Awareness | Posted by Liz P on 10/20/2010

The Clothesline Project

October isn’t just Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it’s also Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Instead of sharing statistics that you can easily find online to show how prevalent domestic violence and interpersonal violence is, I’m going to share a story:

Last spring, my university’s chapter of the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance co-hosted the Clothesline Project.  The Clothesline Project raises awareness about interpersonal violence by physically showing how many people have been affected as represented by t-shirts. You can decorate a t-shirt for yourself, for someone you know, or for someone you don’t know. Our event happened to be the same week that a senior girl had been tragically murdered by her ex-boyfriend, so we got a lot of her friends coming by to make t-shirts. Sadly, it brought the project a lot closer to our college and reminded the student body how domestic violence can affect anyone. However, that’s not the story I’m going to share.

Another girl from FMLA and I were tabling for both the club and the project, and it was pretty uneventful. Tabling tends to be that way. Occasionally people come by with stupid questions, but for the most part you sit smiling for a shift or two. After awhile, a middle-aged woman came over and asked about the project. We explained the significance of each color of t-shirt and that it was free and that she could make a t-shirt for anyone.

“Oh, that’s great, that’s great. I used to be in an abusive relationship, but I got out of that. I’m not going to make a t-shirt for me though. I’m going to make one for my friend,” she told us.

“That’s great!” we told her.
“Yeah, she stayed with him too long. But they’re not together anymore. I made sure of that.
I was at her house one day when he came around and started bangin’ on the door yellin’ at us to let him in. And I just knew that if he came in he would kill her. Of course we were both scared because he was crazy, but he didn’t know that I was crazier. I grabbed a knife from the kitchen, and while he was screamin’ and bangin’ on the door, I told my friend to open the door. When she opened it I just started swingin’ the knife as fast as I could. And he saw me and jumped back and ran the fastest I’ve ever seen to his car and drove away. And they never saw each other again. They’re divorced, and she’s with a real man now, but that’s why I’m gonna make a t-shirt for her.”

We were obviously in awe. “Yeah! Go ahead!”

Clearly, fighting violence with violence is not the answer. However, the courage that this woman had to fight for her friend is amazing, and I hope that everyone has a friend that they could find the same sort of courage to defend and that their friend would do the same for them.

The Clothesline Project is easy to bring to your school if it hasn’t been there already, and I would highly recommend getting a group together and hosting it. Domestic violence has likely affected you or someone you know, and you owe it to them to get people to care.

Liz P blogs about feminism, current events, pop culture, and teens at her blog Our Turn.

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  • Seth @ at 3:18 pm, October 21st, 2010

    I beg to differ. The large preponderance of statistic are propagated by feminist groups and the for profit domestic violence industry.

    Did you know that domestic violence and murder of men by women is a wide spread problem? Did you know that depending on the conflict scale used women commit between 38 to 50% of all domestic violence? Did you know that men have no federal laws protecting us from violence? Did you know that men are routinely turned away from domestic violence services when they call for help?

    Think about the above for a minute….let it sink in. Let’s talk about it.

  • Suzanne @ at 3:30 pm, October 22nd, 2010

    Hi, brilliant article. I live in the UK and over here two women a week die from domestic violence. It’s a shocking statistic in a civilised society. I recently read an article which quoted Home Office statistics saying that in 2008-9 there were about 4.5 million female victims of domestic abuse and 2.6 million male victims (again these figures are for the UK, they may be different for you guys in the U.S.) It brought home to me what a big problem domestic abuse is for women, but also talked about how male victims find it much harder to find help if they are abused. This is clearly down to the ‘macho’ stereotype they feel they need to live up to because they are brought up in a society which perpetuates archaic gender roles. Abuse in any relationship is wrong, and I think more attention needs to be brought to this in the education system. Thanks again for the great article!

  • Seth @ at 7:15 pm, October 22nd, 2010

    Hi Suzanne, thank you for the U.K. figures but most especially for including men.

