“From 2000-2019, the FBI reported an average of 91,770 sexual assaults in the United States. The true number is likely much, much higher. In fact, the Bureau of Justice Statistics estimated that an average of 355,569 sexual assaults occurred during that time frame.”
Many times you hear you’re not allowed to wear specific clothing because it’s “ too distracting” or “too revealing” or “ too provocative.” You might think this is about not being able to wear what we want, although we should be able to because we have the right to wear what we choose. The real issue and what I believe in is that girls’ clothing shouldn’t be used as an excuse to justify sexual assault and harassment, objectifying or misogynistic commentary about women.
When we look at what we wear — that being shorts, a skirt, tank tops, crop tops, ripped jeans, a dress — those are all clothing that will reveal some skin. That’s not an invitation for people to sexualize, objectify or assault us. What is worn is worn for comfort or just because we want to look good. So what, now we’re not even allowed to wear tank tops and shorts for the summer because it makes others uncomfortable? Or because it’s too hard to stop their temptations? The problem with this is it leads to depression, low self-esteem, eating disorders and more. To add, an article in the The Eagle Eye says “Younger girls, especially in warm states like Florida, wear short-sleeved shirts and shorts so they feel comfortable in the heat. Incorporating strict dress codes can cause self-consciousness about their bodies at an early age and can have sexualizing effects on girls. ‘Dress code enforces gender stereotypes that women ‘distract boys’ with their clothing,’ a WUSA9 article written by Madeline Cuddihy in 2018 states. Additionally, telling a girl to cover up her natural body shape because it’s ‘distracting’ encourages body dysmorphia.”
Furthermore, when we give justification for things like sexual assault and harassment, it also gives justification to psychological trauma. Not to mention, this allows for the real issue to go ignored. Sexual harassment isn’t a thing of clearness; it’s about aggression and manipulation and most importantly, abuse of power. Men or anyone who sexually harasses others abuse their “power;” they think a green light has been given to them that allows them to cause harm. When we allow those who cause this type of harm, we are giving them the empowerment to continue; we’re telling them that it’s ok. Studies show that “Out of every 1,000 sexual assaults 995 perpetrators will walk free … only 230 of those sexual assaults are reported to law enforcement.” When the offender can walk free and receive no punishment, women get more scared and feel they need to stay quiet because the message portrayed to them is that there will be no punishment for the abuser. This allows for an exceedingly large amount of sexual harassment cases to become normalized. To add, an article states “An exclusive survey conducted for The Independent found 55 percent of men believed that ‘the more revealing the clothes a woman wears, the more likely it is that she will be harassed or assaulted.’” If more and more people continue to share this ideology, soon enough everyone will start to believe
It and more perpetrators will be allowed to walk free.
On the other hand, people say girls should learn about what to and not wear to fend off from the backlash. Many also think that the reason for sexual assault/harassment is due to what the person is wearing. The truth about this is that clothing has nothing to do with it, an article from The Washington Post says: “A Federal Commission on Crime of Violence Study found that just 4.4 percent of all reported rapes involved ‘provocative behavior’ on the part of the victim. It also found that most convicted rapists could not remember what their victims were wearing. Studies show that women with passive personalities, who tend to dress in layers, long pants and sleeves, and high necklines, are actually more likely to be raped. In one study, 1 in 3 college men said that they would force someone to have sex if they could get away with it, and that has nothing to do with clothing.” When we talk about sexual assault cases, people first ask about what the victim was found wearing. They try to pinpoint what just happened and say it was because of their clothing. When people try to normalize sexual assault/harassment, the message spread is that “it’s ok;” it’s not ok to hurt someone and cause them so much physical and most importantly, mental and emotional damage.
Instead of feeling the need to teach girls what they shouldn’t wear, how about we teach boys to learn to respect women? Let’s teach them that they shouldn’t look at us in weird ways and sexualize us. At the end of the day, it’s not even about the clothing; it’s just part of their morals to hurt others I guess and it’s being justified. An article from The Washington Post says “Despite the fact that 9 percent of sexual assault victims are young men, we don’t insist that they dress differently. We don’t warn young men not to tempt their teachers with their bare biceps, knees, or other body parts. We don’t warn young men not to be a distraction to their female classmates, or regulate whether they can wear shorts in the summer to school.” This isn’t about stopping boys from wearing whatever they want because we aren’t allowed to. It’s about breaking gender stereotypes that are part of the reason that allows for sexual assault issues to go ignored. What’s the difference with them being able to show the same body parts as us girls? If they feel uncomfortable that we wear shorts or show our shoulders, then let’s enforce the same rules for them. At the end of the day, we should not normalize being objectified or harassed for what we wear. Our clothes aren’t some statement that allows for the backlash; it’s simply clothing we wear for ourselves. If we feel comfortable wearing shorts, what’s the problem? No one is telling anyone to look or take actions they want, and if they do, let’s not justify it and scold us by saying “well … you know what you shouldn’t wear.” Instead, let’s spread awareness about the issues and try to change the way people will act towards women.