Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Rock, Scissors, Sandpaper
I was shocked when talking to someone about all of this recently. Talking about dress codes and how they are slanted towards girls. Always to girls. Talking about why dress codes are not just an isolated thing. If we were just talking about the inconvenience of a dress code... I would have shut up long ago. Hell, I honestly would have never opened my mouth. What we are talking about is what that means in the larger picture. I was shocked to hear them say, "you seem so angry."
Funny. Perhaps I am. I like to see it as passionate. However, I will concede it is a passion rooted in anger. Why it was so interesting to me is the judgement in the label of anger. Why is anger always "bad?" Anger that sits there is bad. Anger acted out in a way that hurts others is bad. However... anger itself? I do not see it as bad. I think owning our anger and letting it drive us towards positive action is strength. However, I do think that is another gender bias. We feel uncomfortable with fiery women. We do. Their discontentment with the status quo feels like sandpaper somehow. Just rubs us wrong, but we can't tell why.
Sometimes sweet just doesn't cut it. Sometimes you just have to boldly tread. Sometimes you have to stand up to be heard. Sometimes the truth itself is just fiery, that doesn't mean it should not be spoken.
So the truth is we have to acknowledge that clothes do not make people rape. Culture makes people rape. Mental illness makes people rape. Violent tendencies make people rape. Pretty clothes... not even on the radar. So when we say to our girls, or women, "You must (or should) dress in a fashion that does not entice men to react" you have to accept the inevitable outcome of the end of that sentence. The end of that sentence is, "because if men react and you don't like their reaction, you have only yourself to blame." And the inevitable outcome is shame.
Shame on you for wearing heals that did not allow you to run fast enough to out run your attacker. Shame on you for wearing a dress that gave too easy access. Shame on you for ditching the hose that would have created one more barrier. Shame on you for feeling good when you looked in the mirror that night. Shame on you for the strut in your step as you walked down that street. Shame on you for being a woman.
Dress codes are an important conversation because we have to acknowledge that what a women wears (or does not) on her body in no way implies consent. Consent to be ogled, consent to be catcalled, consent to be groped, consent to be raped. So if we can all agree that clothes give no consent, we can agree that what a woman/girl/adolescent chooses to wear has no bearing on much of anything. And if we can finally just agree to that, we can move on to conversations that matter. Like, how is respect for all people taught?
So I don't accept angry entirely, but I do accept fiery. In fact I embrace it. I understand in the process I will rub people wrong and make them uncomfortable. And at times, that is regrettable. Sometimes though you simply need the friction to create a smooth and beautiful finish. Sometimes, you just have to be the sandpaper.
"Feminism isn't about making women stronger. Women are already strong enough. It's about changing the way the world perceives that strength." - G.D. Anderson