Even after the rise of #MeToo, disbelief is all too commonly the outcome of reporting sexual harassment and assault. Many women describe the experience of having men they trust doubt the severity and frequency of what they have to put up with as painful as the experience itself. Advertising agency Ogilvy wondered if men would be more likely to pay attention to smart clothing than the women in their lives, so they created dresses that keep a record of events.
The dresses have sensors sewn into them that record contact and pressure. Any impact on a sensor is sent via wifi to a computer that not only keeps track of what is happening but translates it into a heat map of location and time of contact with the body.
When three women wore the dresses to a Brazilian party, they were touched non-consensually 157 times in less than four hours – a rate of more than once every five minutes per woman. As the video below shows, this is despite repeatedly telling the men involved to stop.
The rise of lighter, cheaper, and more powerful batteries, combined with various advanced materials, has inspired great enthusiasm for so-called “smart clothing” in recent years. We’ve seen cute ideas such as shoe insoles that generate energy as you walk and suits that act as air purifiers in polluted conditions.
So far, however, few of these ideas have proven popular enough to justify the price of mass production. The idea we’ll all be wearing smart clothing any time soon seems improbable. More niche products, such as trousers that assist people with disabilities (and Wallace and Gromit fans) in getting up stairs may have their day sooner.
The genius of the Dress for Respect idea is in realizing you don’t need a mass market for your smart clothing product in order to make an impact. Instead, the video can change people’s minds, as well as provide outstanding publicity for the client Schweppes.
No doubt some of the same men who previously denied the problem are now thinking, “Yes but that is Brazil, it wouldn’t happen where I am from.” No doubt the exact amount of unwanted touching varies by location, maybe even quite substantially. Still, it would be a foolish doubting Thomas who bet against a similar outcome in their home country
Or maybe they could just try believing women.