You may have seen people on Locust rocking shirts with screen printed nipples on them, or “tit–tees,” as College sophomore Abby McGuckin calls them. Or maybe you’ve seen a fluorescent tee with Donald Trump's face surrounded by cats, and the words “Pussy Grabs Back,” created by the group colloquially known as We Are Watching. These fashion campaigns exist at the relatively new intersection of art, activism and apparel on Penn’s Campus.
You probably remember the two rape culture protests of We Are Watching: one in which they printed out copies of a sexist email sent to freshmen girls by an off–campus fraternity and pasted them up around campus, the other targeting Trump’s sexist comments. In a conversation with one of the group’s members, Syra Ortiz–Blanes, she clarified that the group was given its name by the Media, but prefers to describe themselves as an “intersectional feminist art collective.” The group has been active on campus, but apparel gave opportunity for the group to engage more people in their mission.
“We did the initial flyering, then we realized that there was a niche on Penn’s campus for artistic self–expression of these issues. There wasn’t really any group doing art activism in relation to rape culture, sexual violence and feminism.”
Similarly, Abby, who came up with the idea of nipples screen–printed on T–shirts over the summer, noticed that art offers alternate ways to talk about feminist issues
“I feel like most things related to feminism are so serious, and they should be, but to have a fun, playful, artistic and abstract view of your body that is not hyper–serious, is a fun way to talk about issues without having to get into a huge ideological argument or bring anything too heavy into it.”
Both of these groups are popular on campus. We Are Watching was so overwhelmed with the Google form for ordering shirts that they had to temporarily stop accepting orders. Both clothing lines have seen success both on Penn’s campus and off, shipping to multiple patrons out of state. “There are conversations that happen outside of GBMs and there are conversations that happen in GBMs,” said Abby. “I think these are the perfect way to spark that conversation, or to have that topic explicitly brought out without having to gather people in a formalized space.”
We Are Watching attributes a portion of their success to current events, Syra explained. “It caught on really well, obviously because of the political climate of the country right now and what's happening with the election. Also I think that it’s kind of empowering. It’s telling Donald Trump, and everyone who thinks like him, that we hear you, and we don’t like it.”
If you want to make a real fashion statement on locust, Check out @pennwearewatching on Instagram and their bigcartel to order these tees. They are $10 each, and proceeds will go towards Women Organized Against Rape and more projects for We Are Watching. If you want to join the #framethenipple movement, check out framethenip.com to place an order. Each tit–tee is $25.