My mother recently wrote an article in the Daily Mail addressing how she raised me and my 15-year-old sister to be respectable and kind towards other women and wear whatever clothes we feel comfortable in.
The article got a lot of mixed attention. Young people were praising her for allowing us to wear the clothes we want without feeling ashamed of our bodies. The older generation were, unfortunately, not so kind. With the article's popularity, it sparked a Loose Women appearance and many other adjoining articles about her controversial parenting techniques. I knew that the article would gain negative attention, but I didn't think it would be to this degree.
As I read through the comments of the articles I couldn't help but laugh, mainly because of how completely untrue they all were and how little they knew about me, my sister and my mum. Many accused my mum of "raising her children to become whores" and told me that I should "gain some class and self respect." All because I wore a grey dress, that showed my cleavage, to Top Model UK's finalists catwalk show. Many of the people who commented on the article seemed to disregard the context in which I wore that dress. Of course, I wouldn't wear it on a daily basis. Know why? Because I wouldn't feel comfortable doing it. But for that particular event wearing that particular dress, I felt and looked amazing. And I looked amazing FOR ME. Not for anyone else, despite what some people were saying.
What I also found interesting was the fact that some people seemed to forget that there is more than one message to teach your child. Many commenters on the article said "This mother is teaching her daughters the wrong message. She should teach them to be confident about their personality, their intelligence and their talents." Wrongfully thinking that she only teaches us to be comfortable with our bodies and what we wear.
Well, let me tell you this.
My mum brought me up to not be negatively judgemental towards anyone. She taught me to be confident in everything I do no matter what anybody says. She taught me to value my independence and how my introverted personality is something to be celebrated, not shunned.
I can go even further to tell you my mum helped me with study techniques when I was taking my GCSEs. She taught me to use colours and mind maps to cater to my visual learning which helped me gain mostly As and Bs in my exams. She taught me how to always strive to achieve the best I could, and we would always discuss ways I could improve my grades. She helped me choose which academic subjects to take as A Levels and drove me up and down the country to visit as many universities as possible while supporting my creative degree choice.
And I can go even further to say that she helped me write my first novel 'Never Mind My Thigh Gap'. And guess what? We have three more novels planned to write together.
If thats not teaching me the value of my personality, intelligence and talents, I don't know what is.
I can deal with the negative comments because I know the message that my mum is saying is right: women shouldn't body shame other women and parents should not talk negatively about other women's bodies in front of their children.
I shouldn't be told to "get some self respect" just because I chose to wear a short skirt on that particular day. I do respect myself thank you very much, and just because I am wearing something short or tight does not mean I am asking to get raped. Nobody asks for that.
I want to applaud the students sitting behind me in the audience of Loose Women for saying "girls and women should be able to wear whatever they want. We should teach boys not to look at women as sexual objects." Because they are right. We should stop sexualising the female body, especially girls underage, no matter what they are wearing.
Thankfully, I am comfortable enough in my body to wear whatever clothing I like, and that doesn't just include short skirts and tight dresses. I am just as comfortable and confident wearing boyfriend jeans and a baggy top.
As women, we need to stop making other women and girls feel ashamed about what they wear. A woman wearing revealing clothing has nothing to do with her self respect or her intelligence. We cannot teach the value of female empowerment then shun girls for wearing things that make them feel empowered.
If a woman wants to wear short skirts and crop tops, let her.
If a woman wants to wear long sleeves and baggy jeans, then let her.
Because we can do, and wear, whatever the hell we want.