    The feminists here at Fbomb will deny that men are victims and deserve to be treated equally. Again male victims are between 38-50% of victims of domestic violence by women depending on the type of violence included in the conflict scale used in the studies.

    Last I checked our statistics here in the U.S. showed 3 million men were victims of the female partner and 4.1 million cases of female victim of male.

    As is current feminist organizations deny that domestic violence against men exists while also seeking to deny men equal protection under law.

    In my country this extends all the way up to Federal law. Ironically the neglect of protections and services for male victims most likely causes more violence toward women.

  • Liz @ at 10:48 am, October 23rd, 2010

    I think most numbers but male victims at 40% in the US. Sadly, there is not as much information about male victims of domestic abuse, partly because what scanty laws there are to protect women don’t include men, partly because people don’t know that men can be victims as well, and partly because of the social stigma of abuse and our country’s construction of macho-ism embarrasses many men into never seeking help.

    Additionally, there is little information about domestic violence in same-sex relationships, much for the same reasons. Gay men and women do occasionally experience domestic violence, however, because of homophobia, and many in the gay community’s wishes to project images of functional relationships to the doubters, this also tends to not be talked about.

    The point of my post was not to talk about the statistics of domestic violence, and I do know that there are male victims, don’t worry. (But from my connections to people who have been forthcoming about their experiences, I know more about female victims.) The point of this post was to highlight the story of the woman who fought for her friend. This kind of courage can be applied in any friend-relationship, male-male, female-male, female-female (etc) and in my opinion, should. If talking about male victims of domestic abuse is important to you, you should do something to raise people’s awareness about it. The Clothesline Project is a good vehicle, but there are lots of other visible things you could do to help. Trolling on teenage feminist websites is, unfortunately, not going to get you anywhere, I’m afraid. However, what you can do with your energy is volunteer at a shelter, or try to raise money for an organization that works with men who have been affected by domestic violence.

  • The Raisin Girl @ at 3:18 am, October 25th, 2010

    Okay, so maybe fighting violence with violence isn’t the best answer, or the only answer, but it’s still a possible direction to go. And this may not be very progressive of me or whatever, but I have to say I think if men expected the retribution or effective resistance from women that they naturally do from other men, crimes against women would decrease drastically. And that’s just what that woman did: she showed him that if he messed with her, it wasn’t going to be something easy and power-affirming for him, it was going to be messy and involve pain and possibly quite a bit of humiliation, or even the threat of death. And did he mess with her after that? Hell no.

  • Seth @ at 8:58 pm, October 25th, 2010

    @ The Raisin Girl.

    I wonder if your comment is reflective of the way you view domestic violence in general. You should know that the men as always bad and women are always good feminist view of domestic violence is slowly but surly being exposed for what it is..

    The feminist misandrist view that all physical alterations between men and women are a result of power and control issues on behalf of the man are being exposed as well. The man bad woman good model of domestic violence is increasingly being relegated to the dust bin of history where it belongs.

