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Are we dressing appropriately for an epidemic?

Posted in Life & Love, Relationships, and Women's issues

vagendaskirtI was standing in line at my local supermarket the other day when the man behind me gasped. I looked up from the mag I was browsing, to see what had got his goat.

At the check-out till ahead of us was a young girl – bending over her groceries. Her dress had hoiked up so far, we could see where her sun doth shine.

I just shook my head – thinking, “Seriously girlfriend – at the supermarket” but then I realised she was her school uniform – and she was definitely not wearing regulation panties.

The girl was gorgeous in a Jerry Hall kind of way. Long, lean legs, tousled blonde mane, heavily mascara’d eyes. She would have looked fantastic in a flour sack. Yet here she was a sliver of a school dress. Buying chips and dip and coca cola. And flashing the shoppers.

Her outfit was no accident – she knew what she was doing. She straightened up and looked my neighbour in the eye. From across the display of biltong and chocolate. we could all see her expression: less “come on baby” – more “made you look, made you look” …

Like a child.

The man’s wife – they were both in their 70s said: “Honey, don’t stare”. And he turned away – mortified. Blushing when he realised I had watched the exchange. The woman behind them muttered: “Sis man, you’re old enough to be her granddad”.

There is so much sexual violence in our world at the moment. No country is exempt, every country has its own shame. We place the blame squarely on men. They are the perpetrators. They must stop, they must change, they must learn to control themselves. Where was this girl’s dad? I wouldn’t have made it out of the door with my bits on display – how had she gone out into the world in a dress that was hemmed so high it barely covered her lala? And a school uniform at that, something specifically designed for non-sexual purposes. I recognised the uniform: this girl goes to a school with a strict code of ethics and high expectations of their students. Someone was paying a fortune to get her educated. Someone was clearly missing the obvious.

I want to make something plain before I go any further: Rape is wrong. In any permutation, incarnation or situation. Domestic, stranger, war, spontaneous, gang, relationship, marital, date, woman, man, child, adult: rape is a crime of violence. It’s not about sex. It’s about taking power, it’s about control, and payback, and dominance and devalue. Women and girls bear the brunt of rape – we don’t have the strength of a man: as anyone who as ever had a play-fight with a guy knows only too clearly. Rape has become a weapon of war, a correction, a taking, a right.

There are places in the world where women have no protection – where armed conflict, famine, displacement, religious laws, failed governments and institutionalised misogyny have rendered women powerless. We are not those women – here we have rules of law. We have a constitution. No woman belongs to any man – no man has the right to take from a woman anything she does not wish to give. Every woman has the right to say NO. To be heard and believed. We say it again and again: “No means no, whenever it is said”. There is no confusion in that.

If men still transgress we are able to pursue them to the full extent of the law.

Technically – we are as safe as we can be. Is that why we think: “now we’ve got it we must flaunt it”? Somehow we’ve moved from Emily Pankhurst through Barbarella, Germaine Greer and Women’s Lib and ended up on a stripper pole. I must have missed a few steps – how did burning our bras and sexual emancipation end in ‘getting our slut on’?

It feels like we bravely built an incredible brand: Feminism. Only to set about systematically destroying it by exerting our rights to dress inappropriately.

If we have played any part at all in creating this misconception – what should we be doing to keep ourselves and other women safer? I wonder if this girl and her friends understand that the video honeys and pole vixens of TV go home and put on their sweat pants. That they argue with their husbands and do laundry. That they have children and pets. That they don’t dress like strumpets when they go to the supermarket.

As grownups we understand their role in our sexual politics: they are fantasies. But have we passed on that information? I don’t think so – the globalisation of TV has sold those fantasies to the rest of the world as being a truth of how we live. We’ve become hos and bitches in cyberspace. We’re the Real Housewives of Miami, the Kardashians, Rhianna, the girls of the Hollywood Mansion. We say: “We are emancipated and powerful. We can wear what we want.”  We mean: “You can look – but you better not touch”.

Are we not perpetrating a violence of our own?

I know there is the flip side : if we change our behaviour and cover up – we have allowed men to win. Perhaps – but at least we will not have been harmed. In times of war one has to think strategically. And once balance is achieved – we can set about re-building.

The old man glanced up at me as we shuffled our baskets forward and I saw shame in his eyes. For one tiny little moment he had been caught in the fantasy – and we had nailed him for it.

And I wondered: how was that fair?

(Image copyright Rosea Posey.

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24 Comments

  1. n/a
    n/a

    But she is allowed to wear what she wants… She may be a slut or whatever you would like to call her, but it really is her right to dress how she wants, and frankly, she, or most people for that matter, probably don’t give a damn what you or anyone else think about what they are wearing.

