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Defending the Shirt protest

| Wednesday, December 8, 2004

As one of the women who participated in the silent protest against the Saint Mary’s Pride Week shirt, I would like to clearly state why I and others whom I know find this year’s Pride Week shirt to be a poor representation of our student body.

I find this year’s Pride Week shirt to represent an underlying sexism in the Saint Mary’s community. The woman depicted appears to be more likely to attend a finishing school than a challenging academic institution. The image was originally used for a Vermouth ad. For this reason, the woman is purposely meant to appear available as a sexual object. Her facial expression, bare neck, and tilted head are an example of a common insinuation of sexual availability often seen in representations of women in Western art. For these reasons, I do not feel that the figure on the shirt is a positive representation of women – particularly considering the stereotype that exists in the Notre Dame / Saint Mary’s community of Saint Mary’s women being sluts (for instance, the shuttle being called “the sluttle”).

I believe the shirt is racist. There is only one woman – a white woman – representing all of the Saint Mary’s student body. This is not an accurate representation; there are women of various races attending Saint Mary’s. To clarify, neither myself nor anyone else I know who has been offended by the shirt is insisting that there should be an absence of people altogether on Saint Mary’s shirts. We are suggesting, for instance, that more than one woman should be portrayed, and that these women should be of more than one racial background. We’re not protesting the American flag, animals and French crosses, despite what Cheryl Barker implied in her Nov. 22 Observer letter entitled, “Remember and respect Saint Mary’s history.”

Thirdly, the shirt is a representation of classism. The woman portrayed is wearing clothing that would have distinctly placed her in a high economic class in her time period. Not all of the women attending Saint Mary’s College are wealthy; not all of us, therefore, feel accurately represented by this image.

I am not personally attacking anyone. I am stating that everyone in this community (myself included) could afford to think more about women’s and diversity issues. In closing, I would like to quote a fellow student, Sinnamon Wolfe: “In 60 years, are the Coors Light Twins going to be seen as a fitting image to represent this college?” Think about it.

Angela Johnston


Regina Hall

Dec. 7