T-shirt containing profanity found on support display for sexual assault survivors


Linnea Narducci/The Daily Northwestern

Shirts hang by The Arch as part of The Clothesline Project. A shirt containing profanity was found hanging on the public display on Wednesday morning.

Matthew Choi, Print Managing Editor

A T-shirt containing profanity was found Wednesday pinned on The Clothesline Project, a public display of support for survivors of sexual assault, event organizers said.

Organizers of The Clothesline Project found a white T-shirt containing the words “F–k feminists” clipped to their display, said Emagin Tanaschuk, chair of Students Promoting Education, Awareness and Knowledge for Change. The group is one of the organizations that collaborated in hosting The Clothesline Project, which featured messages of support on T-shirts hung from clotheslines by The Arch.

The project is an annual event hosted by Sigma Psi Zeta Sorority, Inc. The sorority collaborated with the Center for Awareness, Response and Education and SPEAK for Change, a student organization sponsored through CARE.

Though initially meant to run Monday and Tuesday, the display’s T-shirts were taken down Monday night and put back up Wednesday morning due to rain, Tanaschuk said, but the clotheslines and pins stayed up. Organizers found the offending T-shirt while redoing the display Wednesday morning, she said.

Medill sophomore Claudia Harmata, communications chair for SPEAK for Change, said she and the other organizers were appalled when they heard of the offending T-shirt.

“My initial reaction was just shock,” Harmata said. “I had no words. I didn’t know what to say. I just didn’t think that was something people would do or were capable of doing.”

Harmata said the organizers did not know who hung the offending T-shirt. Carrie Wachter — coordinator of sexual violence response services and advocacy at CARE, and adviser for SPEAK for Change — said she filed a bias incident report in response to the T-shirt.

Though they found the T-shirt reprehensible, the organizers felt it represented what they were fighting against and the work they had to do, Tanaschuk said.

“Everyone was pretty appalled,” the Medill junior said. “But at the same time, it’s really that extra fire that kind of burns within us that sort of says, this is why we do what we do.”

In previous years, The Clothesline Project was displayed in Norris University Center, and this was the first year it was placed outside. Tiffany Zheng, president of Sigma Psi Zeta Sorority, Inc., told The Daily on Monday that the sorority invited CARE and SPEAK for Change to collaborate this year to help navigate the challenges of moving the project outdoors. Zheng declined to comment for this story.

Harmata said the organizers proceeded cautiously in taking the display outdoors because they worried it could attract negative reactions or trigger passersby. Chicago-based nonprofit Rape Victim Advocates also had a table near the display to provide support and resources to survivors and others who needed it, Harmata said, and many survivors told organizers they valued the display.

Despite the offensive T-shirt, Harmata said the positive responses from survivors made the display worth the effort. She said organizers hope to continue hosting the event publicly outdoors every year.

“Yes, it was one negative comment, but the amount of people we had who actually came up to us and told us, ‘Hi, I’m a survivor and I love what you’re doing, and this is really empowering and thank you,’ … just having these people completely outweighs what this shirt said,” Harmata said.

This story was updated at 2:08 p.m. on Thursday to include a comment from Carrie Wachter.

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