    August 20, 2015
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  2. Why are we, as a society, in such a hurry to have our children grow up so fast? There’s plenty of time for them to be adults! There are many sites that sell age appropriate clothing for girls. This is one of our favorites. Cheers. http://www.twirlygirlshop.com/girls-maxi-dress

    October 27, 2013
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  3. I think the number of above comments by sensible people are testament to the fact that, thankfully, this bare-all mindset is still resisted from many angles in Western culture.

    That said, the youth and youth-nostalgic are heavily encouraged by modern-media glitz, and infinitely more by cyberspace — as you astutely address.

    Though I agree with some above-posters that the make reaction is natural, and that it is fair for attractive females to desire to be desired — I also agree with you that there is a time and a place.

    I’ve done a lot of reading about pornography and culture and have personally tied them to anthropological sexuality. Modern sluttiness is just gratification meeting increased potential. With personal-media sharing capability and “progressive” norms everyone inches closer to willful privacy invasion, and porn-star potential.

    How do we remedy this? Connect the dots. Slow declines into “depravity” occur gradually. First we can send naughty emails. Then naughty texts. Then naughty pics, videos, live-Skypes…

    Show people how far they’ve gone over the edge, as a community. This girl in the supermarket, she’s an example at this distant end of a long line of examples. She’s a child, as you described. Many of us are childish in our naivete. It is never more crucial to observe the history of changes than when they begin to endanger human safety and happiness.

    Thanks for this timely piece.

    May 13, 2013
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  4. Reblogged this on In an Irish Home and commented:
    As the mother of two daughters, this topic is close to my heart. I regularly give my girls the “parental once over” to be sure they don’t head out the door looking like “hoochie coochie” girls. Sometimes my emphatic “upstairs…change!” is met with an “ahh, mom, but this is what all the girls are wearing!” but I pay that no mind. In Ireland, however, it’s not so much what girls wear to school that is the problem: most students have to wear long skirts. The greater concern comes with what they wear to the local discos (dances) and in Dublin that means The Old Wesley Disco (Wezz). High heels, short-shorts or mini-skirts are de rigueur and what kids get up to makes the girl in the super market look positively tame. In part, the problem is role models. Why are we letting the likes of Rhianna and the Kardashians show our daughters how to behave or rather mis-behave? And, since I’m on a roll, when was the last time we looked at our own behaviour? I can’t tell you how many times I see a “yummy mummy” flashing her thong when she bends over to pick something up. I agree with Stephany that the ultimate goal is to raise daughters who feel empowered by their ability to be smart, funny, kind. Turning heads by baring it all cheapens not only the girls we love but girls and women the world over. I really like this blog post because it gets us talking and thinking about our daughters…and our sons…no matter where they are living. Thanks for writing Campari and Sofa!

    May 1, 2013
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    • Since sofagirl wrote this post (that we much debated in advance) I have been thinking a lot about the matter. I believe there is a time and place for provocation – it’s part of exploring our sexuality. Do you remember wearing skimpy clothing at some point in your life? I sure do. But it amazes me that this stage is coming earlier and earlier and I do believe, like you say, that it’s brought on by a process of imitation of the likes of Rhianna or the Kardashians or whomever and it has nothing to do with an awareness of sexuality.Which is when moms like you need to step in.
      I live in Los Angeles and my stepson attended Malibu High. Yes, this is a city where a large portion of the female population refuses to grow old – gracefully or otherwise – and it is not uncommon to see mothers dressed skimpier than their daughters. Humiliating to watch! So, again, you are right – some parents are part of the problem but, all the way from Dublin, you made it pretty clear that we all share the same problems and the world has gotten smaller and smaller. Thanks for sharing. Love your blog by the way

      May 2, 2013
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      • Noorie …. He was shamed in front of people – especially women. By a young girl who had set out to do just that. What if he had been the kind of person who got angry. And in his anger decided to “pay her back”. And followed her and hurt her. Or another woman. My point is that we need to appreciate how our actions impact others.

        May 2, 2013
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  5. Very well said! I’ve no doubt that the young girl was applying shock factor into her display. Then again, none of us know exactly what her motives were and what her life experiences to date have been.

    Regardless, I cannot for the life of me understand why women will “willingly” flaunt their bodies around as if displaying some kind of trophy, and not realise that what they’re showing is not exactly flattering, except if you are indeed super model material. Don’t get me wrong. I believe that if you have it flaunt it, but flaunt it with style, class and with reserved sensibility, and above all, leave something for the imagination!

