Here in Bhubaneswar, society has a tendency to jump to quick and very vocal judgments in the name of propriety. Without a doubt, one area where this has been painfully obvious for decades is the public shaming of women who wear revealing clothes. Of course, this is really a worldwide issue, if you’re a woman; you’ve encountered the effects of these judgments personally. Whether you’ve been told by a parent that you simply won’t be allowed out of the house in a skirt or short, reprimanded by an educator or leader in your religious community for being too suggestive in your apparel choices, or informed by a teacher that your clothing is making them feel a certain way, you know the sting of implications made about your personal life based upon how you’ve chosen to explore fashion.
What’s truly unfortunate is that while many people operate from and hide behind the guise of being helpful or protective, they fail to recognize that, for men and women alike, fashion is a form of self-expression, and just as an artist’s style grows and adapts over many years, so does our sense of personal style. The clothing that we wear is, in many ways, a projection of what we are going through emotionally and mentally at a given time, and while helping your daughter/sister/friend/mother understand that her self-worth goes far beyond her sexual appeal is hugely beneficial, being overly critical of her self-exploration is not. While we all want to support current and future generations of women in making wise choices based upon their innate value as human beings, not from a place of being sexually objectified.
- Destroying Confidence Instead Of Fostering Positive Self-Image
Before you turn to your daughter and tell her you refuse to see her dress like such a slut (I know, harsh, but tons of parents do or threaten to without even thinking), please remember that there are damaging effects to having one’s personal appearance harshly criticized. Especially when it’s your sexual appearance that’s being called into question. Teenage girls have already the difficult task of navigating their emerging sexual desires in a society that doesn’t always teach sexual education or embrace the reality that women can be intelligent, respectable, and sexually alluring people. What they need most from their parents is emotional support and constructive guidelines that will help them find their own sense of style while building a level of discernment around when certain self-expression serves those best.
It’s also important that we encourage young women to examine why they are inclined to be concerned about the appearance or behavior of another woman or girl. Slut-shaming is disparaging and harmful, has psychological repercussions, and sadly can lead to tragic outcomes. And although many men and women think that discouraging a woman from wearing clothing that show’s too much of her body is positive, the effects can be quite confusing, especially if she views her body as beautiful, strong, and considers highlighting those physical attributes an intrinsic part of her identity.
2. Perpetuating the Fallacy Of Attention-Seeking
Across the Internet and in various social circles you’ll hear proponents of modesty claiming that women who wear skin-baring outfits are attention seekers. That is unfortunate. Women choose their wardrobe based off of varying factors, including functionality, mobility, comfort, pattern, fabric, visual appeal (in the form of cut, style, and appearance on one’s body), trends, emotional state, mental state, sexual appetite, and iconic influence. All of these aspects are okay; because they are all facets of who we are has humans. To assume we are all walking around in short shorts because we are seeking your attention is absolutely absurd. I wear short shorts in spite of external attention, because I enjoy the feeling of sunshine on my legs and the flexibility that they afford me in my active lifestyle. I don’t appreciate the prying eyes, and as I am polite enough to refrain from overtly ogling the bulge your bike shorts highlight, I hold you to the same standard when it comes to my thighs.
4. Furthering Rape Culture
If you have any doubts about how prevalent rape is in our culture, according to a study conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, here in the United States, nearly one in five women say they’ve been sexually assaulted. But almost more frightening than that statistic is the approach our society tends to default to in terms of why a woman has been raped. Too many people throw around terrible phrases like “She was asking for it” or suggest that what a woman was wearing either implied that she wanted the sexual activity so it was okay, or that the coverage of her clothing or its cut caused her rapist to lose control.
This is a huge issue and one of great concern. A woman’s attire may be a reflection of her mood; however, in no circumstance does an outfit signify a woman’s consent to sexual activity. Nor does it signify an invitation. It is our responsibility as individuals to recognize personal boundaries and to respect each other’s wishes when it comes to our bodies and sexuality. Self-control is paramount, and the way to prevent continued rape culture is to teach self-control and respect for all sexes beginning at a young age. It also means teaching the difference between what we see in porn and what we see in real life.