Every week, it seems, I see headlines about something awful on the news. TV headlines are outrageous, Reddit headlines are outrageous… heck, even Facebook headlines are outrageous! It leaves me with a sense of helplessness. What can I, personally, do against kidnappings, murder, violence, and terrorist attacks? Whenever I see these headlines, I’m filled with a sense of unsettled silence. A heavy sadness. A ruined peace that leaves me crushed for the rest of the day.
But there are certain headlines, and certain comments on the internet, that just make me mad. And violations of women’s rights, especially when it comes to the way she looks or dresses, fit that bill.
Today, I was browsing through some posts on an online forum (a forum, dare I mention, made up mostly of women discussing everything from weddings to home ownership, to careers and a lack of desire of kids, to babies and travel) when I came across a post written by a distraught woman whose fiance called her “ugly” for lounging around the house on a weekend. Most of the responses to the post were encouraging: encouraging her to talk to him about his comment and how it made her feel, encouraging her to stand up for herself, encouraging her to not let his rude comment dictate her life.
All except for one response. One woman stood up from the crowd and asked, “well? What are you wearing/doing/saying when he says this?” She continued to state that while her fiance should have said it more tactfully, he has the right to voice his displeasure if she’s dressed in a way that displeases him or is “visually unappealing” to him.
My jaw dropped to the floor. I’ve seen women shamed over what they wear before, particularly rape victims who are asked if what they’re wearing provoked the man to attack them and even my sister, who was called a street hooker by a family member for wearing a tank top in the summertime, but women shamed by other women? Women given the blame for something hurtful that someone else said?
No one, male or female, should ever be made to feel shameful for the way they choose to dress themselves. If I’m sitting on the couch in a tank top and sweatpants on the weekend with a pile of dishes in the sink and my hair greasy from a workout, you better bet your bottom dollar that my husband will whisk into the living room, look at me with that cute smile of his, and call me the most beautiful woman to ever walk the earth. You better bet he would never shame me for wearing something he didn’t especially like … or call me “ugly” for wearing a ratty t-shirt and dirty grey sweatpants.
When you love someone, you don’t treat them like crap. You don’t purposefully say things to tear them down. It doesn’t only support rape culture and make the receiver of these comments feel sad. There are so many other reasons why it’s hurtful to shame people for what they wear … including causing the shamed person to experience psychological damage (my sister suffered and still suffers from anorexia because of this).
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we shouldn’t shame other human beings (even those we don’t love or don’t know) and tear them down, or point the finger at them and say, “well, what were you wearing? Surely YOU did something to provoke the other person. SURELY you’re at fault. Men (and women) can’t help themselves and should be able to speak and act freely, and YOU let them do it by your own choices.”
Come on, people. Are we really that afraid to take responsibility for our actions? That woman who was raped? It wasn’t because she was wearing a skirt that was a little too short. Could the man (or woman) who raped her truly not help himself because the skirt was an inch shorter than usual? If it had been down to her knees, would s/he have gone, “yeah, okay, I respect her now, she’s cool.” What about this woman? If she’d just looked a little nicer, with some eyeliner and perfect hair, would her fiance have respected her enough to not call her ugly? Would the poster have then been on her side?
Here’s what I think . If you want to wear something, do! I don’t care if it’s because it makes you feel beautiful or sexy, or if it’s because it’s comfortable, or just because you liked the way it looked! You should never have to feel compelled to explain why you chose to wear something. Just wear it, and love every second of it!
Want to know a secret? I love wearing low cut t-shirts. They’re comfortable, cute, and complement my body type. Coming from a person who stands in front of the mirror every morning and struggles to accept her body because of what society pummels me with daily, via magazines, websites, and movies, low cut t-shirts make me feel pretty and chic. No one should have the right to tell me that I’m ugly or asking for something I didn’t consent to because I decided I wanted to feel good about myself today.
We all live in this world together, this world with terrible headlines and awful people. Let’s at least try to treat each other like human beings with feelings and not perpetuate the finger-pointing-shame-game when, honestly, we should be far past this point and working on the cure to cancer or the key to world peace.