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ISSUE 118 VOL 13 PUBLISHED 3/11/2005

‘Skirt day’ falls short

By Andrea Horbinski
Copy Editor
and Sara Perelli-Minetti
Contributing Writer

Friday, March 11, 2005

We had no idea what “Short Skirt Day” was. A friend of ours mentioned it to us in class, but we weren’t paying attention.

We didn’t realize what “Short Skirt Day” was until we walked around campus that afternoon and asked ourselves, “Why are all these girls dressed like streetwalkers?”

Don’t get us wrong: We think V-Week is a great idea, and we don’t mean to cast aspersions on the world’s 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 woman’s 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.

Let’s be frank: Objectification is not empowerment, even if you objectify yourself.

Eve Ensler’s spirited monologue declares that “My short skirt is my rebellion.” That may be so, but there’s a very thin line between exploding a stereotype and conforming to it. “Short Skirt Day” didn’t 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 didn’t. Without having seen the monologues, it’s 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 it’s 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 Albert’s wonderful chapel talk, as well as other messages about respecting and appreciating one’s 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 woman’s 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 women’s rights campaigns everywhere would be better served by less frivolous displays and more real efforts to open, engage and challenge people’s minds with the most fundamental message of feminism: the radical notion that women are people.

Copy Editor Andrea Horbinski is a sophomore from Marelton, N.J. She majors in classics and linguistics with a Japanese studies concentration. Staff Writer Sara Perelli-Minetti is a sophomore from Old Greenwich, Conn. She majors in English.

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