    Instead, what we now have are some women taking things to the extreme, and dishonouring the very thing women have fought hard for; honour, respect, and to be recognised as a decent human beings with equal opportunities in life.

    These women that apply shock value in public places, don’t understand the damage they create to women’s rights, each time they do that.

    Good piece!

    May 1, 2013
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  6. I read your post last night and I’ve thougth about it frequently today. I think it’s a very well-written piece that addresses a topic that drives me nuts. When a woman or girl dresses in a provocative way (whether she understands what she is doing or not), she most certainly is not sending the message she is powerful and emancipated. No, she has reduced herself to the body parts she is exposing – boobs, butt, “lala” (this made me laugh). No man had to do it for her; she did it all by herself. This, to me, is the antithesis of real feminism. I want my teenage daughter to be comfortable in her skin and confident in her uniqueness as a person and her complete worth as a woman. I don’t ever want her to feel that her only real value is lies in her physical assets and the way she can torque the men around her by the way she dresses.

    Thanks for writing this post. You put into words what I’ve been thinking for a long time.

    May 1, 2013
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  7. She didn’t dress ‘appropriately’. He looked. No damage done. I guess, I’m not very clear what you’re suggesting ……. ?

    April 30, 2013
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  8. Reblogged this on LaughingLife and commented:
    Actions like these (the girl barely covering her wares) totally send me off the cliff, twist my knickers in too tight a knot you cannot imagine. And the poor old man is left shamed and thrown in a pervert box.

    I don’t know a lot about a lot, but I am certain of this however; If you leave a jar full of cookies (pun intended) in the open, reachable and lid open, that 3 year old is definitely going to help herself shamelessly to the damn cookies. Who will be left to blame then?.

    Brilliant and well articulated piece sofagirl.

    April 30, 2013
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    • Thanks Divinemo – and thanks for the reblog.

      May 2, 2013
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    • And if I told you – what would be your intention Jumeirajames? I think this makes my point perfectly.

      May 2, 2013
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      • When young girls stop teasing men and old men stop looking, there would be a problem

        May 2, 2013
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  9. Sounds like a girl who was attention seeking but had anyone gone near her, probably would have run a mile.

    April 30, 2013
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    • I agree. But what if they could run faster, and were stronger and were intent? And didn’t care to hear what she had to say. What would she have done then?

      May 2, 2013
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      • She’d have been in big trouble. I’ve known girls to go out dressed one way and then change on the way or at school. So I don’t think you can necessarily blame anyone for ‘letting’ her go out like that either. From what you’ve said, you have to wonder if she’ll end up learning the hard way.

        May 2, 2013
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  10. silvia
    silvia

    It is very difficult for me to discuss such an important matter in a language that’s not mine. On a pragmatic level of course we can’t go around wearing nothing – I don’t like to use the word decency. But I’m deeply convinced that the war against rape will be won the day a woman could walk around completely naked – if you allow me the metaphor – and no men will consider himself entitled to commit rape.
    I understand and accept that this thought might sound utopian.
    Very inspiring, thanks girls

    April 30, 2013
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  11. I applaud you from over here in Singapore, for writing this. This is so true – over here, girls wear such short shorts (even though it is summer all year round) that even women’s eyes are drawn to them, which straight guy will not? And they do that on public transport and they glare openly at men who dare stare and gossip loudly to each other after..

    April 30, 2013
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  12. Here in Ireland, I notice quite a number of girls` schools enforcing a maxi skirt uniform on the girls. Yes, that`s skirts down to their ankles. Below the knee skirts don`t work: the girls just hoike them up by rolling down the waistband, once out off sight of their parents. Yes, sigh here too

    April 30, 2013
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  13. I think about this everyday too. Sigh.

    April 30, 2013
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  14. Reblogged this on AWAKE NAIJA! and commented:
    I am a major fan of decent dressing and try to abide as well. Though I have my cheeky moments, I do have a rather boyish build which I think lets me get away with things a more curvaceous woman could not. That said, I think you are right. The fact that the law protects us does not mean we should go out of our way to goad men. Of course mere gawping is very different from rape. 2 different things. And I do not believe men rape skimpily clad girls because they can’t control themselves, they do it deliberately to teach a lesson, which is equally wrong cos its just not their place to so do. Good piece.

    April 29, 2013
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  15. This isn’t about rape. This is more about decency, good decision making and common sense. I can’t imagine what this young woman was thinking or why, but the behaviour was rude and inappropriate. Shock value. Unfortunately, our young men and women are raised on it.

    April 29, 2013
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