We are writing in response to Judi Sutherland's recent article "What Not to Wear."
Her article quotes another article in which Joanna Lumley says " - but don't be sick in the gutter at midnight in a silly dress with no money to get a taxi home, because somebody will take advantage of you, either they'll rape you, or they'll knock you on the head or they'll rob you. Don't look like trash, don't get drunk, don't be sick down your front, don't break your heels and stagger about in the wrong clothes at midnight. This is bad."
Is it really? Maybe in some cases, but you can argue that it has liberating qualities. For how many decades, centuries even, has this been something that men have done? Is it behaviour of respectability? Not exactly. But is it a liberating one? Yes, at times. When you go out and get utterly wasted, it may not be respectable or classy, but the next day you wake up, cringe and smile at a time where you forgot societal ideals and had fun. If we encourage women to live in fear of what might happen we may as well revert to being seen and not heard, as in this article you say "young women, don't act like men because you can't handle the world like men can."
For some, "third wave feminism" isn't about being a "slut", or going out in skimpy outfits to reclaim our bodies. We disrespect no one for how they choose to fashion themselves and have been known to don on occasion some "skimpy shit". Why? Because we can. Because it's provocative for us. We feel provocative, and we like that feeling of not being obedient. Nobody walks around in tiny shorts and a boob tube because they want people groping them. It's because, THEY feel awesome! It is our choice and we will not be bullied into dressing "less provocatively, more demurely".
Are women expected to totter along in heels, giggle politely at a man's jokes, hail a cab slightly tipsy, off to bed before midnight saying thank you to the kind suitor, then write in our journal about how pleasant it would be to court this gentleman? Firstly, modern courtship doesn't happen like that. The beauty of this new wave of feminism is you can get a bit pissed, CHOOSE to fuck a guy you kind of like, OR not fuck him, just swap digits maybe bump into him again. The point is it's up to both parties if that's what they want.
Furthermore, this "slipping decency" idea, that the outfits women wear are enabling this body invasion. It is truly exasperating that we still need to point this out. The research is not ambiguous on this topic; there is no relationship or association between the clothing and likelihood of being raped. So in the face of overwhelming evidence that clothing does not prevent rape or assault, the real question becomes why do people keep suggesting it does? It's due to a sense of self-entitlement shared by men and women alike. Some may be benevolent sexists, who believe that women who dress or act in a certain way deserve what they get. Others may be proponents of the "just world theory", and cling desperately to the idea that there are fundamental differences between people who are victimised and themselves.
Women dressed in the least provocative thing you can imagine are still assaulted - no amount of clothing, a little or a lot, is going to stop someone determined to claim their victim. The argument "why make it any easier for them" is ignorant when we have clothing that covers the full body and people still get hurt. Anyone claiming that "she provoked me by wearing a tiny skirt" is delusional. Sadly, within the society that we live in, where the onus is on the victim to not get raped, it's easy for a rapist to use excuses. That's why better education right from the start for young people on healthy sexual relationships and boundaries is of paramount importance. Perpetuating the myth that rape, abuse or harassment is anything other than the perpetrator's fault is an outright lie. No means no.
We are raised from a young age to think the sexes act in different ways. If we step out of these societal norms we are ridiculed, laughed at, or simply not believed. This is why so much abuse goes unreported, or when it is reported the police don't so much as bat an eyelid, blame it on whatever you were wearing, how drunk you were or whether you were out alone at night. You have every right to go out in "inappropriate" clothes if that's what you want to wear, you have every right to get shitfaced and dance with your friends, you have every right to walk home alone at night without the fear of being sexually assaulted. It is no one's fault but the abusers.
A main issue with this article is that it completely ignores women's intelligence and perhaps even hints at a little ageism to boot. We can understand the worries from some people, when they feel the need to tell younger women and girls to "not get raped". It's not always worded like this, but that's the point that they are trying to get across. Plus, from a parental point of view, it's pretty scary! We get that, the world is a scary place, we know there are dangers, but it's not going to stop us from living. As a generation we do have more freedom, we're not necessarily chained to the same behaviours of our (grand)parents. This does not mean that we do not know what it took to get here, and don't understand where they may be coming from.
We should all be standing up and joining together to stop sexism and misogyny, instead of jumping down one another's throats over "skimpy shit."
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