Fashion Protests: Performative Activism or a Useful Press Draw?


It is likely that you have already seen this picture of Polish MPs wearing rainbow colours at the swearing in of President Andrej Duda for his second 5-year term. Pictures show a stark contrast between the multi-hued attire of the left-wing politicians and President Duda and his wife, who appeared in a black suit and white dress. 

The metaphor could not be more fitting; the outfits were a colourful protest against the homophobic and anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric used in Duda’s campaign, in which he denounced LGBT rights as being more harmful than communism and vowed to end adoption by same-sex couples. Meanwhile, Polish citizens have been arrested for hanging LGBTQ+ pride flags over Christian monuments.

Gay marriage is already illegal in Poland and the country’s democratic status fell to only a ‘semi-consolidated democracy’ in May 2020, according to figures compiled by Freedom House, a US-based NGO.

It will take more than some technicoloured trousers suits to make any lasting change

It would be easy to ask what a fashion-based protest could do in this dire situation – surely, it will take more than some technicoloured trousers suits to make any lasting change – but protests through fashion are nothing new.

One only needs to look to the Women’s Right’s movement for examples. From Emmeline Pankhurst’s purple for dignity, white for purity and green for hope, to the black dresses and ‘Time’s Up!’ pins of the 2018 Golden Globes, fashion has been a powerful tool to visually display allegiance and outrage. Furthermore, in recent Black Lives Matter protests, some protestors have chosen to channel the signature natural hair and black berets of the original Black Panthers, whilst many continue to wear items of clothing which bear the clenched-fist insignia of the movement. 

What do all these protests have in common? Well, that you’ve probably heard of them.

And in the case of most visual protests, publicity is the main aim. A flood of international press attention has been drawn to the political situation in Poland due the MP’s multi-coloured outfits. 

So, as of yet, we are unable to view the protest as a symptom of a wider change in Poland’s homophobic political landscape. However, we need to remember that without this protest, it is likely that most wouldn’t be aware of the political homophobia in Poland at all. 

Image: Jarmolukvia Pixabay

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