One time, when I was still in college, a good friend of mine started losing her shit about the way other women were dressed.
Let’s call her Alice, for that sake of clarity. This is how the conversation went down:
Alice: I’m so PISSED OFF about the way other women are dressed when they attend classes. Aren’t they here to learn!? They have shorts hiked up so far I can see their ass.
Me: Yeah, that’s true.
Alice: And I don’t see how the guys can concentrate, with these women parading around like that. I get so angry when they dress like that around my boyfriend, I can’t see straight.
Me: Maybe your boyfriend shouldn’t gawk at other women in front of you.
Alice: What are you talking about? He can’t help it when they’re dressed like that.
Me: Well, he sees them, just like you and I do, but if he’s totally leering at them in a way that you you notice and are upset by, then he’s being an asshole.
Alice: You aren’t mad about the way these women dress? You don’t think there should be rules about how we dress on campus?
Me: Not really.
Alice: I don’t believe that. You couldn’t possibly be that big a saint.
She’s right, I’m not. Sure, I occasionally felt mildly threatened when girls wiggled their barely-covered butts in front of my boyfriends, but not enough that I wanted to make rules about it.
You see, there will always be billions of women around, so you’re much better off choosing a guy you can trust than trying to control the behavior of everyone else on the planet.
Worrying about other women’s clothing choices will put you in a prison of your own making. You don’t control it, so you will only end up feeling powerless and frustrated.
You know what you do control? Putting up with a rude boyfriend. If he’s overtly leering at women in front of you, or worse, comparing you to them, kick that guy to the curb. Problem solved.
Jumping on the women-need-to-cover-up bandwagon is a dangerous option. When you think about it, places where they control how women dress tend to be places that strictly control women’s freedoms in general.
Who gets to control what “modest” means? There was a time when showing an ankle, or even hinting that you have legs at all was scandalous.
Try running around parts of the Middle East, where having a stray lock of hair fall in your face could mean a whipping administered by the morality police.
“Immodesty” is a moving target. Demanding that skirts fall to the knee makes a skirt falling one inch above the knee titillating. It just keeps going until suddenly you’re walking around with a black sheet covering your entire body.
Ir’s also a double standard. Supposedly, some women want each other to dress more modestly because they want to be respected as much as men,.
This may be true in certain settings, like the office, where men also won’t be taken seriously while wearing chaps. But outside the boardroom, we need to quit holding women to different standards.
Men can run around in anything, even take their shirts off all day without anyone batting an eye. No one sexually assaults them then blames it on the irresistible temptation brought about by them showing off their bodies.
“Yes, but men are different than women,” people think, “Men are visually-oriented and provoking their powerful lust with scanty outfits will make them so crazed with desire that they just won’t be able to help themselves. Women aren’t nearly that sexually motivated.”
Alright, fine. Let’s just go with that, for the sake of argument, and say that while women could give a crap about how men are dressed, the male sex drive is so powerful that women are partly to blame for sexual assault by provoking it with their sexy outfits.
By that logic, a man who is raped by a homosexual should then be partly to blame if he dressed immodestly. A man’s sex drive is overwhelming and visually-oriented, right? He just can’t help himself if he sees half-naked, attractive, potential erection-recipients, yes?
Yet somehow, I doubt the “You shouldn’t have dressed like that” judgement has ever been leveled at any man, ever, in the history of humankind. And somehow, gay men can keep from raping other men, no matter how they are dressed, despite the overwhelming godlike power that is the male sex drive.
This whole fixation on female clothing choices is yet another way people remove sexual responsibility from men and cast it straight at women’s freedoms. It all falls into the tired category of needing to be protected and controlled “for our own good.”
This is bullshit.
If some guy doesn’t like it, if he sees it as an invitation to molest my body without consequences, then that’s his problem. Men who believe they are entitled to have sex with a woman just because she is attractive have a criminal sense of entitlement, and women should not have to cater to it.
Besides, scantily-clad friends can be useful, if you know how to handle them.
I once had a friend, let’s call her “Sara,” who used to hit on every guy I ever dated. Any time a guy showed interest and we got to talking, the next time Sara showed up, she would be dressed like a hooker baring her double D’s. Sometimes she would even call the men up and invite them out to ice cream, her treat.
My first gut response was an angry one, a instinct that told me to keep prospective dates away from her. Clearly, she was very competitive with other women and didn’t mind being predatory over her friends’ boyfriends, just to prove something to herself.
But after giving the matter a little thought, I realized she was actually an incredibly effective screening device. For what could be shittier than getting involved with some guy, getting super attached, then having your heart break after finding out he’s screwing other women? Who comes back from that unscathed?
I started making a point to bring prospective boyfriends around Sara. I wasn’t emotionally invested yet, and there are, as they say, a million fish in the sea. Why not bring them around a friend of mine who would absolutely throw herself at them and see who to toss?
A guy who was trying to date me, after all, would be trying to impress me far more than he would once he was comfortable. If I couldn’t trust him not to flirt with one of my best friends right in front of me, then he’s a horrible bet. If he was willing to dig into one of my friends, then I obviously would never be able to let him out of my sight in any potential relationship. Better to see how he responds to this kind of bait now than have my heart broken in the future.
And you want to know something strange? When my attitude changed, the whole dynamic changed right along with it. When a guy looked at me to see how I was handling Sara’s behavior, I would just blink and shrug.
I would’t get all jealous and worked up because I wasn’t about to even bother with some dude that tried to play my friends off me. I definitely wasn’t about to blow up his ego by starting a cat fight.
When they saw that I wasn’t upset, I was surprised by how quickly these prospective boyfriends became even more interested. It’s so easy to get women fighting each other over men that they were impressed when I didn’t.
It’s called “confidence.”
This wasn’t my strategy all along, I just didn’t want to waste my time on unreliable men than I couldn’t trust as far as I could throw them. But the net result was learning that an ounce of confidence is worth more than a pound of cleavage.
And I’m hoping I can share that lesson with some other women who are twisting themselves sideways over someone’s low-cut shirt or thigh-highs.
Don’t worry about that crap, ladies. Don’t give away your power just because some assholes want to blame crass behavior on a woman’s clothing choices.
If he respects you, he can, and will, ignore other women, no matter how they are dressed. If he doesn’t, then move on. He’s not the last goddamned man on the planet.