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Dressing like a skank, redux

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This post is a bit of a follow-on from the earlier post regarding a Macleans article. It was prompted by this comment:

I think this article is ridiculous. Girls should love their bodies, and if that means showing some skin(every now and then), they shouldn;t have to wonder what kind of pervert is going to be staring them down. Girls deal with that no matter how they;re dressed, and to say that dressing like that is “asking for it” is just as ridiculous. No one has the right to tell you how to dress, or the right to take away any innocence you have.

Posted by: Alex | 10 January 2007 at 18:28

Now, for most adults, the response to that comment is probably obvious, and given what the response is, I doubt any young person will actually heed it because it will appear that some old person is ragging on teens, but nevertheless, here it is…

I know that in schools for the last two decades, great effort has been expended blowing sunshine up the arse of children in order to boost their self esteem. We don’t want people to hate themselves because we all know that turns them into mousy wimps who don’t make good adults, and it leads to a variety of future psychological hassles. However, just because Caitlyn Kyootie thinks she is a great person doesn’t change the fact that the society in which we live has rules, and expectations to which Caitlyn is subject… WHETHER SHE LIKES THEM OR NOT.

So what affect does how a person dresses have when they venture out into the real world?

Well, first and foremost, the appearance you present to the world is used as the foundation – the first impression – on which your general treatment will be based. Personality isn’t a factor here. Nobody cares whether or not you Tara loves her body, or John is really a nice lad, because those are things people can’t see and have to learn. So when 17-year-old Caitlyn walks the street in a crop top and camel-toe-tight shorts whose waistline barely covers her pubic mound, showing off her latest tattoos, most people who see her think “whore” or something similar, and react appropriately. When John struts his stuff with a half-shaved, red-dyed head, tattoos down both arms and seven eye brow piercings, most people think “freak” or worse, and react appropriately.

What Caitlyn and John do, by dressing in a certainly way is build a wall that must be overcome before people can see the “true” John and Caitlyn. The onus is not on the rest of the world… for hundreds or thousands of years this is the way society at large has worked. We expect whores to dress in spray-paint-tight pants and little cropped halters. We expect anti-social scumbags to have shaved heads, ugly tattoos, and weird piercings. That someone who dresses like that isn’t a whore or scumbag is wholly irrelevant – the sign that is raised for the world to see is “I’m a whore” or “I’m a scumbag”, so if you want to dress that way because you love your body or want to be edgy, you have to accept the reality of your choice.

Girls should love their bodies, and if that means showing some skin(every now and then), they shouldn;t have to wonder what kind of pervert is going to be staring them down.

Sorry dear Alex, but if you dress like a whore, you should expect perverts to stare you down. In fact, if a girl loves her body and that means showing some skin every now and then, isn’t the purpose of showing the skin expressly for MAKING PEOPLE LOOK? That is what the verb “to show” means… it is a presentation to other people. And when you show off your booty, assuming it is truly worth showing off, then you are trolling for ogling and pervy stares, and leaving a slutty first impression on everyone who doesn’t know you well enough to recognize whether or not you are a cheap strumpet. If you love your body but do not, shall we say, have a traditionally show-off worthy body and dress like that, people look and think you have no taste, as well as being a skank.

The funny thing is, anyone can dress in a way that looks good, and isn’t skanky regardless of their body type, but it takes a certain level of maturity I guess.

Girls deal with that no matter how they;re dressed, and to say that dressing like that is “asking for it” is just as ridiculous.

Indeed, girls deal with ogling even in a burqa, however, why go out of your way to make the ogling worse unless you really like being treated that way?

The previous article did not, incidentally, repeat that old saw that a girl that dresses like a whore is “asking for it”. Traditionally, that statement was used as a justification for rape. No matter how you dress, there is no justification for rape. However, how one dresses is directly asking for a social reaction from the people around. If one dresses like a whore, people will like act as if you are a whore, so one absolutely should expect sexual comments, questionable morals, and so forth. The way one dresses is “asking for it” at least as far as social reaction in concerned, and I am certain that everyone really does know that. Whether they choose to admit it or not is a matter of self-delusion.

Recently, I overhead a group of young people at lunch. There was a young lady there whinging about not being promoted at work. She was out of my direct line of view, so it wasn’t until it was mentioned by another person in my party that I really got a look at her… decked out in her goth gear. Given her age, I can assume that her job was something customer-facing: retail, receptionist, something of that nature. She dresses like a freak, that is almost certainly off-putting to her manager and is DEFINITELY off-putting to customers, ergo, she is not viewed as a good choice for promotion. In simpler terms, the way she dresses probably means she does not work and play well with others. I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that if she lost the piercings, black nail polish and spent more time in business-appropriate clothing, she may well have received that promotion. Instead, because she chooses to dress like a freak, she is going to have to work to overcome the perception of weirdness, and then work harder than everyone else to get a promotion. She has to climb the wall she has built.

To be fair, I saw her in her time off. Maybe she dresses normally at work and isn’t competent enough to get promoted. As a member at large of society, I can’t tell because what I saw was freaky, and I have to make a judgement call based on that.

No one has the right to tell you how to dress, or the right to take away any innocence you have.

That statement is partially correct. There are many places, sanctioned in law, where you can be told directly how to dress either for safety (hard hats at a construction site) or as part of an overall identification as a requirement of a job (a military or police uniform).

Everyone does have the right to tell anyone else how to dress, and everyone else as the right to heed or ignore that advice as they see fit. It is important to remember, though, that as social creatures, we also have rules about how you should dress in many situations. We expect people to wear at least a suit at most formal functions. Although one could show up in her best Christina Aguilera Skanky-Ho 2005 ensemble, such a person would be viewed as lacking social skill, and of poor character. The (presumably) young Alex who wrote that comment is in for a rude awakening as she will be told how to dress over and over again throughout her life, so she better get used to it. More importantly, if she’d learn how to dress herself appropriately, people would probably stop telling her how to dress because they would have the expectation that she wouldn’t have to be told. To put it more simply: If the best you can do to draw fawning attention on yourself is dress like a skank, you’ve set your bar pretty low and the world will react accordingly. It truly is a demonstration of your own personal values and worth.

People who know me know I like to lounge around in sweatpants and a T-shirt. Clean but unshaven. When I go outside, I present a countenance that can scare people or at least creates an image that I’m an unemployed layabout. I know that and I understand that. The fact that I don’t give a shit doesn’t change the fact that some percentage of the people I pass will go home and say “I think I saw a criminal brazenly driving a stolen car” today. When the police officer selects me for a chat because I am waiting at a bus stop that also happens to be near a bank, I know why I was chosen. Is it “fair”? Probably not. Do I bring it on myself (or “ask for it” if you prefer)? Absolutely.

I can’t really comment on the innocence thing beyond an observation that dressing like a $2 whore doesn’t show off your innocence, all it does is show off that you actually do want to be a masturbation fantasy for onlookers.

As I alluded to above, this is probably wasted column space. In my experience, most adults understand this stuff implicitly, and most immature people do not. Let me be absolutely clear:

It’s OK to dress so that you look like a [whatever] if you’re old enough to make that decision… but when you do so, you accept that you want to be treated like one.

If you can make that acceptance, more power to you… dress like the sleaziest slut you can. But if you cannot, then don’t blame anyone but yourself when someone tells you your picture was found on a bathroom floor in some mall. If you find this frankness upsetting or disturbing, too bad. Better to read it here than when your friend tells you about the picture thing.

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