  • Cheree Pourner @ at 10:53 pm, December 26th, 2010

    This is a good site as well

  • Kuro @ at 8:49 pm, June 13th, 2011

    What the… please ignore my last comment. Apparently I didn’t copy correctly.
    @ Seth: (warning, first: it is very likely this will make you ooze rage. I was never a diplomat. And… I‘m not sure how it became such a monster. I suppose I didn’t want to do you the injustice of ‘no ur wrong‘ without giving my reasons)
    “The man bad woman good model of domestic violence” um… and when did that come about? As I recall, up until the last few hundred years it was encouraged for a man to hit his wife when she did something the man didn’t like in many countries, specifically Christian ones. This paints domestic abuse in a positive light, the man being a good husband and citizen, and the wife being at fault (thank you, good book).
    Anyone who works with domestic abuse victims knows an abuser can be ANYONE, male or female, young or old, etc. and that a victim can also be ANYONE. A bodybuilder can be abused by a 4’11 woman who can’t throw a roper punch, but she’s not likely to beat him. Usually girls’ weapon of choice, discovered early on in school, is more subtle emotional and mental beat downs.
    The idea of someone being good or bad based on their gender is stupid, because people are people and will be whatever they will be (strived after or natural) regardless of our expectations.
    And men ARE under represented in domestic violence, and it’s a terrible reality, but instead of bitching and moaning about the evils of feminism and its misandrist perspective complain about the fact that we as a society allow ourselves to perpetuate the idea that men can’t be hurt or women cannot hurt men, or that we make it shameful for a man to admit to abuse at the hands of a presumed-weaker being.
    Actually, I’m not even sure why you posted this in here. No-where in that article did I see it mention that it was only for female victims, or anything else.
    One last thing that will be taken entirely the wrong way – maybe the reason men are less mentioned when speaking about domestic violence, could be because men are maybe more often abused verbally and emotionally?
    Taking up an oft-hated stereotype that nonetheless speaks a note of truth in a nation dominated by a desire for thinness in women and muscular tone in men, lets assume the man being abused is stronger, or at least strong enough to fend off an attack (at least until he reaches the mental point in which everything is accepted as deserved for a perceived fault/wrong ingrained in him by constant belittling). So the woman would at least start, like most abusers start, with simple little things. Put downs on appearance, skills, little covert attacks on their person. These would evolve into more serious ‘criticisms’ and continue to blatant verbal abuse (long, often detailed attacks on a persons worth). This would likely be done in private and in public would likely be laughed off or too subtle to notice. Consider it; this wouldn’t exactly be easy to notice, not like big black bruises (funnily enough, those can be pretty subtle too. Smart abusers learn to hit certain places or in certain ways after the first arrest because someone saw that fat lip.). But the person abused would still internalize the messages of worthlessness.
    And lets throw out the window what I said before about verbal/emotional abuse, and just go through the whole cycle minus one honeymoon.
    The physical abuse, like verbal before it, would start slow. A shove, slap, punch here. It can and often will escalate until either the victim dies, gets help, or helps themselves.
    I’ll be blunt; I’m not sure why more men don’t die from domestic violence, considering I know first hand just how vicious women can be. Research is in order.
    My likely wrong hypothesis at the moment is that the only ones crazy enough to throw knives and frying pans end up with equally crazy men who will throw them back. (Domestic violence is more often mutual than we’d like to think.)
    Last note (yeah, you don’t trust me when I say ‘last’. And you shouldn’t.)
    - The abuser wouldn’t necessarily wait to beat on them until the victim was completely stripped of self-worth, but they would use it late enough in that it wouldn’t immediately raise a red flag to get help or tell someone who would.
    - Sorry for my lack of detail on emotional abuse, I’m sure its closely intertwined with verbal but its not something I know enough about to write.
    - Another notion of why men being abused is understated; when somebody dies (lets say a young, pretty white girl, just so I can offend even more people), everyone realizes ‘hm, perhaps something went wrong here… yeah, I think its safe to say there was some abuse in the relationship’ but for some unique, bizarre reason, psychological torment is less often remembered, noted or cared for, being much harder to prove or prosecute. It could go on for years without coming out until the poor victim snaps, decides not to be a victim anymore, and something tragic is wrought from their suffering. (tragic… is not the right word, is it?)
    - women beating the crap out of men is funny, apparently. Especially cartoons, where little horrible sponges called children first learn the rules of societal norms. Ever watched Courage the cowardly dog? The wife often beats her husband over the head with a rolling pin (and once frozen soup, anything on hand it seems) for terrifying the titular character. In Naruto the main character is beaten over the head by both his crush/teammate and a woman he calls granny. Usually for saying something stupid or inappropriate. In modern media, a woman beating up a man is joke, something to be laughed about. I’m not saying all shows are like that, I actually hope they’re not.
    I get mad when a man gets hit for something a woman would get a pass on and vice-versa. Just saying.

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