By Sammy Allouba Last week in her National Post article, Robyn Urback asked the question “What part of ‘don’t show your underwear’ is oppressive and sexist?” Well, Robyn, the truth is … none of it. There is absolutely nothing oppressive and sexist about being modest and respecting basic dress codes, especially in educational institutions. But when you’re an ideologue with an axe to grind, suddenly everything becomes oppressive and sexist. I don’t mean you specifically, Robyn. I’m speaking in general terms.
The quote you included from Lauren Strapagiel—in which she says, “What this tells young girls is that their bodies … are a threat. … That their bodies are offensive”—seems to imply that girls can do whatever they want, whenever they want, without having to worry about rules and regulations. I think the larger issue here, for me at least, is how this degrades young girls and teaches them not to have any self-respect. I find it ironic, given that feminism is supposed to be about empowering girls and women. How exactly do you empower someone by telling them to behave like a child?
Strapagiel seems to be forgetting a common-sense guideline that you wrote about in your article: dressing appropriately for one’s environment. I’d also like to add that a person’s body language is equally as important as the way they dress, and subsequently, the way they present themselves will tell the world about how they view themselves. If you choose to wear a business suit or dress, walk tall, and are well groomed, people will look at you with high regard because you are clearly demonstrating that you care about your appearance. However, if you are the sort of person who dresses sloppily and wears runners all of the time and you walk with a bit of a waddle, sorry to say it, folks, but people won’t think too highly of you even if you think it’s unfair. We are programmed to react differently to those we deem to be successful, and how you dress affects those perceptions. The story is no different for young boys and girls. Boys who wear their pants low or girls who wear their skirts high will be viewed in a less than favourable light.
I also think that this topic ties into the larger issue of rape. What follows is written in a very unapologetic manner, and I’d like to preface it by saying that absolutely no one ever deserves, asks, or begs to be raped. If someone rapes you, then they are at fault and should most certainly be punished to the fullest extent of the law, provided that the necessary evidence is available when a case goes to trial. However, there are steps that people can take to minimize their chances of being the victim of a violent crime. It’s not that dressing in a provocative manner is in and of itself the cause of rape. That’s not it at all, so don’t misunderstand me. But when a predator is on the prowl for prey, that predator will select the prey that looks to be the most vulnerable. Factors that can contribute to that vulnerability include the way someone dresses because, again, it tells that predator how its prey wants to be seen. I know. It’s not pretty. It’s extremely unfair and downright aggravating, to say the least. But that’s the way our brains function.
Telling girls especially that they don’t need to adjust their dress to suit their environment isn’t empowering. It’s actually quite insulting and, dare I say it, misogynistic. Teaching someone to be a child rather than a responsible, mature adult doesn’t do them any favours. We hold boys, however, to a higher standard. We tell young boys to pull their pants up or not to wear gang symbols. We expect them to grow up into “respectable young men,” yet, according to Strapagiel’s words, young girls should be free to do as they please and show off their bodies and be liberal with themselves. Girls shouldn’t be ashamed of their bodies, and as the old adage goes, “If you’ve got it, flaunt it.” If a grown woman wants to dress in a manner that shows off her body, that’s her choice, and, I hope, she understands what her dressing in a certain manner means to the outside world, even if she claims not to care what other people will think of her. I would not grant this same kind of freedom to a teenaged girl, however, because she is still learning about the world and about how people interact with each other. Also, before someone screams “double standard,” yes, I would absolutely hold teenaged boys to the same standard. This kind of reasoning applies to both sexes.
If I ever have kids, I will raise them to be respectable people and teach them good moral values. That includes respecting themselves so that they will in turn be respected by the people around them. If you want to get anywhere in life, you will have to care, to some extent, about how other people view you because it will affect your future.