The Sexuality of Dress Codes

CBC reported a group of feminists in a New Brunswick school trying to banish a local dress code. The article bore the sub-headline “Women should be able to dress in whatever manner they like and expect not to be harassed.” Something felt off about this claim, so I decided to go deeper.

 

Within the video it is pointed out that popular media informs young girls to buy into certain types of fashion, and then when they do they are punished (presumably by the dress code). Likewise, it is said in the video that mainstream culture is “hyper-sexualising” women, a claim I agree with.

 

However, instead of celebrating a school that is fighting to protect the values of women by enforcing a non hyper-sexualized dress code, they blame the school!

 

If this New Brunswick school is acting in direct contrast to this hyper-sexualising media why are we not overjoyed that someone is standing up for our women? Instead of attacking the media which turns women into objects, they are attacking the school that is trying to undo the damage that has been done.

 

The whole operation is backwards.

 

The argument I draw from this video goes as such: I am upset because the media is destroying the image of women in society and informing young girls how to dress; therefore, I have every right to dress exactly like that and you can’t tell me otherwise.

 

The logic is flabbergasting, yet it is there, plain to see.

 

Another girl of only fourteen made some excellent points in a video I recently encountered on Facebook. It is a tragedy that men treat women like objects at school, in the workplace, in marriages, in families. The way men are taught to be men is in need of refurbishing, of renewal. However, her claim that girls in schools are forced to dress modestly just so boys aren’t distracted is misleading and untrue, even if some teachers say that.

 

I know that many people will happily endorse these girls because they see young women demanding their rights and sticking it to “the man,” quite literally. They will endorse phrases like: “you can’t tell a woman to cover up, you have to address the men who are sexualizing women.” Or, “women should be able to dress in whatever manner they like and expect not to be harassed or not be sexualized, not be abused.”

 

There is some truth in these claims, all the while sidled up with a sense of personal rights blown way out of proportion.

 

What about the repercussions of this infantile method of thinking and acting in society? Since when is the claim that “I can do whatever I want, if you’re effected that’s your issue,” a good solution to any problem? Is the end of this type of reasoning unclear? Isn’t it just as possible for a man to say, “I have sexual needs and I’ll express them as I please, if that offends you that’s your problem.” The statement is egotistical, juvenile, and a method of thinking which suffocates love until it no longer exists.

 

Are we going to allow these girls to believe that dress codes sexualise women?

The video and the text below, in the New Brunswick article, make completely contradictory claims: women baring themselves in the media sexualizes women and telling women to cover up in a school sexualizes women. Well which is it? It cannot be both. Unless it is being suggested that influencing a women to do anything is sexualisation, but surely that cannot be the case.

 

The idea is not founded in any meaningful basis.

 

Our sexuality is inherited from our bodies, from our physicality, not from the clothing we wear. It would be far better to inform our daughters, sons, sisters, and brothers that their body is integrated within an inherent sexuality which effects the people around them. This sexuality, whether we like it or not, is going to have an influence on how people treat us. It is a fact of being a human being. If we are living in reality, we will admit this truth and react maturely.

 

The clothing we wear alters how others interpret our sexuality.

 

Let me make one thing clear before I continue. I am not, in any way, shape, or form saying women are to blame for instances of sexual abuse, harassment, or rape. If you take that from what I’ve said, you’ve misunderstood me. What I am arguing for is a world in which we realise that our bodies, in as much as we are beings with a sexual capacity, hold a certain intrinsic power or attractive capacity. To pretend that this does not exist is to walk blindly into all kinds of suffering.

 

The bikini does not exist because it is practical.

 


The clothing we wear greatly alters not only how others perceive us but also how we perceive ourselves. If the clothing we wear treats the body like an object to be flaunted and displayed, then what responsibility have we taken to treat ourselves as person and not object?

 

What occurs in the media is absolutely besides the point. Schools and parents should teach men and women to dress according to their dignity as human beings who are not objects. If you want to tell me that the schools treat men and women differently, I can sympathise with that. But this nonsense that dress codes sexualise women, forget that. This nonsense that “I can do what I like, and I its irrelevant how it affects you,” that’s poison.

 

No society can survive with people who think like that.

 

There are two responsible parties here: men and women.

 

Men have the immutable responsibility to treat women as persons worthy of dignity and respect, just as much as women have the responsibility to treat themselves in the same way. How could it be any different?

 

Men have a lot of work to do to clean up their act; why not help them along? Every advancement in humanity involves, at all times, men and women simultaneously. When people dress like sex objects it makes it all the more difficult for those who see them to come to deep and lasting realisation that other is always person, and never object.

 

If the media gives examples of hyper-sexualised women, is it unreasonable to ask women to give a daily example of the opposite? What will we be lead by, the media and popularity which flaunt skin over dignity, or our internal sense of inalienable self-worth?

 

It cannot be both, and our clothing choices speak to which we have chosen.

 

The claim that men can’t treat women like objects while asserting that women have the right to dress like objects if they so please has already lost its credibility.

 

Any feminism which doesn’t demand of itself the same standards it demands of men is no feminism at all, for it doesn’t want what is truly best for women.

 

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