We didnt realize what Short Skirt Day was until we walked around campus that afternoon and asked ourselves, Why are all these girls dressed like streetwalkers?
Dont get us wrong: We think V-Week is a great idea, and we dont mean to cast aspersions on the worlds oldest profession.
Feminism is one of the only successful social revolutions, and as women (and feminists), we wholeheartedly support any effort to empower women. Short Skirt Day, however, does not empower women.
We believe that every woman (or man, for that matter) has the right to wear whatever she wants to wear. We also believe that she should not be judged based on what she wears, as My Short Skirt, a piece from The Vagina Monologues advocates.
The problem with Short Skirt Day is that, in seeking to empower women, it gives the message that a womans only power is her sexuality.
Moreover, we as women do not exist in a cultural vacuum. It should not be this way, but by wearing extremely short skirts, as almost everyone who participated in Short Skirt Day did, women are playing right into the stereotypes that objectify them.
Lets be frank: Objectification is not empowerment, even if you objectify yourself.
Eve Enslers spirited monologue declares that My short skirt is my rebellion. That may be so, but theres a very thin line between exploding a stereotype and conforming to it. Short Skirt Day didnt differentiate between the two, and therein lies the problem.
In the context of a week that sought to stop violence against women, it seems incongruous at best to advocate women wearing clothes that, unfortunately, promote adverse images of them.
Blaming the victim for an attack by claiming she was asking for it is an all-too-common defense in assault cases, one that, while preposterous, still has some amount of currency. Our own reaction to Short Skirt Day is evidence of the staying power these attitudes have.
While it would be ideal if everyone on campus went to see The Vagina Monologues, most people didnt. Without having seen the monologues, its much harder to understand the message Short Skirt Day as a holiday of sorts is trying to express.
Of the multiple women we questioned regarding their short skirts, only one had actually seen The Vagina Monologues, and was wearing it because of that. The others had no real idea why they were flaunting themselves. It seemed as though they saw Short Skirt Day as an opportunity to wear an outfit that would be thought of as scandalous on any other day.
Although its far less juvenile than T-shirts that say I [Heart] Vaginas, and the man in the vagina suit that was brought out by V-Week last year, ultimately Short Skirt Day is as superficial as those empty gestures.
We understand that part of the message of V-Week is to make women feel more comfortable with their bodies, their sexuality, and themselves; however, in light of last week, we believe that this aspect of V-Week is completely overpowering the greater and more urgent message: that violence against women still exists, and we must take all steps possible to end it.
How does wearing a shirt that declares, I [Heart] Vaginas do anything productive towards our goal of ending violence against women? Although we understand that this was not the purpose of the shirts, and we can appreciate the humor behind them, they were by far the most noticeable element of V-Week. Such sensationalism should not overshadow messages of anti-violence and empowerment.
The displays located in the corridors leading to Boe Chapel and the library touted messages such as Women Hold Up Half The Sky, based off of senior Carolyn Alberts wonderful chapel talk, as well as other messages about respecting and appreciating ones body.
These are examples of tasteful and effective methods of not only getting across the greater messages of V-Week, but also of empowering women.
Although these displays were in highly-trafficked parts of campus, did you hear people talking about them? No. Instead, the buzz around Buntrock Commons was in reference to some male wearing the I [Heart] Vaginas shirt, or some womans sky-high skirt.
It is sad that more students were aware of Short Skirt Day than they were aware of the discussion about women of Afghanistan and Iraq led by Natalie Rigelman 06, or the documentary Until the Violence Stops, shown by Feminists For Change in Viking Theater.
The intentions behind V-Week are excellent, and we are not criticizing the efforts of those who have organized it. The problem is in students often immature reactions to the more shocking elements of V-Week, and their blatant ignorance regarding the other, more important events.
V-Week and womens rights campaigns everywhere would be better served by less frivolous displays and more real efforts to open, engage and challenge peoples minds with the most fundamental message of feminism: the radical notion that women are people.