The REDDress Project was started by Metis artist Jaime Black. Photo: REDDress Project
Canada | Opinion

Terese Mailhot: Don't hang a red dress for me if I go missing or murdered

You may have seen red dresses on websites and social media that symbolize the thousands of indigenous women and girls. But writer Terese Marie Mailhot (Seabird Island Band) doesn't think the REDDress Project goes far enough to address the epidemic of violence in the United States and Canada:
I’ve seen red dresses hung on trees, on campuses and elsewhere to honor murdered and missing indigenous women. The aesthetic response is artistically stunning, but it’s inanimate and pretty, and it’s simultaneously disturbing when I consider the symbol isn’t ascribed the value of purity or innocence. I support artistic endeavors to memorialize or create symbols, but I don’t provide blind support to anything. If I’m beaten to death or go missing, don’t hang a red dress for me.

Métis artist Jaime Black created the installation, “I’m allowing people to critically think about the issue…it’s amazing how…powerful it is to see these dresses just hanging there, and when you walk by them it feels like you are walking by someone but no one is in them. It really works as a kind of visceral reminder of these women.”

The red dress appears ghostly and impersonal, especially after it’s become so familiar and synonymous—I have come to resent when editors choose the red dress over a human face for stories about murdered and missing women, because I wonder about the danger and benefit of giving a cause to protect human life an image with no features, or life, or blood, or viscera.

Read More on the Story:
Terese Mailhot: Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women: Don’t Hang a Red Dress For Me (Indian Country Media Network 7/12)

Related Stories:
Terese Mailhot: It takes a community to exploit indigenous women & girls (July 3, 2017)
Terese Mailhot: We don't tell Native women how brilliant they really are (June 16, 2017)