Clothesline Project Organizers,
The Clothesline Project
is a visual display of shirts with graphic messages and illustrations
that have been designed by women survivors of violence or by someone who
loves a woman who has been killed. The purpose of the Project is to increase
awareness of the impact of violence against women, to celebrate a woman's
strength to survive and to provide another avenue for her to courageously
break the silence that often surrounds her experience. Since its inception,
Clothesline Project organizers have been moved by the power of the stories
contained in these shirts. Women from around the country have joined our
efforts to educate by telling their stories, by hanging their shirts on
a line, and by making connections with other survivors. These efforts
are critical to the healing process and ultimately, to ending the cycle
of violence. The impact of the
Project has been widespread, thus realizing our goal to expand the Project
across this nation and beyond. As of 2001, there are "Clotheslines" in
over 500 communities and several foreign countries. We are sending this
packet of information to you in the hope that you will want to begin your
own Clothesline Project. At some time in our lives, everyone will be touched
by the threat of this most intimate of violences. The Clothesline Project
provides one way to give every woman a voice and a place to be heard.
Many survivors who have participated in the Project feel that making a
shirt has been an integral part of their healing and recovery process.
The Clothesline serves as both a moving tribute and a vital means of conveying
the enormity of the problem of violence against women.
for Starting Your Clothesline Project
Enclosed are a few
suggestions for starting your own Clothesline. We're sending this information
along to you for several reasons. We want to share all the basic helpful
hints we've picked up during moren than nine years, and we want to share
the vision, goals, and values of the Clothesline Project. One of the most
difficult things that we have been working on is a process to maintain
consistency of purpose and program among the various "Clotheslines" around
the country. Our purpose in this is not to control, rather to maintain
the integrity and clear message of the Project. In order to achieve this,
we have devised the following boundaries that we require all "Clothesline
Projects" to honor.
1. Violence against
women must be the foundation and focus of all "Clothesline Projects".
All publications (brochures etc.) must be clearly state this as our main
2. Only shirts to
be submitted please (no pants, underwear, etc.). Originally there was
a color code that gave us a visual "statistic" regarding the types of
violence to which women were exposed. That color code was established
White -- Women who have been murdered as a result of sexual or domestic
Red, pink or orange -- Women who have been raped or sexually assaulted
Yellow or beige -- Women who have been battered
Blue or green -- Women survivors of incest or child sexual abuse
Purple or lavender -- Women attacked because they were or were thought
to be lesbian, black or gray -- Your choice of designation (for example,
it has been brought to our attention that there should be a color for
handicapped women who have been either physically or sexually abused specifically
because they could not escape their attacker.) Our Monterey CA clothesline
uses black for gang rape.) The Cape Cod Clothesline
(the original CP) has found it difficult to continue with the color code
because organizers spend so much time educating in middle and high schools
as well as colleges. The schools provide shirts and supplies for shirt
making while the project is on display. Since it is often easier to buy
a package of shirts that are all one color we often get shirt colors that
do not match the original color code. For example there are now hundreds
of white shirts on the Cape Cod Clothesline that have nothing to do with
a woman being murdered. Please use your best judgment as to what will
work for you and the constituents you serve.
3. There can be
no charge or fee required by any "Clothesline Project" for making a shirt
and hanging it on the line. We realize that flexibility
is essential. Groups may undertake whatever alternate, adjacent or additional
programs they wish as long as it is clearly presented as not being a component
of the "Clothesline Project." If we can be of any
assistance to you during the process, please do not hesitate to let us
know. We also want to hear any stories you have about your project, what
has worked or not worked for you in your area, suggestions you have for
the future or feelings you have about the project. Our commitment is to
a grass roots network. We need to hear from you in order to refer people
in your area. Please keep in touch!Back
Forming a group
You may want to start
your own group around the project or adopt it as part of a larger agenda
for an existing organization or center. Keep in mind that it takes a lot
of time and energy if you want to use the project as an educational tool
that reaches the widest audience. The project brings
up a lot of feelings for those working with it and those in the community
at large. You may wish to build some type of support for yourselves into
the structure of your meetings. We begin and end each meeting and display
with a check-in so that we remain in touch with ourselves and each other
as we do this work. We also set aside time occasionally to deal with the
impact the project has on each of our personal lives. Creating a safe
space that works for you and your group is absolutely essential. Because of the nature
of this project, maintaining confidence is crucial. Discussions at our
meetings are confidential except for decisions made and planned actions.
If asked to do so, we maintain the anonymity of those hanging shirts on
the Clothesline. We run our meetings by consensus, rotating facilitators
with no one person "in charge". We recommend that you adopt whatever structure
works best for you. Back
a Clothesline Project in Ten Easy Steps!
1. Write to the National
Network and tell us your intentions and when you hope to have your first
display. This will allow us to add you to our national list and also to
send you any shirts we may have collected from your area.
2. Find or create
an event that would be suitable for the first display. Some of the places
that we have held our displays are on town greens, at the State House
in Boston and at a Speak-out in Worcester. Many of these have been in
conjunction with occasions such as International Valentine's Day, International
Women's Day, Take Back the Night, Mother's Day, the Montreal Massacre
etc. We have found that the most successful events are those that allow
people to really focus on the Clothesline. You may want to network with
others working on violence against women.
3. Get a copy of
our camera-ready brochure and duplicate it as you see fit, making whatever
changes you need to reflect the history and purpose of your group, whom
to contact, where to send shirts, etc. Also, adding statistics for your
area helps make people aware of the extent of the problem in your location.
