What Women Wear

Breasts are in the news again.

This time, it’s a photograph that’s the problem. A photograph of a young woman with no top on.

She sent her photo to the man she was dating. He then shared it with colleagues at the school where they both taught.

I say worked, because one of them was fired. The other was not even disciplined. This, despite the basis of the firing being that the teacher had “caused, allowed or otherwise made it possible” for the photo to be shared, and failed to take adequate precautionary measures to prevent the photo being shared. This apparently made it impossible for the teacher to be a role model to the students.

Which of the two teachers do you think was fired? The woman, who shared her photo with her boyfriend? Or the man, who shared his girlfriend’s photo with others? Which one do you think faced no consequences?

It shouldn’t be a hard question to answer.statue-2830702_960_720

Wrong Answers

Time and time again in situations like this, people take some bizarre journey of logic and morals to arrive at destination wrong answer. In this case, the young woman was fired. Because her boyfriend shared a picture of her breasts meant only for his eyes.

But breasts (and skin) keep appearing in the news – with a frequency and fervour that is out of all proportion to their size and style of covering.baby-21167_960_720

If it’s not breasts being used in public for their natural purpose (you know, to funnel nutrition into hungry babies), no matter how discreetly, it is a young woman not wearing a bra and the silhouette of nipples against her modest top being held responsible for boys behaving like apes on heat. If it’s not a private photo of bare breasts shared in trust, and passed on by a sleazy boyfriend, it’s a young woman being blamed for rape because, undies. If it’s not a young woman being told she is too busty to wear a top that touches her breasts, it’s women having their hijabs ripped of their heads by violent, hatred-filled men.

There’s this about a little girl in kindergarten whose attire had offended some over-sensitive soul’s eyes and morals. Her sartorial crime? To wear a summer dress with spaghetti straps that revealed her shoulders. Her shoulders. The problem was not a practical one, that she might get sun-burnt.  No, this five year old was told she had to keep her shoulders ‘private’. Because, you know… skin?

And this from 2015. In another kindergarten, in another town, another 5 year old was punished for the temerity of showing her shoulders.

Now, okay, I know shoulders aren’t breasts, and five year olds don’t have breasts anyway, but they’re pretty close by geographically. This kind of morality-monitoring on 5 year olds is only the beginning of what girls and women experience lifelong from self-appointed clothing-police.

Like this. Not even shoulders this time, but underwear. In Ireland, a man was acquitted of rape in part because of the defence arguing that the 17 year-old victim had been wearing a lacy thong.

woman-1987808_960_720And this, from 2017, when a teenager was told the outfit she was wearing was a violation of the school’s dress code because… well, it leaves me baffled why, but the teacher’s objection was that the girl was too “busty” to wear a long-sleeved, loose-bodied gypsy-style top. Correct me if I’m wrong, but when a body has parts that protrude even a little, anything said body is draped in is going to cling to said protrusions. Is the poor girl supposed to put some kind of metal frame inside her clothes to make sure the fabric never touches her? Or wear something so voluminous it looks like she is wearing robes, Gilead style? Like burkahs that so many westerners like to scream about Muslim women wearing?

And just today, I saw this about a school that thinks it’s a good idea to share classic art with children after having taken a black marker pen to all the naked bits apparently children should not know exist. Imagine the Mona Lisa with a thick black stripe swiped across that daring couple of inches between throat and dress neckline.

Everyone has Nipples

Last year, this about a student who had received a dressing-down from her school principal due to a dress code violation when she had dressed down for school. The violation? Not wearing a bra. A bunch of teenage boys giggling over not being able to see a bra strap through layers of clothing, then craning to cop a glimpse of a hint of nipple beneath her long, baggy shirt was considered her fault.

You know, everybody has nipples. Men too. They are for feeding babies (not men’s). They are sensitised little pleasure zones and uncalibrated temperature gauges that react to friction against fabric (bras don’t stop or even hide that) or to the cold. Men’s too. I’ve seen plenty of male nipples embossed against men’s shirts and sweaters, but I’m yet to hear men harangued for not wearing a bra.

I’d expected to at least find that the girl’s dress code violation was a specific and reasonable rule she had broken. But no. The school management reprimanded her under a coverall clause that states students clothing must not distract other students from their learning. So just like the teacher being fired for her sleazy boyfriend’s shitty actions, the shitty actions of sleazy teenage boys was made the girl’s crime.

