University hosts What Were You Wearing? exhibition

Thursday 17 March 2022

A clothes line is strung up between pillars in St Salvator's Quad, and hanging from it are four outfits including a pair of jeans and a dress.

The University of St Andrews is hosting an exhibition that aims to end victim-blaming and shatter the myth that sexual assault can be attributed to a person’s choice of clothes. 

What Were You Wearing? is a collaboration between the student-led Got Consent? Committee, Fife Rape and Sexual Assault Centre (FRASAC) and Fife Council’s Violence Against Women Partnership (FVAWP). 

The art installation features recreations of outfits worn by survivors when they were sexually assaulted, accompanied by short testimonies of their experiences. With clothing including pyjamas, jeans, a work uniform and even children’s clothes, the powerful exhibits seek to challenge the idea that provocative clothing is the cause of sexual assault.   

What Were You Wearing? is an internationally recognised event which originated at the University of Arkansas in 2013, and the outfits and testimonies in the St Andrews installation match the original exhibition. It was inspired by a poem by Dr Mary Simmerling entitled What I Was Wearing 

The Got Consent Committee is part of the StAnd Together programme, a joint University and Students’ Association initiative. Fourth-year student and Got Consent coordinator, Kara Stewart, said: “This partnership between the University and local community groups is vital as we seek to address what is a society-wide problem. By working together in this way, we hope we can encourage everyone – not just students – to see the exhibition and start a conversation in our communities about the realities of sexual assault. 

“This is an issue the University takes seriously, but this is not just an exhibition for students, it is for staff and members of the public from across our community. In order to create meaningful change, we all have to be involved.” 

Coordinator of the Fife Violence Against Women Partnership, Sheila Noble, said: “This is a hugely important exhibition. I am really pleased that St Andrews University is hosting it and opening it out to the wider community in Fife.

“This powerful exhibition challenges myths surrounding rape. It challenges misogynistic attitudes and victim blaming. I hope as many people as possible go to see it. We need to tell it as it is – victims of rape are not to blame.” 

The project has been supported by Transition University of St Andrews, a partner involved in running StAndReuse, which donated clothing for the exhibits, and students on the University’s Museum and Gallery Studies post-graduate course, who have assisted in curating the exhibition.  

What Were You Wearing? takes place on Thursday 24 and Friday 25 March 2022 from 4pm to 6pm in the Large Rehearsal Room at the Students’ Union and is open to students, staff and the public.

There will be a safe space available during the exhibition, run by a member of FRASAC. 

Photo by Gayle McIntyre.

Issued by the University of St Andrews Communications Office.

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