(a little disclaimer: apologies to transgender and intersex folk, I am not ignoring you, this article is just aimed directly at the social conventions around the prototypical gender roles. It’s regressive and it sucks but that’s life it would seem.)
Spurred on by an internal discussion with myself on the topic of the French ban on burkas etc… I’d like to offer my own perspective on how women, and their clothes, are perceived in society. It’s admittedly a male opinion, but a largely unusual one given the standard of stereotypical male thinking.
On the subject of burkas first of all I must admit I’m a little torn. I rail against the idea of enforced dress codes and uniforms etc… and I’m of the opinion that people should be allowed wear what they want when they want. At the same time, however, I’m vehemently opposed to the further oppression of women at the hands of vicious patriarchies in the form of forcing them to hide their bodies in cloth sacks in order not to inflame the lust of men (alongside clearly hypocritical claims that men are perfect and women are the weak gender).
I find resolution thankfully in the following reasoning: societal interactions are primarily about communication, equality and transparency. It’s impossible to tick any of these boxes when one party is forced (or chooses) to conceal themselves behind clothing. You don’t care if you’re on the phone to someone who is wearing a mask, it doesn’t affect your interaction with them, however if you were in public and speaking to them you would ask them to remove it. You would be expected to remove masks and helmets etc… upon entering most forms of business, for reasons of equality, transparency and unimpeded communication. The same logic applies to forms of traditional ethnic garb that conceal the head and face. It’s no longer a case of “our country, our rules” it’s a case of “modern society, it’s rules”. As such it’s not about oppressing ethnic minorities and their religious or ethnic practices, it’s about demanding equality and transparency from everyone regardless of race or creed.
Related to this, at least in my mind, is the current culture around making determinations about people based on their clothing and primarily women in this case. We live in what many modern feminists call a “slut-shaming” society, the kind where a 13-year-old girl who is viciously abused and gang-raped receives more condemnation for her choice of clothing and her manner than the brutal animals who inflicted such suffering upon her. She, like so many teens of her age (of both sexes) apparently committed the crime of wearing the clothing and manner of someone older than she was and so was apparently “asking” for it.
Let me break it down for you, no one ever asks for sexual assault, it is by definition something that is inflicted against a person’s will. The slut-shaming culture tells us that if a woman is wearing provocative clothing she is inviting comments and advances. This is total bullshit. Granted in certain situations women (just like men) will make an effort to highlight their natural attributes but you have to understand that to be a woman in this modern society (in the west at least) is to have inappropriate comments and advances forced upon you on at least a weekly basis. Even if you happen to be a subjectively unattractive woman you still have to deal with all the inappropriate and insensitive assumptions society makes about you. For a woman to dress provocatively is for her to empower herself. Modern women are given no choice but to be eternally conscious of their image and to dress in a way that makes them feel like a person, even a sexy person (gasp!) is for them to knowingly be forced to suffer increased occurrences of inappropriate advances and comments. But they buck up and they soldier on and damn it but don’t they look fabulous while they do it!
So the next time you see a woman dressed like a “slut” just remember she knew some people would see her that way and she raised her middle finger and said “fuck you, I look awesome and I feel awesome and you can’t ever take that from me!”