Policing What Women Wear

Meanwhile, many people in many countries call for burkahs to be banned. Women get attacked for wearing the hijab. In Austria, Belgium, Cameroon, Chad, France, Italy, Netherlands, Niger, Republic of Congo, Spain, Switzerland and Turkey and the UK, and Belgium, woman are banned from wearing clothes that covers skin. By people who get incensed about countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia who ban women from wearing clothes that dares to reveal skin.

Those bans are on the full burqa, under the guise of being concerns for security or for women’s freedom to choose what they wear. Oh, the irony.

Policing what women wear, or don’t wear, is the kind of behaviour that creates people who think men either don’t have to or can’t take responsibility for how they behave towards women – women, incidentally, are often dismissed as over-emotional and hormonal. Ironic. I can’t think of anything more over-emotional and hormonal than men who can’t control their sexual desires within the bounds of respect and consent and permission.

Policing women’s clothing is the kind of behaviour that creates men who think they can touch who they want, how they want and when they want.

It is the kind of behaviour that creates people who blame rape on clothing choices rather than rapists.

whatwomenwear1And I am sick of it. I’m sick of the army of the morally outraged, flinging weapons of blame and repulsion at the female body and anyone who has the temerity to live in one without shame or clothe it the way they see fit. It is patently obvious that unwelcome sexual behaviours towards women have nothing to do with the clothes we wear (If you remain unconvinced, have a look at this exhibition from Belgium of the outfits worn by rape victims).

None of these behaviours are solved by forcing women into wearing a bra, or covering up shoulders, or eschewing lacy g-strings. All it does is foster beliefs that women are the problem, women’s bodies are the problem, and men just can’t control themselves.

I’ve got news for you. Men can control themselves just fine when they choose. And if they can’t, or won’t, then blame them, hold them to account, punish them for their own actions. Stop blaming the women.

It’s time to burn our bras (unless, of course, you want to wear them) and bury nipple-nobbling, breast-bashing, skin-shaming dress codes in the smouldering ashes.

 

46 thoughts on “What Women Wear

  1. HE should have been fired for being a dumbass. Sorry, probably not the right grounds, but good grief. She clearly trusted the man she was dating and it’s sad that this happened…I don’t know what the right answer is–and maybe there isn’t one. He violated her; and her trust by sharing the photo that was meant for HIS eyes only. As for the clothing, I agree with you. I wear lined bras because I am ALWAYS cold and don’t want my nipples always visible…my husband says “so what”…they’re nipples…everyone has them; it’s hot–exactly what I’m NOT looking for, right?! I go with my comfort, and that’s what matters, but it is sad we have to worry about things like this because we know that most men who see those cold, hard nipple shadows are either going to be snapping a photo with their phone and sharing it or making some crude remark.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sometimes, the strategy of an eye for an eye works. If the woman was violated for sharing her intimate photo, why not do the same to that guy? I know a friend who did it, and got her revenge. It works. And she gain power.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Why not? Because it’s a really shitty thing to do to anyone, and taking revenge is a crap solution or excuse for behaving badly.

      Like

  3. In this day and age, we really should have evolved past this kind of stupidity and instead it feels like we’re going backwards. Women are part of it too. I was with a “friend” once and we saw a group of college girls walking home from most likely a bar at 1:30 in the morning. Great, all being responsible, nobody looked staggeringly intoxicated, in a group. All great choices, by my perception. One happened to be wearing shorts, and they were fairly short. Not like daisy dukes, they actually looked good on her and pretty “normal” really. This friend comments and says, she’s just asking to be raped with those clothes. This one upset me on a variety of levels. One, her clothes were normal, in my opinion. Two, she really was being responsible, as I talked about earlier. Three, nobody asks for or deserves to be raped or assaulted in any way. Victim blaming is just not ok either, especially when she was taking proper precautions walking home that night. The comment on asking to be raped was said by a woman, I might add. Which is why I get upset at that. Women should be empowering and supporting each other, not making comments like that. Men should be teaching boys how to respect and treat women. In the US, so many people blast Muslims and how the women dress, yet it seems like we’re only a step or two away from that kind of oppression. I’m glad you wrote this because it is an issue that deserves attention.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Great post on a sadly recurring issue in today’s society. I hate that when I have to feed my daughter in public (even covered) I get horrible looks.
        As a mom who is udderly frustrated that she refuses a bottle even at 9 months old. Those people make me feel worse. Yes, let me just let her starve and cry. 🙄🙄🙄

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Some people are awful about breast-feeding mothers and babies in public. They need to learn to keep their eyes to themselves.

