"Let’s change the conversation currently steeped in the negativism of “cover yourself” to “you are capable of so much more than being looked at” and positive, powerful outcomes will follow."
I reached a milestone in my late twenties: this weekend, I wore a bikini two days in a row.
That may be nothing to some, but to me, it was a lot. I have agonized over what I look like, especially in the summertime, for as long as I can remember. As I age and my body comes along for the ride, I feel like covering up more and more of my bod. And I wanted to figure this out.
Is it because I'm ashamed of how I look? Am I worried about what others will think? Well, all of those things. I was raised to believe that it was my job to be modest, so boys wouldn't have impure thoughts about me. When I went to church, we dressed in our best all the time. Although I wasn't a member of a church that asked for all women to wear a permanent skirt, there was an expectation of modesty. Cover it up. Even when I was baptized, I had to wear a giant t-shirt over my swimsuit. My one-piece kid swimsuit. The thought of that is rather disturbing. But figuring out where I get this knee-jerk reaction of constantly wanting to wear a king-size sheet over myself beautifully collided with reading this incredible article yesterday about modesty.
Let's start with the obvious. I used to subscribe to modesty standards simply because I was paranoid about sexual assault. You are taught as a girl that what you wear matters when it comes to being sexually violated. Victim blaming is the norm and you're given a checklist of "safety" items in high school gym class of what not to do. "Wear loose-fitting clothes when going out at night."
This is disturbing as it insinuates that rape and sexual assaults are about sex. Just as long as you don't wear anything that turns another person on, you're safe. If this were true, burqas would work as a barrier against sexual assault. Not true.
Many dress codes in schools and church require women to wear a certain length of shorts/skirts and have tight policies against baring too much shoulder. They want to protect young boys who may have impure thoughts about these legs and shoulders (really? shoulders?). Not only does this begin to teach young girls that their bodies are dirty and used only for sex, but it also proposes that these bodies of young girls can control young boy's minds. Let's chew on that for a second.
If this were true, if we were able to control boy's minds with girl's bodies by covering up said girl's bodies, boys would never have an "impure" thought for the rest of their life, until a bare knee walks across their innocent paths. This insinuates that boys don't think about women until they have girl skin in their face.
Not only does this propose that women aren't sexually attracted to men, but it also allows men to do and think however they want, because they are men. Well, they're boys so they're allowed to be dogs and think of women as nothing but sexual objects.
No. You don't get off that easy.
It's your choice to think of women as nothing but sexual objects. And sadly, we are all taught and accept that this is just "who boys are," uncontrollable hound dogs just always, constantly, looking for a bone.
Is that really what we think of men? Is that all we ask of them?
Bare shoulders don't awaken the sexual demon in men. They choose that. And so do women that lust over men that get to go shirtless at the beach (gasp! scandal!). We are all humans capable of choice and decision and objectifying any member of the opposite sex reduces them to an object, by choice. You can accept a body as a beautiful thing. You can be attracted to that thing. But it's not in your DNA to act like a perverted oversexed animal. Please.
Which brings me to a sticky point. Since when were bodies just nothing but bodies used for sex? Aren't we more than the bodies we are in? And don't we use our bodies, all parts, for so many other things? My body walks, hikes, runs, swims, sleeps, eats, dances. It wears so many different things: swimsuits, dresses, baggy sweatpants, sweatshirts, tank tops, shorts, short shorts. Wearing small things on that body is just one option. Sex is one function on that list.
But it's not everything. It's not all I'm capable of. There is more to me than this body, and my sexuality, how I choose to express my sexuality, has nothing to do with what I wear. I am so much more comfortable in my skin now that I don't have to worry that my bikini is turning on the world of men.
It's not about what I'm wearing, it's about someone else thinking they are allowed to feel a certain way about my body. There is some ownership here. They think they're allowed, entitled, to comment on my body, to look at my body, to feel sexually attracted to my body. How does that have anything to do with me? I'm reduced to an object. And objects aren't people: they are ready for manipulation, ownership and sometimes abuse. When we disconnect humanity with body, it can be a dangerous thing. But it's a choice, always.
So if the population of the world decides to reduce me to a sexual object, the one thing that won't matter is what I'm wearing. What's important is being in control of your body: what you wear, how you wear it and what you do with it should be your choice, always. If it did matter, getting catcalled in teacher pants at the grocery would never ever happen.
And, finally, a part of all this is how women treat each other and treat themselves. Someone, somewhere in history successfully convinced all women in the world that they are ugly, in need of millions of dollars in beauty products. But at the very same time, we crucify ourselves AND each other for not looking perfect, calling people we don't like ugly, fat, hoe, "why does she think she can wear that? instead of focusing on meaningful goals. I'm guilty. I obsess over pimples, outfits for special occasions, what my hair looks like on my morning commute. But if I didn't have that to worry about, what else could I actually be focusing on? I could get a lot more crosswords done in all the time I spend agonizing over my pot belly. Truth.
Let's be kind to ourselves, to each other, start dressing for ourselves, and actually hold men accountable for being idiots. All men aren't pigs and all women don't have to be insecure disasters. I believe.