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Faking It Two local artists conducted the perfect culture-jamming experiment—hijacking Victoria's Secret's identity to create a conversation about sexual consent.

MICA fiber arts grads Hannah Brancato and Rebecca Nagle landed on Fast Company’s “100 Most Creative People” list for an elaborate “panty prank”—where they pretended to be Victoria’s Secret launching a line of PINK consent-themed underwear bearing slogans like “No Means No” and “Ask First”—in support of FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture, the duo’s organization that aims to reduce sexual abuse and help survivors heal.

 

How did the idea for the hoax come about? We did the prank to get new people talking about consent and avoid preaching to the choir.
Basically we thought, ‘We want to have a conversation with Victoria’s Secret consumers, so let’s pretend to be Victoria’s Secret.’ Your Pink Loves Consent website got more than 100,000 hits the first day—and thousands of people tweeted the hashtag #loveconsent.

Were you scared of getting sued?
Thankfully, we had a very good lawyer. How did you pick the slogans? We contrasted Victoria’s Secret’s actual PINK product line that’s marketed toward middle school and high school aged girls. They use slogans like, ‘Sure Thing’ and ‘NO’ in really big letters followed by ‘peeking’ in tiny letters. You used a diverse group of models for the campaign, including minority and plus-size women. Feeling good about your body, no matter what size or shape it is, is really integral to the idea of consent and pleasure. We want to help reframe what’s considered sexy, so it’s up to each individual to define what that means to them. Did fans feel betrayed when they realized they’d been duped? When we did the reveal, people’s frustration wasn’t directed at us for having done the prank but at Victoria’s Secret like, ‘Why wouldn’t you do this?’ I bet lots of women wanted to buy the underwear. They did, but launching a lingerie company isn’t one of our goals. So we released a DIY guide. Lots of college and community groups have started making their own underwear to raise money for consent campaigns.

How did you two connect on your shared message and mission?
Hannah had been working at House of Ruth as a community artist and resident. Around the same time, Rebecca set up an arts therapy program and had transformative conversations about issues surrounding sexual and domestic violence. We both realized this was a private conversation—taking place inside the shelter—and it needed to be more public.

How do you encourage people who haven’t been affected by this issue to get involved?
Right now we live in a culture where the burden is on the survivor. It’s asking a lot of that human being to be a mouthpiece for an issue they didn’t even choose to be connected to. It just happened to them. The more we can all share that voice—and remove stigmas or labels for speaking out—the better our society will be.

What’s next for the two of you?
The Monument Quilt. Communities across the country are engaging in this public art project by making quilt squares and hosting quilt-making workshops and local displays. We’re doing a 13-city tour through September. The final vision is that the quilt will be displayed on the National Mall—covering a mile of the lawn with thousands of survivor stories to spell, ‘Not Alone.’  themonumentproject.org

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