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  4. Having worked in human rights-based projects, I find it sad to read that a young woman got fired because of sth she did in the private sphere and was meant to remain private. And that the young man she was dating has violated her trust and her right to personal safety only to be praised.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I sometimes wonder whether we have really evolved as a generation or are we moving backwards. Why the moral policing on girls when the boys are going scot-free. Great post because you dare to protest.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. As a teacher who must (as terms of her employment) enforce the school board approved dress code (one that I had no part in designing), I can see both sides of the school dress code debate. Many students (both male and female) do not think they need to follow the rules (I deal with 14 year olds, not 5 year olds) and argue when told their outfit doesn’t meet the standards. Our main issues are holes (above the knee) in jeans and super short shorts. I often wish we would just go to uniforms to make it easier. And honestly, I usually don’t notice what a kid is wearing unless he or she is being annoying or obnoxious.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have no problems with dress codes per se – I’m a teacher too and know how kids love to push against the boundaries!

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  7. Such a double standard in our society. It’s a disgrace that the clothes women wear can mean that they are “asking for it” but we all know clothes aren’t the problem. It is too deeply ingrained in our society to the point that some women even shame other women for the clothes they wear! It’s sick!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. It annoys me that girls and women are conditioned and cultured and trained to accept crap from men and still forcefully accept responsibilities for their (men) actions.

    And while I haven’t paid much attention to it, I have never felt comfortable with the fact that women are expected to dress a certain way (to avoid “seducing” men) while not so much is expected from the men.
    It seems like everything we are trained to do from childhood is in some way for the men (to be good wives, to please them in some way, to not tempt or seduce them etc), thus we raise boys who become men who can’t take responsibilities for their lives and actions.

    Bottom line is parents should also focus their time and attention on training and teaching their boys.

    Women should not be held responsible for the actions of men.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Excellent post. It’s a shame that we still have such a two-faced opinion of what boys and girls wear. It’s to our shame that we fault women and young girls for these things and we don’t hold men responsible for what they do. It shouldn’t be one-sided and biased.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Each and every person has control over their own actions. No excuses. Your post speaks to a societal problem where people do not take responsibility for their own actions and instead make excuses for poor behavior. It is time we shift our thinking back to personal responsibility.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I remember hearing that story on the news not long ago about the male and female teacher. I couldn’t believe the female was fired. I never heard the story about the girl not wearing a bra. I can’t believe what this world is coming too.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Great post, Trish. It is ridiculous that the female teacher was sacked. The only thing she did wrong was to trust her so-called boyfriend. Big lesson there and it’s not to do with her lack of clothing. And those young five-year-old girls are being taught that their bodies are shameful and that it will be their fault if people look at them in the wrong way. It’s pretty disgusting that in 2019 a woman or girl’s choice of clothing is still being blamed for the lack of self-control some men have.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I wished more women would come forward and share views openly like this. There is never an excuse for men to behave inappropriately or to suggest what we should or shouldn’t wear in the modern age. Our laws in many places really need to be totally rewritten to make men far more accountable for their actions.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Teaching is a key way of changing attitudes like this – both men and women need to do better at teaching their sons how to behave, and their daughters not to tolerate men’s bad behaviour.

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  14. Bravo for posting this. As a man and father of daughters it’s shameful to see these stories of men blaming women for the fact that they have no control. Where we live in the states we have seen schools be very strict on the dress code for girls and lax for boys. Shoulders should be a cause of concern when my kids schools do t have air conditioning and they are going to school into late June. I agree 100% with all of what you’re saying.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve noticed that too – dress codes for boys do have some oddly narrow expectations sometimes, they are generally far more lax

      Like

  15. You would think in this century we would be past all of this bullcrap. It is so sad that women are still being blamed for men’s ignorance. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

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