Social Experiment: Wearing a Feminist Statement Tee in Public

Saturday, June 14, 2014

"Kate! I'm wearing a shirt tomorrow that you're going to love," my friend Jenn told me. She knows me well, it seems, as her prediction was confirmed when she showed up at brunch the next day sporting a men's tank that read, "A WOMAN'S PLACE IS IN THE HOUSE AND THE SENATE." The next time I opened my computer, I bought the shirt for myself.*

The first time I wore it was on my day trip to Cleveland two weeks ago. As my friend Lindsey & I walked the streets of the Cleve, I noticed other peoples' eyes on me, trying to read my wordy tee as I strolled by. Though I knew I'd be making a bit of a statement in the shirt, I hadn't realized how uncomfortable I would feel with the attention.

I became fascinated, though, by other people's reactions to the sentiment emblazoned across my chest. Those passing quickly by seemed, at first, to be shocked. As their eyes widened & their brows furrowed, I could see them thinking, "A woman's place is in the house? Oh, this bitch!" & then, as they continued to read, a look of relief. Mid-way through the shirt, I look like the anti-feminist - & then, at the end, I just look like a raging feminist.

But in the cosmopolitan & forward-thinking land of the Midwest, though, raging feminism isn't always an endearing or valued trait. I watched as some of the folks finished reading my shirt & threw me a look of annoyance or disgust - not necessarily at the idea of that women can be lawmakers but, I assume, at the idea of needing to broadcast my support of it. "I'll feel better wearing this shirt in D.C.," I told myself.

Today is my first day wearing it in the District, though, & it feels just as weird - in a totally different way. At Trader Joe's, an enthusiastic man in a neon pink tee high-fived me: "Oh, you know that's the truth!" he shouted as he slapped my hand in the produce aisle. At BakeHouse, an adorable neighborhood coffee shop, a hipster barista looked at me with equal parts disdain & amusement & asked, "So do you, like, work on the Hill?" Suddenly, I felt like I was trying too hard to be DC-quirky, damn it.

I guess that when it comes to wearing liberal statement tees, a girl can't really win. But speaking of winning, did you know that there are a record number of women in the Senate right now? A woman's place, indeed. So I think I'll keep wearing the shirt - at least until I get one that says "A woman's place is in the White House." Hillary, girl, I'm waiting for you.

*You can buy this tank & similarly sassy clothing items from Wicked Clothes, if you're so inclined. Free shipping!

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