Rape crisis centers and battered women's shelters often have this information.
4. Distribute the
brochure and flyers about the first display event to all groups concerned
such as rape crisis centers, women's organizations, churches, mental health/counseling
centers, police stations, courthouses, colleges, schools, hospitals, etc.
5. Distribute the
brochures and a press release to media contacts. The Clothesline Project
is a good way to get the attention of your local news sources. However,
experience has taught us that those who chose to participate in interviews
need to be aware and prepared in advance. Especially as it's possible
that not all reporters are as sensitive as we would desire. Having had
issues with the media invading the privacy of those at a display, we have
found that a specific, limited and published time for a press conference
is helpful. A simple guideline is - no pictures without the express consent
of those to be photographed and organizers might want to scan the crowd
and talk with those they think might be willing to be interviewed before
sending a reporter in.
6. Many women prefer
the additional support of making their shirt together with others. Shirt-making
sessions are very helpful and help build community. Finding shirts for
survivors to use to tell their story: You might ask everyone you know
to clean out their closets for shirt donations. We've found that some
women actually prefer old shirts. You might want to bring your brochure
to local businesses and ask them to donate shirts and markers. These supplies
are also made available at tables with chairs. The shirt making area is
usually set up near a display - a bit out of the way to provide privacy.
Some women need to have materials available to create their shirt when
they first see the display (we often get 5-20 shirts at a major display).
Others may want to take a shirt home and work on it. Remind those working
at the display that shirts need to be dry before they are hung or transported. *** HINT: Reconsider
the use of fabric, puff paints or glue at shirt-making displays. They
are slow to dry and puff-paints remain "tacky", causing printing to stick
together when being stored in suitcases between displays. Permanent markers
and acrylic paints work well. Both dry quickly.***
7. Assemble clothesline
and clothespins and attach the shirts to the line at your first display.
It is important that shirts that have statements on both sides be displayed
so that both sides are visible. Some women will want to have their shirts
hung next to friends or family. While the entire line is not organized
by color, we find the visual impact increases with small sections in the
same color code. However, we also want each shirt to have its own distinct
space so we often alternate light and dark colors (i.e. light blue next
to dark blue next to green etc.) *** We leave the
shirts on the line when we dismantle it (we fold it up accordion-style
- 1st shirt back to 2nd shirt back 2nd shirt front to 3rd shirt front,
etc.) Leaving shirts hung on the line makes it much simpler and faster
when you set up the next display. (When you start to accumulate 50 - 100
shirts this will save hours of hanging time!!)*** Some women have
submitted written pieces with their shirts and whenever possible, we post
them with/on their shirts.
8. You might want
to keep track of your shirts and when possible, who made them, when and
where. It can become an important component in honoring each woman's history.
As shirts come in you might want to put a number, mark or other "clue"
written in indelible ink, inside the collar. Some projects also keep a
logbook with those numbers, photographs of the shirts and other pertinent
information. Many women will submit shirts but not be comfortable with
revealing anything else about their shirt. They may also opt not to have
it displayed. It doesn't matter - what's important is that each person
feels they have a voice.
9. There are several
other items to consider before your first showing. Displays may be viewed
by both survivors and perpetrators since it may address issues of violence
where the violence is taking place, i.e. in our own home towns. Two suggestions
on this: Determine in advance whether or not you will have any survivor
notification policy. Survivors may be upset to run into their shirts unexpectedly.
We have an agreement that all displays will be publicized well in advance
so that survivors have access to this information through the media. Since
we recognize the connections between all oppressions and the underlying
(sometimes blatant) racism in our society, we feel that it is very important
to ask survivors not to specify the race of the perpetrator. We do this
on a one-to-one basis as the situation demands. Sensitivity around these
issues is important to the success of the project. *** Please ask survivors
not to name their perpetrators by both the first and last name unless
they have been convicted of that particular crime. Our best legal advice
has told us that this policy is the best way to avoid any type of lawsuit.***
10. We incorporate
sounds into our displays to compliment the visual impact of the Clothesline.
For instance, we bang a gong (pot lid) every 9 - 10 seconds to symbolize
a women being battered, blow a whistle every 1 - 2 minutes to indicate
a rape and ring a bell every 15 minutes to indicate how often a woman
is murdered in this country. A tape of these sounds is available, for
a small fee, from the National Network.
11. You might want
to keep tissues handy and be prepared for an intense emotional experience.
We feel that having support available for people viewing the display is
important. We try to maintain an awareness of the individual and, if it
seems appropriate, approach them with a sympathetic word, tissue, eye
contact, whatever seems comfortable. We have referral information on hand
regarding local crisis/counseling centers, and other support services,
as well as written resource materials. Whenever possible we also provide
more private, safe areas with local counselors on hand. Think about ways
that your can design these into your set up. Please be sure to
take time to support yourselves through de-briefing, check-ins, lots of
hugs and any supervision that is appropriate for you/your group.Please stay in touch
and let us know how you are doing. Feel free to contact us if we can help
in any way. This way we can all learn from each other and keep connected
first with our hearts and then with our lines. Good luck and thanks!Back to Top
Bonnie Shelley makes gorgeous pins for the Clothesline Project - and
sells them at an affordable price so they can be used for fundraising purposes.
Here is a link to her website where you can see the pins and learn more: Clothesline Pins