I recently read a piece by a fellow feminist that got me thinking about the different ways different individuals feel empowered. And, in turn, whether or not certain people view those differences in a positive or negative light. I’m taking this opportunity to further the discourse surrounding the topic of “appropriate clothing” and emphasize that I respect the other voices contributing to this important conversation, even if they differ from my own. This is simply one opinion.
I encourage everyone, no matter where they fall on the gender spectrum, to feel comfortable in wearing whatever it is that makes them feel empowered. And if what empowers them is feeling sexy, then they should wear something that makes them feel sexy. Women in particular are often simply operating within the system we’ve been given, and this is a system in which women are taught to value beauty and sexuality. It’s also a system where women don’t have many points of access to power; but sexuality is one of them. Anyone who is offended by women’s clothing choices needs to keep that in mind. We don’t need more people using our clothing as a way to police us; we need more people who are committed to practicing respect.
Societal expectations are the enemy, not the women who operate within the system those expectations have created. And the reason some people are so uncomfortable with/offended by certain styles of clothes stems from the fact that the female body is hypersexualized. The act of sexualization happens in the eye of the beholder. But placing the responsibility of not being sexualized on the person being sexualized can be compared to victim blaming. I have even found myself changing outfit after outfit in an effort to avoid anything that could possibly offend anyone else.
This is all similar to how celebrities are somehow held to this standard of “role model” even though their only true job should be their career. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely celebrities in the music industry that are being objectified. But there are also a lot (*cough cough Beyonce, cough Nicki Minaj*) who are calling their own shots. They are dressing the way they are and singing about what they want because they 1) have the power to control the moves they make in their careers and 2) are comfortable in their sexuality. To say that women like these two are bad for feminism not only diminishes their credibility, but also denies them of their sexual agency.
Sexual empowerment and objectification differ in the aspect of who holds the power. If you find yourself dressing a certain away and, upon further introspection, realize you’re dressing that way to meet some standard or cater to the male gaze, then that might warrant a change in behavior. But if you are dressing the way you are because it makes you feel good and you don’t give a shit about what anyone else has to say about it, then CARRY ON. It’s not anyone’s responsibility to repress their sexuality in order to keep jerks at bay.
As a final reminder: If you do not feel comfortable/empowered wearing a particular article of clothing, then by all means, please omit that item from your wardrobe. After all, we should dress for ourselves, not the expectations of others. It’s important to live consciously and not perpetuate societal flaws when they come into view. But it’s also important to encourage support, agency, and nonjudgemental ideals, and to be confident in your sexuality, wherever on the spectrum it may fall.
Featured image here.