Tuesday, June 25, 2013

What your clothing "says" about you

Lately, in my internet sphere, there has been this kind of "war" about modesty. There are those who say modesty is important because it shows self-respect and keeps a man from having sexual thoughts about you - and there are those who say that modesty is all well and good, but doing it for the sake of others' is not the right way to go about it.

I think you can guess by now that I'm clearly in the second camp. I wrote about it last year here. You should also check out this great post by another Mormon feminist here; this one is responding to a video that's been making the rounds by Jessica Rey, creator of a "modest" swimsuit line.

One comment the above blog post ("To Every One That Believeth." Not my blog.) was something about what we were "says" something to everyone around us.

Actually, what she said was this:

Of course, I replied something snarky and said she must be exhausted all of the time from "evaluating" and "assessing" people. Although, I truly believe that this lifestyle does sound exhausting. You're already running errands, working, going to school, and trying to have fun - so while you're doing that, you're also turning your head every way to look at people, see what they're wearing, and judge them based on something as shallow as their clothing? 

The idea that a person "says" something with their clothing comes from pure commercialization. When you shop at Urban Outfitters, you're saying you're quirky and a hipster. When you shop at American Eagle, you're saying that you're preppy. But who decides that? The stores do. The commercials do. The commercials convince you that you need to represent yourself a certain way, specifically their way. And that way, you aren't going from store to store finding items that you like, but you're staying at one store and spending all of your money there. They've got you hooked. 

And are we really "saying" something with our clothes when we all shop at the same prescribed stores anyway? A store produces thousands, millions of the same exact item every time it creates a new piece of clothing. The chances of you running into someone wearing the same shirt as you is actually pretty high. So why do we think that we're "saying" anything unique with our clothing when we clearly have very little say in it anyway? 

Lastly, this is such an unreliable method to get to a decision anyway. Most of the time when you judge someone based on their clothing choices, you are wrong. What about the athletes who sexually assault women? The businessmen who embezzle? In my high school, a group of about 20 of the good-grade-honors-students-teachers'-favorites-athletes-who-got-into-good-colleges weren't allowed to walk at graduation because they got drunk on their way to prom and assaulted a police officer. Last week in the grocery store, despite the fact that my hair was a mess and I was wearing my cleaning clothes (and a wedding ring), I got hit on when I didn't want to. Most of the time when you try to "interpret" someone's clothing, you're going to get it wrong. 

From there, it's a slippery slope into victim blaming. That woman was wearing a low cut shirt and short skirt, which we all know means that she's "saying" she wants sex, so isn't it her fault that someone decided to "listen" to her clothing and not her words? Doesn't that make it her fault she was raped? 

No. It never does. Never ever ever. 

The same thing applies to women in bikinis. This woman, and many other champions of "modesty," are presuming that a woman who wears a bikini is doing it for the sexual attention she will attract. What we should be doing is thinking that maybe a woman in a bikini is wearing it because that is what she is most comfortable in, and she really doesn't care who looks at her. It's a cliche, but there's also that expression that we don't wear makeup for men, but for ourselves. Same thing with bikinis. 

Honestly, I really feel a lot of pity for this woman who posted the above comment. (Of course, I am judging her without meeting her and that's wrong, but ...) I can imagine that she is the type of woman who wakes up two hours before the crack of dawn because she can't stand to leave her house without her make up and hair done. And while many may think "oh, she's showing respect for those around her," really, she's just very insecure about herself. 

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