A snarky social media post on the double standards applied to men and women who dress revealingly has apparently struck a nerve with South Africans. The post featuring a photograph of a man in a mesh top by reporter Pontsho Pilane, garnered 2,550 shares and almost 1,000 comments in less than 24 hours. It reads:
How disgusting! Why is he showing us his nipples? Why is he not covered up? I mean, I understand fashion and all that but where is your dignity and pride young man? Guys, how can you expect to find a wife when you treat your body like this? Dress how you want to be addressed, don't look like a stripper and expect to be treated like a CEO. Which woman will marry you? Imagine what will your children think when they see these pictures one day. Please my brothers, I know that fashion is great but where is the self-respect? Your body is a temple, not a tavern or a night club.
The post, which has since been made private, is a commentary on the social media outrage that ensued after another picture, of a woman in a see-through top with her breasts visible, did the rounds last week. The woman, Andiswa Luthuli, told IOL that she was unworried by the negative comments her outfit had elicited, adding "This is my body, I do what I want."
Luthuli was photographed outside of a popular Durban hotspot, Eyadini Umlazi, and her picture posted to its Facebook page, where it soon gained national attention.
A week later, a photograph of another patron -- a man dressed in a similar outfit, posted on the same page, passed with little comment. Pilane seized the opportunity to make her point.
"I remember how annoyed I was last week when I saw the picture of the woman and the [negative] comments that were flying past," says Pilane. "I just rolled my eyes at the policing, the slut-shaming. And then I saw this. It's at the same place, it's literally the same kind of top, and I thought I'm not going to let this go."
So she reposted the picture, along with the sort of comments she had seen made about Luthuli's outfit the week before. The post went viral fast.
It was widely praised for pointing out people's tendency to slut-shame women and to police their dress choices. But there were also those who missed the point and maintained there was nothing wrong with the man's outfit, which Pilane says show that men's bodies are not as sexualised as women's.
At the same time, she says, "some people started policing his body, ironically," which totally misses the point.
"I wanted to show how ridiculous it is to police what men are wearing, and how it's the same when we do it to women but we are so used to doing it to women it feels normal," she says.
Since putting up the post, Pilane has been on the receiving end of much vitriol. "They resorted to slut-shaming me," says Pilane, who has since had people trawling through her personal pictures to comment on outfits she's worn in the past.
"I've gotten ridiculous inboxes like people swearing at me, asking if I'm trying to get a job, or saying I want to screw this guy," she says.
"It shows how easily people become violent towards women. You can say I'm wrong without getting violent and threatening towards me, but it seems violence is the first way to deal with women that people don't agree with," she says.