Ladies, autumn is upon us, and fall style isn't far behind. Expect plenty of burnt oranges, faux furs, suedes and, of course, ponchos!
But this season, there is also something for those of you who want to incorporate a look that says, "Men of the world, I know you cannot contain yourselves if you see even an inch of calf. So I will protect myself and cover my body in a big black bag." And trust me, this look is hot. (Like, seriously, carry water, because the material does not breathe.)
Dubbed the "Anti-Rape Cloak," this piece of haute couture comes courtesy of British artist Sarah Maple. And, just to be clear, the ludicrous garment is satirical, meant to comment on the bullshit belief that women are in any way to blame for their own sexual assault.
"It has always made me really angry how the victims of rape are always made to feel it was their fault, [that] somehow they brought it upon themselves," Maple explained to The Huffington Post. "Many women I know have gone through this but never reported it, many made to feel they were 'making a fuss' or that they wouldn’t be believed. I was reading Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates and I realized just how universal this belief is -- with so many girls being told it wouldn’t have happened if they hadn’t been wearing that outfit or they hadn’t been in a particular place on their own."
Maple, who is now 30 years old, was born to an Iranian Muslim mother and English Christian father. As a result, much of her work addresses the struggles of growing up as somewhat of an outsider, Muslim in a Christian environment, while balancing her religious heritage with her liberal, feminist ideals. A lot of taboo-bashing ensues.
Maple's most iconic works include a photograph of her donning a hijab and smoking a cigarette, as well as a painted self-portrait in which a period stain proudly drips down her white dress. Her book You Could Have Done This features images of the artist sporting hairy pits and wielding pseudo-penises, including a banana and a hedge trimmer, atop her crotch.
Much of Maple's work combines irony and blunt force to expose the micro and macro aggressions that make being a woman so damn difficult. "It's very odd that women are encouraged to be sexy. We are told constantly by the media that our sexiness dictates our value and worth, but then if we dress sexily, we deserve to be raped," she said. "It's a contradiction that infuriates me. It is also ridiculous to think that a bit of flesh makes men uncontrollable animals who must have sex right away! It's a damaging idea for men and women!"
So, in case there was any ambiguity: Maple does not actually want anyone to wear her large, black cloak. "People should be able to wear whatever they like without the fear of being raped ... So by wearing a garment from head to toe, I am now completely safe from rape in any place, anywhere, any context. I am no longer 'asking for it.'"
The artist hopes her piece will force some to rethink the ways they talk about rape and abuse. "No one is ever asking for it. We shouldn't be asking women to cover up, we should be educating people about consent. It feels like the issue is pressed onto women and how they can avoid this situation when there should be more focus on the perpetrator."
Maple's cloak is on view in a 15-day series of “trouble-making” workshops, events and gatherings, dubbed "Art of Nuisance." In Maple's words, the event "is all about making a noise and not being silenced, like the suffragettes did! We hope the whole exhibition with inspire people to get active, speak out and make some noise!"
"Art of Nuisance," presented by the The Sisters of Perpetual Resistance, runs from Oct. 8 until Oct. 23 in the UK.
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