By: Noor Javed 17th January, 2013 Staff Reporter for the Star.Com
The words are written all the way up the back of the womanâ€™s leg. â€œMatronlyâ€ appears at her calf, â€œproperâ€ at the knee, and â€œwhoreâ€ at the very top â€” words meant to reflect how women are often perceived based on the length of their skirt.
The provocative photo, called â€œJudgment,â€ was posted by Rosea Lake, a first-year university student at Capilano University in Vancouver, B.C on her Tumblr site in early January. In a matter of a few days, the photo went viral, with more than 280,000 people liking and re-blogging it on Tumblr.
She took the photo as part of a high school art project last year as a way to reassess her assumptions and preconceptions about how women dress.
â€œIf you see a girl wearing something you see as distasteful, then you automatically discount them as a person and you donâ€™t give them the opportunity to really be somebody in your eyes,â€ said Lake, 18. â€œAnd thatâ€™s really shameful.â€
She says the image is also meant to be a response to rape culture. Right under the words â€œslutâ€ and â€œwhoreâ€ on model Ali Mackenzieâ€™s leg, are the words â€œasking for it.â€
Lake says that living in a â€œrough neighbourhood,â€ she has often wondered if her outfit will result in her being â€œsexually harassed or verbally abused.â€
â€œThese are the things I think about, and I donâ€™t think women in particular should have to worry about am I going to be raped because of what I am wearing today?â€
When she did the art project, she wrote on her blog that she â€œused to assume that all women who wore hijabs were being oppressed . . . and look(ed) down on and judge any woman who didnâ€™t express her sexuality in a way that I found appropriate.
â€œIâ€™d like to think Iâ€™m more open now.â€
Thanks to the Internet, the image has been seen all around the world. And itâ€™s a message that has resonated with everyone who has seen it.
She has received emails from women in Turkey and Bosnia who have loved the photo. Rape survivors from around the world have emailed her to thank her for her candidness. And professors have asked her permission to use it in their classes as a teaching tool.
â€œI think it hit at the right moment. I think it hit people who had these feelings and thoughts in mind, and wanted to discuss these issues, but didnâ€™t know how to express them,â€ she said.
But there have been some people online who have taken it the wrong way and donâ€™t understand that itâ€™s satire. â€œThere have been some comments where people say, this must have been made by a man, by a chauvinist pig . . . which upsets me, but you canâ€™t control the Internet.
â€œI think most people know that itâ€™s a photo meant to call out society on its ridiculous views.â€
In the meantime, she is making prints of the photo in response to popular demand â€” and as a way to make some money as a â€œpoor art student.â€ But she knows the exposure the photo has received is priceless.
â€œIâ€™m just happy that it has sparked so much dialogue and conversation. The message is much more important than I am, so I want people to use it.â€