couture. Model is how we make ourselves identified, a manner of signaling to different members of the tribe, if you’ll. Sinema’s swearing-in look can finest be described as excessive femme: a hyperfeminine look with all the trimmings, like nails, hair and excessive heels. Assume Janelle Monáe on the Met Gala. That’s excessive femme. That Sinema selected to point out up not simply in a femme look, however a excessive femme look is important.

Why does it matter? As a result of illustration issues. Visibility issues. Setting an instance and breaking obstacles matter. Sinema is sending a message: Girls in energy can cease denaturing themselves as a way to be taken significantly ― or to imagine much more energy. We don’t have to resign ourselves to boxy fits, wise flats, or shellacked helmet hair to exhibit maturity and credibility. The outfit was like a dare: Dismiss me at your peril. Femmes are a drive of nature, and each time one exhibits out to let all people know, it issues.

From the baubles on the toes of her sneakers to the display siren set of her hair, Sinema’s look was a subversive flaming arrow fired over the bow of the stodgy Beltway ship. The pink coat, with its nod again to the pink tutu imbroglio, and the uncovered biceps, a stark defiance of the Capitol Hill gown code that insists girls cowl up their arms, powered that arrow with a “fuck you” thrust. The outfit was composed of daring assertion items, and all the ensemble was itself a daring assertion: I’m right here, I’m a femme queer, get used to it.

Sinema showed up in a high femme look for her first day in the Senate.

Aaron Bernstein/Reuters

Sinema confirmed up in a excessive femme search for her first day within the Senate.

In fact, the nattering nabobs of social media is likely to be aggravated that a lot consideration must be given to style: I can’t consider you’re speaking about her outfit. Let the girl do her job. However that’s a part of Sinema’s assertion: I can put on this outfit and do my job. Excess of males, girls in politics are scrutinized ― and criticized ― for his or her likability, their mannerisms, their private lives and, particularly, for his or her look. Allow us to not overlook that on the identical day Sinema was sworn in, The New York Occasions deleted what it known as a “poorly framed” tweet about Home Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s gown. Which was, you guessed it, pink.

However the naysayers had been outnumbered by followers and stans, who remarked on the outfit with a mixture of admiration and wry humor. Tradition author Constance Grady praised Sinema’s outfit as “weaponized femininity,” which is about essentially the most economical definition of femme I’ve ever heard. One other journalist, Mary Emily O’Hara, described the look as “first-ever Mamie Van Doren cosplayer in congress.” As a femme of lengthy standing, it meant so much to me to see a grown-ass woman’s woman present up with swagger, absolutely in possession of her colleges and her style sense. It was a thrill to see Sinema seizing the gendered sartorial scrutiny and having a little bit of enjoyable with it, femme-style. I’d say she impressed me to order a pretend fur of my very own, however I already personal six.

For Sinema to emphasize her bisexuality, and her femme-ness, isn’t just a matter of political expediency but additionally of posterity. As a result of bisexuality is so typically missed, discredited and erased, if it’s not continually affirmed and referenced, it simply turns into out of sight, out of thoughts. When you’re cis-femme, particularly, “heterosexual” sidles up because the default assumption. Sinema ― who’s cisgender and femme and bi ― is declaring herself in phrase, in deed and in style. 

Each femme strikes by means of the world understanding that every day she should smash by means of the false dichotomies of femininity vs. credibility, of fashion vs. substance. She has to step over the stereotypes and faulty assumptions about what a queer girl seems like. After which she has to, , get right down to her precise work. Sinema rose to that problem in an unforgettable manner. She did it guns-out. She did it in pink. She did it in enjoyable fur. She did it sporting sparkly sneakers and carrying a polka-dot purse. She did it. Viva la femme.

Lily Burana is the writer of 4 books, most not too long ago Grace for Amateurs: Subject Notes on a Journey Again to Religion