Dr. Wyandt-Hiebert and Ms. Brockman had worked as sexual violence and intimate partner violence survivor advocates for over a decade when the Installation was created. The Installation was born out of an advocacy lens. The question, “what were you wearing?” was pervasive for most survivors.
Dr. Wyandt-Hiebert and Ms. Brockman wanted to create a project that would place the work of bearing witness to this question’s answer back on the shoulders of the community and humanize the survivor in the answer.
To ask the question, “what were you wearing?” cost the questioner nothing, there is no labor in making this statement. However, the survivor must pay dearly in not only their answer; but also, in the burden of self-blame.
The Installation challenges participants to engage with the universal connection we have with clothing and reflect on what gives this specific rape culture myth so much power. To put clothing on is so basic and common, to take that action and conflate it with pain and suffering taints not only the individual outfit for the survivor; but also, calls in to question all simplistic and normal behaviors as dangerous.
The Installation asks participants to understand that it was never about the clothing and the act of shedding those clothes is never enough to bring peace or comfort to survivors. The violation is not simply woven in to the fabric of the material, it is a part of the survivor's new narrative. If only ending sexual violence was as easy as changing our clothes. Instead it requires all of us to evaluate what enabled us as individuals and as a society to ask, “what were you wearing?” in the first place.
From the Kansas University “What Where You Wearing?” curation guide.