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Posted: February 17th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Column | No Comments »

No, this is not a fashion post. It’s a brief thought about women’s right to wear whatever the hell they want without fear of being victimised because of it.

My teenage daughter often complains about the inappropriate attention she gets from men, and I jokingly advised her to get a shalwar kameez and a burka to forestall the gazes of men. She sternly corrected me: “No, Mother, we need to build a society in which a woman can wear whatever she wants without being harassed by men.”

She’s completely right, of course.

Chris Rock has this bit about the clothing women wear, something to the effect of, if I see a policeman I can identify him by his uniform; a woman dressed in skimpy clothes should know that she’s wearing a slut’s uniform, so she shouldn’t be surprised when people mistake her for a slut. I understand his point: we take visual cues from the way people carry themselves and the clothes they wear, and, whether we want to admit it or not, our clothing is a kind of badge and a part of our nonverbal communication. And, yes, I think there’s such a thing as inappropriate clothing. Given what we know about the way society has been constructed and the way women’s oppression works, sometimes wearing revealing clothing is like painting a bull’s eye on our vaginas.

But I still agree with my daughter. Women should have the right to wear whatever they want, regardless of how ill-advised the outfit is.

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