May 12, 2010

Student activism breaks the silence around violence

Filed under: Violence — Tags: , , , , , , — Melanie @ 7:13 pm

Yesterday, a group of my WS 30 students put on the Clothesline Project as part of their final class project and the turn out was outstanding. What a success!

Guest post by Clothesline Project co-organizer, Marley, on the experience:

Women’s Studies 30 has undoubtedly changed my life this semester.  Melanie Klein is an inspiring feminist mentor who has encouraged us to take our knowledge, growing awareness and media literacy skills out of the classroom and use them to promote social change.  Perhaps the greatest gift I was given was the ability to become an activist and to use my voice as a tool for promoting a better and more just world.  For our final projects, my group unanimously agreed that putting on the Clothesline Project at Santa Monica College was of utmost importance to break the silence that surrounds violence against women—and after a semester raising our consciousness, developing tools of activism and honing our media literacy skills, there was no better or more worthwhile cause for us.

The Clothesline Project was started in 1990 by a group of women that wanted to educate, bear witness to and break the silence that surrounds violence against women.  The catalyst for the event was the staggering statistic that 58,000 soldiers died in Vietnam and during that same time 51,000 women were killed by men who claimed to “love them.” Hanging clothes on a clothesline is considered to be symbolic of “traditional” women’s work. Decorating t-shirts with one’s experiences and reactions to violence is healing process for survivors and witnesses of domestic violence.

Since 1990, the Clothesline Project has been done in over 41 states and 5 countries and is an ever growing grassroots organization that is dedicated to empowering women and allowing them a vehicle to utilize their voice.  Pretty incredible, right?

While coordinating the event,  I learned that sexual violence is still quite a taboo subject in today’s society and though I didn’t come across anybody that openly condones abuse, I was confronted with some resistance along the way. I was told (more than once) that the Clothesline Project’s intense subject matter was “too heavy” or too much of a “visually graphic display” and in some cases the lack of words said it all.

However, the overwhelming success of our event was proof that there are countless men and women who are willing to share their stories and ready to help create change. We started out the day with 50 t-shirts on the clothesline and by 6pm, we had over *100*. I was humbled by the overwhelming support we received from men and women who were touched by the space we created and the public dialogue we sparked. I am moved by the countless conversations I had and the new friends I made. I wouldn’t trade it for anything and  I am eager and excited for my next event. 

Violence is about control and domination and by becoming aware of it’s unfortunate prevalence and making our voices heard, we are able to break the silence.  So, the lesson here is to SPEAK UP because you will be surprised by the amount of people that are just waiting for a chance to do the same.  No one of us has the power to solve all the world’s problems, but each of us has the power to change the world one person at a time, even if the only person we succeed in changing is our self.

For more photos from the day, visit the new young feminist blog started by another group of my students for their final project. Finally, I want to congratulate Carolyn, Rachel, Allison, Stephanie and Marley for their hard work and dedication.


  1. “to educate, bare witness to and break the silence”

    If this was a more lighthearted occasion, that might be a good pun. But since it’s about violence and sexual violence, the idea of “baring” probably is a typo worth changing.

    I saw a similar display at a Take Back the Night event in my town, and I really didn’t understand the symbolism since hanging clothes seems like a remnant of a bygone era. But it’s not as if I was going to complain about something that was meaningful for so many of the participants. C’est la vie, and all that.

    Comment by jon — May 18, 2010 @ 8:30 pm

  2. I remember walking by and seeing these shirts, they really grabbed my attention. I feel as thought sexual violence is a HUGE problem in today’s society and it needs to be spoken on more. I would love to see clubs or classes on campus to help students who need the support.

    Comment by David Merabi — November 16, 2010 @ 6:13 pm

  3. I was very touched looking at the pictures of the shirts and the writings on it. It is amazing to me how some girls at a young age can have so much courage and motivation. One of the shirts that stood out to me the most was “Love doesn’t hurt! Ever.” This is a quote that I really do agree with because so many women make excuses for their men and why they do what they do and how it is okay but at the end of the day if someone really did love you they would never hurt you physically or emotionally.

    Comment by Ariel Kasheri (wmst10scholars) — November 30, 2010 @ 9:48 am

  4. It is vital and important to be radical when sending out a message in hopes of waking up people to the life around them. Many people walk carelessly unaware of situations around them even if they are the opposite sex. This project has gone beyond and spreaded the true essence of being in solidarity when sending out a message.

    Comment by melani dg — May 16, 2011 @ 3:41 pm

  5. I personally participated in this project and it was a moving experience. Seeing all those shirts strewn up with different messages made by different people, some victims of violence themselves, help gave an air of realness to the situation.

    Comment by Shawn S — June 1, 2011 @ 5:38 pm

  6. The clothesline project is inspirational and requires nothing but passion and a voice. It is the perfect way to make someone walking by stop in their tracks and observe. Another step towards change.

    Comment by Tiffany Majdipour — November 21, 2011 @ 8:13 am

  7. Absolutely inspiring. Even with it being a subject that most people are afraid to confront, let alone acknowledge, I’m glad to see that it got such a great reaction, and that there were a lot of people willing to open up and share their own stories and experiences. It motivates me to be a part of the action. I’m hoping I’ll get a chance soon somehow.

    Comment by Bianca Balanchi (WS30) — November 21, 2011 @ 2:17 pm

  8. Seeing the clothesline project on campus was really inspiring. Moreover, the shirts are a moving testimony of how victims of abuse are not just victims but survivors and living examples of hope to others around them. It sends a message of hope for those who are still living the cycle of abuse and lets others become aware of the stories that survivors are willing to share in hopes of saving and inspiring others to be part of the action.

    Comment by Jennifer S — December 3, 2011 @ 1:12 am

  9. This project is truly awe inspiring and amazing. It really helps to bring to light the struggles women have faced against violence, in addition to giving women an outlet to all of the pain they have suffered.

    Comment by Chloe Shenassa (women studies 10 scholars) — December 6, 2011 @ 6:23 pm

  10. Wonderful! Women studies changed the perspective of my life as well. I am quite envious of this WS30 class. I hear many great things about it 🙂 I actually mistakenly bought textbooks for this class when I needed books for WS10, but they look like an interesting read! You know what would be amazing? Having a clothesline span across great distances, perhaps from one end of the city to another. It will undoubtfully raise a great amount of awareness of violence against women.

    Comment by Bridget T. — December 7, 2011 @ 5:54 pm

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