It’s not new to state that everyone is a bad feminist. No matter how empowered, vocal and disciplined you are in your words and actions, culture impedes; anti-feminist behaviours ensue.
This applies to myself in ways in which I agree and disagree with. I’m a bad feminist because I shave my legs (I’ll agree, and I don’t care.) I’m a bad feminist because I will possibly take my future husbands’ last name (I disagree; a motion for a separate post that I may never write, because again, I don’t care.) I’m a bad feminist because I sometimes judge other woman negatively for the way they dress and behave (I completely agree, and this is what I want to talk about.)
A couple of girlfriends and I managed to catch last call at a bar after work a few nights ago. We work in a very conservative establishment with some pretty averagely misogynistic coworkers who we listen to disparagingly as they make sexist remarks towards women. Remarks that they find hilarious and we see as obvious put-downs simply because they know deep down that that woman would never sleep with them. Regardless, they think they are harmless and it’s the norm. They aren’t wrong about the normal bit; it is the restaurant industry. My point being: our work place pretends to be stuffy and proper, whilst we are constantly being reminded that dressing with much skin showing means douchey men are going to make crude comments either to your face or to someone else about how you look like a slut.
The bar in which we sought our nightcaps was much more . . . low key (but undoubtedly contained its own everyday misogynists, possibly more.) The servers wore their own clothes and we’d laughingly noticed a trend that they all seemed to be wearing dresses resembling oversized men’s shirts and no pants. One particular dress was so short we kept trying to convince ourselves she must have shorts on underneath. I actually thought it was a super cute dress. Personally, I wouldn’t wear it and would have felt really uncomfortable in something that short, especially at work.
We had a brief discussion about the clothing choice in which one of my friends remarked it was “outrageous,” and the other said it was “slutty.” These are two friends who I see as strong, smart and kind. I don’t think they meant to be mean or hurtful, and that lovely server would never know anything was said. I’m sure a defense would be, “We said her outfit was slutty, we didn’t say she was slutty.”
This is one of those moments where two days later I finally collected my thoughts and now want to go back and say how I really feel about that situation. I don’t have time machine, so I’m writing it here instead:
These kinds of comments promote rape culture. I’m aware it sounds like a bit of an exaggeration, but hear me out. We know one of the prime arguments in rape cases is, “She was asking for it.” This could be because of where she was, how she was dancing, because she kissed him, but most often it’s because of what she was wearing. I KNOW you would agree that what you wear never constitutes excusing rape. Nothing excuses rape. Yet when we use terms regarding sexuality and sexual promiscuity to describe someone’s clothing style or the way they look, we are also saying the reverse of that is true: someone’s clothing or style is a plausible representation of their sexuality and determiner of promiscuity. More so, it’s saying that female sexual promiscuity and admittance of such is something to be ashamed of. Let me be clear, clothing choice is not an admittance of sexual promiscuity; fashion is fashion. Sex is sex. Even if that lovely server was looking for flirtatious advances from other people through her choice in clothing, it still says absolutely nothing about her level of sexual activity. She still isn’t asking for it. So why are we using language about sexual promiscuity to describe fashion?
Here’s what we really don’t want to acknowledge: it’s rape culture that gave us those terms. It’s rape culture that tells us a woman’s sexual promiscuity is shameful. It’s our patriarchal culture that determines how much leg is acceptable to show.
Even the eyes of a feminist woman is wearing shades tinted with misogyny. And don’t you dare feel bad about it! Not for one minute! Whether you are a man or a woman; whether you agree with the term “feminist” or prefer to say “gender equality” because it comes with less baggage; whether it’s a really important issue for you, or whether you could care less, take a second to consider where your “slutty” commentary is coming from and why you are choosing to put down women and our sexuality just to vocalize your opinion about someone else’s clothing or behaviour. It’s none of your fucking business anyway.