The #MeToo Movement, which first gained momentum back in 2017, has been one of those hashtags that has been prolific in 2019. It seems that no matter where you are in the world, women were finding strength in saying “me too”. I think for some the movement stood up for women who felt like they were not being heard. It is because of its success, that I would like to take a moment to look back at a smart dress which was created to highlight the unwanted attention women can face on a daily basis.
The Smart Dress That Does More Than Just Jump On the Feminist Bandwagon
First introduced in May 2018, this is a smart dress that caught my attention thanks to its superpower- the ability to highlight the battle women can face when men are objectifying them. The Dress for Respect was surprisingly the idea of tonic brand Schweppes. The drinks company turned to science and tech developers to come up with a dress that could measure how many times women can be harassed in various situations. Launched in Brazil where 86% of women are attacked in nightclubs, the dress, which is covered in sensors, was put to the test in a typical night spot. Worn by three women and working in real time, the experiment showed how the women received unwanted touching through the night. It registered that they were unnecessarily touched about 40 times an hour. These numbers shocked many people in Brazil because many of the men were reported to not see a problem with their behaviour.
When watching the video, the dress itself, a sparkly silver tight fitted number, was like a beacon to the men in the club. I am not quite sure if the women in the experiment had worn jeans and a simple t-shirt that the men would have set off the sensors the way they did with the dress. That being said, I do feel strongly that a woman should be able to wear whatever she wants, whether it be an LBD or a sack, without fear of men leeching over them.
Recently, Harriet Hall, wrote about the dress for the Independent (online). Her overall take on the dress was: “Do we need a magic dress to show men what women are faced with when they go out? Have we not been shouting enough.” And to this, I say yes we have been shouting, but when we are not being heard we should find other ways of being listened to and I think that if the Dress for Respect is another way of doing so, then why not. It might not speak to all men, but it showed some of them how their behaviour made women uncomfortable. Sometimes seeing is believing.
Although I think that Hall’s write up on the dress came across a little cynical, I can understand why, just the name alone ‘Dress for Respect’ could start a fiery debate. That being said, I do believe in small victories, and if technology can be used to show in real time what happens to women on a night out, then that itself is a small step for all women. Lastly, yes, the dress is highlighting something that we, women, already know, but I applaud the dress because, although it is not solving the problem, it is at least opening the eyes of the men who did not quite hear us scream #MeToo!