This past December, the Umma hosted an incredibly thought provoking and sober exhibit named “What Were you Wearing.” It aimed to raise awareness about sexual assault on college campuses and the ways in which sexual assault is addressed. While “What Were You Wearing” was only shown for a single day, I have no doubt that it impacted many students all across campus with its powerful message. Just as the exhibit itself featured clearly displayed content warning signs, this post also comes with a content warning, as the topic of sexual assault and and images of clothing worn during instances of sexual assault will follow.
The venue for this show was nothing less than perfect. With the well lit and simplistic layout of the exhibit being surrounded on three sides by large glass walls, it was clearly visible to passersby’s, inviting them into a light space within the darkness of campus. Even without actively stepping inside the Umma, students were able to participate in the exhibit to a certain degree by viewing it through the glass. Additionally those who spreading word of the exhibit through word of mouth, making others aware of the exhibition even after the single day that it was displayed. What stood out to me the most was the clothes themselves, featuring trendy brands and styles and casual wear that I see daily walking around campus. This drove home the fact that sexual assault can happen to anyone, wearing any possible item of clothing. Below are some images from the exhibit and the clothing on display.
During the brief amount of time I myself was present at the exhibit, there was a constant stream of people trickling into the commons, hushed voices and quiet footsteps showing a shared sense of solemnity regarding the serious nature of the exhibit. The visitors formed a sort of slowly moving conveyor belt and were able to quickly walk through the exhibit, shuffling along and taking everything in in about 10-15 minutes at max. Despite not being very large, the exhibit was extremely powerful, and the fact that it takes such a short amount of time to take in ensures that many people can see and experience the pieces.
When I asked about being able to possibly document the event for this very post, I was told by one of the coordinators that while I absolutely was allowed to further share the story they were trying to tell, he wanted me to make sure to put a trigger warning before I posted any of the details or stories from the exhibit themselves. I appreciate the level of concern and respect shown by the coordinators and think that it came across well in the exhibit itself, with warnings posted on either side as shown at the top of this post.