The Woman in White was Wilkie Collins’s finest novel. That title is on his chosen headstone. I thought of Collins, as I viewed Nancy Pelosi, “clothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful” at the State of the Union address. She led a cohort of Democrat ladies, cast somewhat implausibly as Vestal Virgins. You can push symbolism too hard sometimes. Still, the effect was there, even if it invited ridicule.
“White” was presented as a uniform. All uniforms are open to query, precisely on the grounds of their nature. People think of themselves as individuals and may have doubts about assigning their individuality to the group. The idea of women as a great collective breaks down at innumerable points. For example, college-educated white women voted for Hillary Clinton in the presidential election; a notch or so down the social scale, women voted for Donald Trump. Pelosi seeks to enlist women into what John Knox called “the monstrous regiment of women,” but the fact is that the regiment is thinned by deserters, conscientious objectors, and those who simply see advantage in, shall we say, civilian attire.
The white uniform became a target. President Trump cruelly forced his audience to applaud the good news of female advancement in Congress and the workforce. He did so with great relish, the women in white having to swallow their rage at being circumvented. I guess that next time the Democrat legionaries of the left will choose more varied garb. They will otherwise invite another ancient saying: White woman speak with forked tongue.
Ralph Berry writes from England.