by Tash Wolfe
Feminism meets fashion this week as Women Against Violence Against Women (WAVAW) launches its latest campaign “It’s Fashion. Not Justification for Rape” on the runway at Vancouver Fashion Week. Images of high heeled shoes, lipstick, and a short skirt are being displayed on giant screens at the event venue as a means of challenging how our society blames women and their fashion decisions for inciting sexual assault.
“We need to stop blaming women and their fashion decisions for sexual assault. As long as we keep on using “she’s asking for it” in everyday conversations, asking “What was she wearing?” in the courtrooms, and allowing media and news to bombard women with safety tips, women’s rights and freedoms will continue to be restrained and regulated.” says Irene Tsepnopoulos-Elhaimer, WAVAW’s Executive Director.
As women living in a rape culture, we are constantly questioned about the decisions that we make. We are told not to walk alone in the dark, not to talk with strangers, and not to dress like ‘sluts’. According to WAVAW, a recent study from Alberta reported that 40% of men thought that if a woman wears “provocative” clothing, she’s putting herself at risk for rape. This victim-blaming only reinforces the idea that women have control over whether or not they will be sexually assaulted. The only way to end rape is for rapists to stop sexually assaulting people. These myths about sexual assault are institutionalized in the patriarchy. They are used against survivors in the justice system as evidence of their wrong-doing, thereby stigmatizing them in society as a whole.
The “It’s Fashion. Not Justification for Rape” campaign slideshow will be running four times an hour for the six day run of the event with staff engaging with participants about rape culture. The online campaign can be found at www.wavaw.ca/fashion/.
WAVAW is a feminist and anti-colonial organization which provides counselling and support groups, victim services, hospital accompaniment, and education and outreach about sexual assault and rape culture. As well, they run a 24 hour toll-free crisis line (604-255-6344) for survivors of sexual assault.