I have to confess, when I put on my clothes in the morning, I do not consider it a moral decision. Then again, should I?
At the beginning of May a policeman advising women not to dress provocatively, as a way of ensuring their safety, prompted a protest termed Slut Walks. The outcry was at the idea that the victim was becoming the focus of responsibility, rather than the attacker.
Is this simply good advice that provoked an overreaction? Or does it point to underlying problems in how we view what women wear?
…most women who are raped are not wearing short skirts.
The truth is, most women who are raped are not wearing short skirts. If we view how a woman looks as male stimulus, then aren’t we objectifying her whatever she wears? How about if what she wears has nothing to do with provoking a reaction? Or how about if she wants people to look at her and find her attractive, without being assaulted?
Women are fed such mixed messages about appearance. Everything from perfume adverts to spot treatments seems to say that you need to look good to be loved. Then again, if you look a little too good, you might get attacked.
Where is this line between looking good and not making yourself a target? I think that really, there is no distinction. It just depends on who’s selling the message. If a company needs more money, its product will buy you love. If a rapist needs an excuse, it’s because you were wearing a short skirt.
No wonder so many of us have issues with our bodies…
When I put on a short skirt in the morning, it honestly doesn’t have anything to do with trying to impress. It has to do with the fact that a long skirt would get caught in my bike chain. Or that I don’t feel any need for those extra inches – it’s not like I have my bum on display (and who’s ever warned builders about provoking sexual harassment). Oh, and I’m happy with my legs.
No wonder so many of us have issues with our bodies. We’re taught that the combination of their weakness and allure put us in danger, so they need to be kept hidden, and then we’re told that we have to flaunt them in bikinis and look like the unattainable image of the Venus goddesses.
So you can’t have brains and boobs?
A friend of mine’s mum always used to comment when the women in CSI wore low tops. In her view, this meant they would never be taken seriously. So you can’t have brains and boobs? That doesn’t bode well for the female sex.
Long Skirts Too
Just as shocking for me, as the idea that you can’t wear a short skirt, is the idea that you can’t cover yourself entirely. I am always surprised by the reaction of such a large number of the British public towards Burkas.
Most businesses produce clothes so unethically, that it’s hard to think about who’s made your clothes and what kind of conditions they endure. For most of us, clothes are far more about trying to impress, than about an awareness of the impact our shopping has in developing countries. Yet we find moral problems with people dressing in a way that expresses deep values, albeit ones we may disagree with.
…clothing may express freedom in different forms…
So yes, wearing a short skirt makes me feel free. If I’ve chosen to wear it. If I want to wear it. As for others, clothing may express freedom in different forms, such as identification with faith.
Do our clothes provoke a reaction? It seems so. But letting that reaction force you to dress differently would be the ultimate way of giving over control of what you wear, of yourself, to others.