April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, as we knew, and which we were shocked to discover that Donald Trump knew, but that may have been because it was mentioned by one of his the 15 or more women who have come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against him. Nonetheless, it has certainly contributed to raising awareness, including the scores of tweets in response to his proclamation. Those tweets ranged from snarky comments to video clips of his accusers to video clips of his own admission – nay, bragging – about committing sexual assault.
As college professors, we are accustomed to acknowledging issues on various months, and we do so happily, in a number of ways: hosting speakers, promoting events, distributing information, wearing buttons with slogans. Awareness is critical, and getting the message out in as many ways as possible is always a good thing. We’ve even worn jeans to support gay rights. Gay Blue Jeans Day is brilliant because everyone wears jeans and of course, part of the point of Gay Blue Jeans Day is to show that being gay is as normal and everyday as blue jeans.
But now, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, we’ve got to wear teal in support of SAAM this Tuesday, April 3. Teal? It was hard enough to find a font in teal, let alone an article of clothing.
Mind you, most professors have no sense of style. Worn-out shoes, broken fly zippers, and saggy old sport coats are commonplace in the halls of academe. Not that all academics wear pants and sport coats. Indeed, we’ve been to entire (politically conscientious, perfume-free) academic conferences where women were dressed in muumuus or clothing from Chico’s. And so as somewhat fashion-challenged college professors (although “fashioned-challenged” only applies to one of the authors of this blog, and we’re not saying who, but it’s not Martha), like many professors we often struggle with what to wear, relying on black and neutrals which always seem to match and don’t require changing shoes until the seasons require it. For SAAM, we used to be good – we’ve got a few variations on “no” t-shirts (one favorite says, “‘No’ is a full sentence.”), and the best part is that the t-shirts go with jeans.
So how about rethinking this teal plan? Something that middle-aged feminists and professors can more easily accomplish? We’re pretty sure we wore teal mascara back in the mid-80s, but that’s another issue, and fortunately, no photographic evidence seems to exist to back up that claim. It’s not that we think we look bad in teal (in fact, see our favorite hilarious list of what women over 30 should wear — don’t worry, it includes teal, and saffron, and ochre, and magenta, and…).
It’s just that it’s unclear what wearing teal actually accomplishes, in an era of activism where it’s awfully hard to keep track, and where, sadly, there are multiple issues requiring active resistance. We applaud, and thank, the young (and older) people who are speaking up so vociferously against sexual violence, racial violence, and gun violence, to name only a few. That’s work, and that’s hard, and it’s making a difference. We support these intersecting movements–ROY G BIV. Wearing a color, even a difficult one like teal, makes it too easy to simply post our outfit of the day on social media, and do no more. So wear what you like, including purple with a red hat, but wear it while marching, writing letters to politicians, advocating for self-defense training, and fighting back. Activism never goes out of fashion. And while Sexual Assault Awareness Month says wearing teal today shows that “everyone has a role to play in ending sexual violence, and showing your support for survivors by wearing teal is one way you can embrace your voice for change,” we hope that people will discover many more roles to play in ending sexual violence–before it even occurs.