1sunfight’s Weblog

July 7, 2008

The Current Debate Over Women’s Clothes

Filed under: Daily Observations — Julie P @ 5:14 pm

I am a regular contributor on a blog hosted by the BBC. There are international topics posted for us to discuss and debate. The goal is to bring about a global conversation on subjects that affect us all either directly or indirectly. There was a recent topic that was introduced that got under my skin. It is the next day and I find myself still arguing it. It was not about the topic itself; a woman who was found guilty of exhibitionism for wearing a ‘flimsy’ dress in Turkey, but it was the reaction of many of the contributors, mostly men that has me disturbed.

A number of years ago I read a book by Susan Faludi entitled Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women. Although much of what she discussed in the book are caught in the political framework of the 1980’s, many of the issues that she touched on then are just as relevant today as they were then. In the book Ms. Faludi discussed women’s clothing. In one chapter she discussed what fashion designers believed what is meant to be feminine, to be a woman. In another chapter she went on to discuss Beauty and the Backlash; what struck me then and still does, are the harsh beauty standards that are applied to women. Her observations are as relevant today as they were then because like then, men set the standards for women’s clothing, what is beauty for women, and that men have the right to be harshly critical of the women who subscribe to their artificial standards and the women who choose to ignore them. The debate from yesterday is an extension of Faludi’s positions then.

Many of the comments were rants from the male contributors who believed that women who wear clothing that shows their physiques, be it with plunging neck lines, tight fitting clothing, or fabric that displays a woman’s form were asking for it. By asking for it the men meant that women could be degraded for their choice of clothes, or to be ogled. The men ignored the fact that women are degraded and ogled even when a woman wears clothing that does not emphasize the female physique. I am a woman who chooses to wear clothes that are pretty to me; that are comfortable, practical, and works well in an urban environment. In short, I wear clothes that I am comfortable in and comfortable with and are made for a woman’s body, not a man’s. My favorite clothing choice has remained the same over three decades; I am fond of jeans; jeans that are not skin tight, but form to my curves, different colored t-shirts, matching blazers, and white canvass tennis shoes. There is not a thing sexual about my choice in clothing, yet they are. I was reminded of this on a recent visit to London.

One morning as I left my hotel to walk to Hyde Park in jeans, t-shirt, blazer, and white canvass tennis shoes a lorry drove by. The instant the male driver spotted me he made cat calls, and hung out the window beating his hand on the side of the lorry. I felt very uncomfortable, and harassed. Later in the day I was at Parliament Square taking in the sites when a man took a fancy to me. As I walked by he made an unsolicited comment about my appearance. I choose to ignore him and dashed across the street believing I had put the man behind me. An hour later he met me in front of Big Ben and began carrying on about how beautiful he thought I was. It was embarrassing since he was loud about it. I told him to get a hold of himself; he was making a scene. I escaped without harm, but left feeling grateful that I was not physically assaulted in a very public place. My clothes were in no way sexual, yet these two incidents were a reminder that my female sexuality is a target for any reason, real or imagined, and that men feel they have the right to react anyway they want because are we are asking for it.

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