(picture thanks to Scarleteen)I saw a video about this last night on CNN, and I wasn't sure what I thought about it right away.
Jennifer Baumgardner is not new to controversy. Three years ago she distributed shirts that had "I Had An Abortion" spelled out across the front that ended up being worn by Gloria Steine and Ani DiFranco. Now, she is planning on distributing a new "I was raped" t-shirt on college campuses where she speaks frequently; she also plans on using the website Scarleteen.com to get these t-shirts out there.
"Abortion and rape are subjects that are secreted away and are also surprisingly common, Ms. Baumgardner said. One in six women is a victim of sexual assault, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, a nonprofit sexual assault prevention and education group. According to the Department of Justice, 60 percent of sexual assaults go unreported."
Some of my thoughts about this shirt:
"'By having an object like this' — a simple T-shirt — 'that’s so mundane, it sort of forces it into everyday conversation,' Ms. Baumgardner said." This is important because rape is not a problem that will simply go away. We have to force it to go away by not being afraid to talk about it, discuss it, and come up with solutions.
But this is, in a way, very controversial because rape is still such a taboo topic. One of the women that Baumgardner interviewed as part of a film she is working on about sexual assault, voiced a concern that I had: What if wearing a shirt stating one's victimhood, made the wearer a target for harassment, hostility, or even more assault, by people (probably men) who do not understand what rape is, or who are just looking for a victim? That would seem counter-productive.
Also, as Jessica at Feministing noted this morning, what about the potential split that could happen between rape victims who are willing to go public about their experience and those who cannot, or do not want to, do so? Could it cause more guilt, more anguish in rape victims who do not want to go public by wearing a shirt? Does that cancel out the benefits for those victims who do want to go public?
I personally don't find the design offensive. The words "I was raped" are not in your face, but they are there, and when people notice them, they will be conversation starters. The safe design is interesting to me. When I first saw it, I was reminded of how rape victims must really be opening up to wear a shirt like this, which can be difficult because a lot of rape victims are so guarded about their experiences (perhaps justifiably so).
I think that discussion about rape is an important step that needs to be taken in this society, but those are some of my thoughts. What do you guys think?