This Thursday in the Academic Quad, West Chester University ?s Clothesline Project will be on display. The Clothesline Project, in which Tshirts designed in honor of female victims and survivors of violence are displayed, is meant to educate others and to bring a show of solidarity to those who often live in silence after an attack.The Clothesline Project is sponsored by the Women?s Center. Director Robin Garrett calls the display a “powerful consciousness raiser.” West Chester?s branch of the project began in 1998, after a group of students attended a conference at another school where a small clothesline was set up and were moved by how powerful it was.
According to the official Web site of the Clothesline Project, www.clotheslineproject.org, the original project was started in 1990 by a coalition of women?s groups in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The goal was to create something that would educate and break the silence about violence against women. Many women in this core group had experienced some kind of personal violence themselves, and wanted to “take staggering, mind-numbing statistics and turn them into a provocative, “in-your-face” educational and healing tool.”
One of those women was Rachel Carey-Harper, an artist who had been moved by the power of the AIDS quilt. She presented the idea of using shirts designed by survivors, as well as friends and family of survivors and victims, hanging from a clothesline.
This simple concept allowed for each woman to create a shirt, telling her story in her own unique way using words and art. The Clothesline Project was meant to be a healing tool for those who created a shirt, an educational tool for all who came to view it, and to bring a feeling of unity for survivors of violence.
The project began to grow right away after its debut in October of 1999 at an annual “Take Back the Night” march and rally in Massachusetts. Thirty-one shirts were displayed at first, and all day, women lined up to create their own T-shirt. The Clothesline Project first re-ceived publicity in a small magazine, which was then picked up
by another larger magazine. Now the project has appeared in USA Weekend and Shape magazines, bringing the project from a local grassroots movement to an intense national campaign. The Web site estimates approximately 500 projects in at least 41 states and five countries, with a total of 50,000 to 60,000 t-shirts.
The shirts are color coded in order to show what kind of abuse the woman the shirt is honoring faced, and to signify whether or not she survived. White T-shirts represent women who died at the hand of violence; yellow or beige are for battered or assaulted women; red, pink and orangerepresent survivors of rape or sexual assault; blue or green Tshirts are for survivors of incest and sexual abuse; purple or lavender represent women attacked because of their sexual orientation; and black t-shirts are for women attacked for political reasons.
WCU?s Clothesline Project now numbers up to several hundred T-shirts, which are kept and added to each year. During Thursday?s display, materials will be available for survivors, as well as friends and family of survivors and victims, to make their own T shirt. T-shirts can be submitted at any time to be used in the next display.
On your inevitable journey through the academic quad on Thursday, please take the time to stop and notice this phenomenal project and consider what it represents.