Susan Merrick

Artist and Interpreter. Power Language Access

Well, what were you wearing? 2017

In November 2017 I was invited by Hollaback London (the anti-street harrassment organisation) to take part in their 16 days of Creative action. Across the 16 days various Artists produced interventions across London, choosing sites of harassment as registered on the Hollaback website. Each Artist was asked to respond to one or more of the stories listed on the website, personal stories of harrassment.

During my Sociology degree 1999 I studied a little about the sociology of Law. We considered at that time the fact that so many harrassment, assault and rape cases were often boiled down to ‘what was the victim wearing?’. The attitude towards what people (especially women) wear and how these clothing choices may be to ‘blame’ in cases of harrasment or assault (rather than blaming the perpetrator) is still incredibly current. This was proven when reading the stories where many of the women had included what they were wearing ‘tracksuit bottoms or jeans’ as ‘evidence’ that they did not expect or deserve harrasment. The bottom line in this is the assumption that prevails that if a woman is wearing fewer or small or tighter clothing, that she should ‘expect’ some form of harrasment.

During this intervention I carried clothing in my shopping bag which had the question ‘well, what were you wearing?’ taped onto it. I moved to various positions around Waterloo train station throughout a 1.5 hour period and added items of clothing as I moved. I began wearing small hot pants and a tight vest and ended wearing large baggy jogging bottoms and a baggy jumper. At each site I also used BSL (British sign Language) to silently spell out the names of the women who had listed their harrassment on the Hollaback website.

The event was listed on FB here.

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