Red Undergament Lunacy
April 25, 2005

The major problem with extreme victimization is that groups come up with ridiculous tactics to further a cause while simultaneously (and unfairly) invalidating their own message. Proof? Prepare yourself for: "The Panty Line Project."

In um, "celebration" (I guess) of Sexual Assault Awareness month, a Lawrenceville, Kansas shop called "Raven Bookstore" recently set up a rather unorthodox window display. Hanging in the front display window are multiple pairs of lacy red lingerie covered with hand written messages like "Red Panties are Not Synonymous with Askin' for it" printed across the front. The messages were written by actual victims of abuse. Somehow this is supposed to make the display more credible. The Lawrence Journal-World reports:

At The Raven, three pieces of thick blue ribbon hold up about a dozen pieces of women's undergarments. Most are pairs of panties, painted with messages like: "This is Mine" and "By Invitation Only." Tracy Williams and a co-worker from the Ga Du Gi SafeCenter look at the Panty Line Project display at Hobbs Inc., 700 Mass. Williams said survivors of sexual assault wrote the messages on the lingerie as part of the healing process. "It gives them the opportunity to let their voices be heard," Williams said. "It makes it real."
I think we've all had enough symbolism. Let's look at this logically. A question for the masses: Assuming you've personally disrobed, at what point should a man seeing you in your "red panties" be part of the "No means no" equation? If you're in them, and he's there to see you in them, it seems to me like you're actually saying "Yes," no?

I'm just asking.

The bookstore's display is part of "The Panty Line Project," organized by Tracy Williams, a Sexual Assault Coordinator (proof positive we can make up our own titles) with a local rape clinic who had the following to say about the project:

"The discomfort people feel when they walk by and see underwear gives them a glimpse of maybe the discomfort that someone who's been sexually assaulted may have as well."
Umm right. We're talking about sexual assault, right? We're talking about rape, right? We're talking about an event with the potential to seriously damage a woman's life, right? That's what I thought. And now let us all join our heads to figure out from which intergalactic place Ms. Williams came.

Red panties in a window may conjure up a number of different thoughts and emotions, but "rape" and "sexual assault" just doesn't seem to fit in that equation. This is a societal reality we're dealing with, here, not Victoria's Secret.

Sexual abuse is a prevailing problem and a disturbing one at that. As a society, we should have zero tolerance for those guilty of committing such crimes--especially when they walk around in flowing robes and call themselves "Men of God" (but that's another discussion). Sexual assault in any form is disgusting, sick, and has caused much emotional and spiritual damage in the lives of many women.

Here we have a prime example of a very worthy and unfortunate cause diminished all in the name of feminists' quest to be "progressive." Event organizers take a very serious issue and attempt to equate it with what is arguably the antithesis of "serious": red panties. Even the word "panties" alone evokes some sort of school girl/boy giggle. That's not exactly a good thing considering the topic is not funny.

Blogger Matt Rosenberg (who actually hipped me to the story) makes some important observations on "The Idiocy of the Panty Line Project":

"By the time a gal, in the company of a guy, strips down to her panties, whether they be red, white, blue, green...there are certain other issues which rise to the fore.

Yes, "No Means No," and that's what I'll make sure my son understands when he gets older. But I'll also make sure - or rather I'll make sure my wife makes sure - that my daughter understands that when a gal gets down to her panties with a guy, she's raising the bar, uh, expectations-wise.

Pre-marital celibacy, and relative chasteness (i.e. kissing and not a heck of a lot more) is certainly an option for young women and men. That's a personal choice, and one that should never be mocked, or dismissed.

Guys aren't quite the pigs some old-school feministas think. But they ARE guys. Young ladies: you wanna play it safe? Then keep your pants on.

There's the rub. Enter the age old debate about a woman's "role" in her own sexual assault. The reality is, no woman deserves to be violated. Ever. I don't care if she's walking down the street half naked, looking like a silicone-injected Fredrick's of Hollywood model. Every man is accountable for his own actions. On the most basic relational level, men should be the protectors of women, not the inverse.

Now let us return to reality. A reality which reveals that men are visually stimulated. This isn't a negative characteristic, but it is a characteristic. Moreover, we live in a sexually perverse society that has given people warped, unhealthy, and immoral views of sex. Unfortunately, there is a certain level of defense involved here. In a sentence: women need to do better--better at protecting themselves, and better at carrying themselves.

Anti-sexual assault campaigns that include red panties are confusing and counter-productive. It's great to allow people the opportunity to tell their stories, but if the goal is prevention, I'm thinking we should be heading a different direction. From a conceptual standpoint, the irony of the "red panties" analogy is this: no one knows you have on red undergarments unless:

A) You're improperly dressed (i.e. you un/intentionally reveal them) or
B) You're undressed.

As women, we could stand to work on modesty, regardless of the cause. Enough with this fruitless quest to be "provocative" in message for others. Let's work on rebuilding the identity of women in their own eyes first. America is the only place I know of that not only allows people to pitch a tent and camp out at their own victimhood, but actually celebrates along with them. As Donna Summer once wisely sung, "Enough is enough."

Posted by Ambra at April 25, 2005 10:39 PM in Culture
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Good post. I have to agree with you - although I'd not heard of this campaign. It is most definitely in poor (not to mention completely illogical) taste. And the whole's sort of a 'yes/no,' isn't it? Red panties? Red t-shirts, fine. Red tank tops, fine. But panties? It doesn't make sense.

Y'all have covered the most important parts, so let me add something that may be only a passing issue: I make it a point to look away from women's underthing displays lest somebody think me a wierdo for staring. After a couple seconds appreciation in the window, I'm looking down the way again.

Even if there were writing I'd be too uncomfortable to read it.

This crap is even dumber than those stupid rubber wristbands I refuse to wear.

Advocacy apparel (and advocacy paraphernalia) generally gets a thumbs-down from me.

This is insane! In fact, it is in such incredible bad taste that I wonder if it is actually an advertising scheme for something (a book? ladies underwear? a political candidate?).

well written. you nailed this one... so to speak.

All I can say to that is right on point!

Just when you think you have heard the limit....

Teach your boys, when they are still boys, that women and girls are to be respected. Period. Treat females with respect when you are around them. Ladies, BE respectful in the presence of young dudes. Then, maybe there won't be a 'need' for this kind of craziness. Passions/drunkeness/whatever aside, no really means no.

Working outdoors as I do, as the weather warms up I see all kinds of craziness in the way women and girls dress. I may be (am) in the minority, but most of what I see is a cry for help; a cry for attention. "Notice Me!!!" It darn sure isn't attractive. Furthermore too much of it leaves NOTHING to the imagination. It may be a woman's right to dress pretty much how she pleases, but I'd like to see a smidge of modesty.

Still, a woman's body belongs to HER. If she doesn't realize the POWER she has and wants to flaunt her body parts, that is sad, but it still is her body. Until self-worth is discovered by these Daughters of Eve, it is incumbent on the adults(?) amongs us to teach, teach and teach the fellas that respect for others (no matter how provacatively dressed) is respect for self.

...and teach your daughter to never stop fighting. If you think that when you stop fighting he will stop hurting you, you are just kidding yourself. Die fighting and fight dying.

Funny, I don't feel uncomfortable walking past Victoria's Secret. Probably because I rarely ever bother with looking(really).

Oh yeah, and don't forget to teach your daughters to keep their shirts on as well.

Aw man, you missed your chance!
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