Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Naked Truth

Why does it matter how we dress?

As a teacher, the issue of clothing rears its ugly head far too often. Thankfully, I am no longer in the UK, and don't have to deal with the endless disputes over school uniform.

Even so, there are problems which some people think we should address about what students should wear. In particular, it would seem that the garb of teenage girls causes the greatest controversy.

Only in a male dominated society could you find a situation where women have limits on how much skin they should expose, then failing to comply means that they are inviting sexual advances from men. In other words, girls, if you wear a spaghetti-strap top, then you have announced that you want men to leer at you, or worse.

So here are some 'truths' as I see them.

1. If a male can't look at a female without feeling overwhelmed by lust - just because he can see some skin - then he has a serious problem and should be seeking help. The female should have no problems at all about this.

2. There is a real paradox. Women are supposed to want to look attractive, so should dress in a way that men will enjoy, but women should be attractive without appearing too sexy. So short shorts? mini skirts? skimpy tops? They are all manufactured, marketed and sold, but we aren't supposed to actually wear them.

3. Men are allowed to take their tops off when they get hot, and run around just wearing shorts. It is assumed that even if women look and letch, they still won't touch. Should a woman wear a skimpy top, she has given carte blanche to any man to rape her, and what is more she deserved it because she was showing some skin.

4. If women wear too much clothing, they are told that they appear dowdy or frumpy. We should show some skin, just not too much. How much is the right amount varies dramatically. We're damned if we do and damned if we don't.

5. Society is so concerned about the way that women dress, even TV aimed at pre-schoolers has to censor what women wear. Really? Do 4 year olds get damaged by seeing a woman wear a skirt that ends above the knee?

There are so many rules about what is and isn't acceptable that it is impossible to explain them clearly. Obviously, men also have social mores to abide by, but they receive less condemnation about showing a little skin than women do.

So here's my two pence worth: Wear what you like.
I wish that I could advocate that you can walk down the street naked. You would be doing no harm. Sadly, though, you would get arrested. I try not to think about it too much, but just to get on with my life and wear what I want. I try to be oblivious to the judgement of others, and not to judge them. For now, I won't be telling teenage girls to cover their shoulders. I'm not brave enough to stage a protest by turning up to work naked, but I would applaud anyone who did.

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