Writer, speaker and third-wave feminist activist, Jennifer Baumgardner first made headlines when she came up with a t-shirt that says “I had an abortion.” She also produced a documentary film that illustrates the experiences of ten women who had an abortion. This 2004 project had many inspirations, including conversations with second-wave feminist and Baumgardner writing partner, Amy Richards who opened up about her abortion experience.
After the success of the “I had an abortion” project, Jennifer made headlines with her new t-shirt that bears the slogan, “I was raped.” This 2008 project included the production and distribution of custom t shirts Canada that saw many women and men come out to tell their stories of sexual assault. The t-shirts portray a safe containing the card with the words “I was raped.” The campaign also saw the production of a 2013 film, It Was Rape which documented the stories of rape survivors.
The writings on her first t-shirt seemed straightforward as she was planning to distribute them on sex education websites and campuses. For the second approach, she placed the slogan in a cartoon dialogue bubble in bright pink with the help of her graphic designer friend. She thought this was too bright and decided to go for white t-shirts with the word “Raped” painted in black. This, she thought, was too shocking.
This is when she approached graphic artist Vinnie Angel who came up with the concept of a safe with door wide open and containing a card that reads, “I was raped.” According to Jennifer, the safe design lacks shock value, and this, she says, is great since she never intended to shock the victims or the public. Her intention was to create something that would allow the victims to own and share their personal experiences. She says this would help create awareness and let others know that this issue happens all the time.
The reality of rape is clearly understated. It is obvious that sexual abuse survivors go through emotional trauma because they feel humiliated to air their grievances. Also, the justice system does not offer much help, and this has led to many victims refraining from pressing charges. The “I was raped” t-shirt campaign and documentary highlights the prevalence of rape in our society and breaks the silence and humiliation that surrounds it.
According to the dictionary, feminism is the movement for social, economical and political equality of both men and women. Most women are feminists because of their personal experiences, and this triggers them to help other individuals who are going through the same experiences. Even with her strong campaign against rape and abortion, Jennifer admits that she has never been raped nor has gone through an abortion procedure.
However, she identifies with bisexuality and the challenges that come with it. She realized she was bisexual when she fell in love with a female intern at feminist magazine.
On February 20, 2007, she published a book called Look Both Ways: Bisexual Politics. The book tells of her experience as a bisexual, her struggles and the empowerment she derived from these relationships.
Over the years, sexual assault has become rampant, and there is a need for attention. This has seen the rise of second-wave and third-wave feminist movements that seek to increase public awareness on this critical issue.
From 2002, Baumgardner and Amy Richards formed a non-profit feminist organization that provides a platform for men and women to speak openly about their sexual assault experiences. The “I was raped” t-shirt campaign has proven effective in highlighting the prevalence of rape and in giving the rape survivors a voice for everybody to hear.