This post starts out about fashion, but quickly become about something much deeper and much more personal. I wrote this several weeks ago and have been waiting to post it. Now feels like the right time. In lieu of the tragedies that have been happening - and the misogyny that has cultivated them - we need feminism more than ever. I need feminism for a lot of reasons. But one reason in particular is because I'm so incredibly tired of women being told that they were "asking for it."
I hope you'll read this, and join me in my fight to end misogyny and rape culture.
I love fashion.
I love shoes (cowboy boots, super high heels, running shoes, I love them all!).
I love dresses and crop tops and blue jeans and tutus and jumpsuits
Fashion is fun, and I think it’s a wonderful medium of self-expression. The way you dress can say so much about your personality; it’s an incredible way to bring your inner fabulousness out for the world to see.
Of course, fashion also has its downsides.
If, for example, you wear “the wrong fashion,” you may be on the receiving end of negative attention. If you wear clothes that “aren’t right for your body,” you may be subject to rude comments or sideways glances. If you wear a skirt that is “too short,” a dress that shows “too much cleavage,” or heels that are “too high,” well, you might be told it’s your own fault when someone catcalls or sexually assaults you.
This is all such bullshit.
There’s no such thing as wrong fashion.
There’s no such thing as clothes that aren’t right for your body.
And there’s absolutely no way in hell that anything you put on your body makes you responsible for someone’s else’s actions.
And yet, every day a girl is made fun of for wearing something her peers deem “ugly.” Every day a young woman is told that she shouldn’t wear leggings or crop tops or skinny jeans, because she’s not a size 2. And all too frequently, women – and what they’re wearing - are blamed for the horrendous things that are done to them.
Far too often I hear – whether via social media, news outlets, even people I’ve met and know – that the girl/woman was “asking for it.”
Asking to be groped?
Asking to be assaulted?
Asking to be raped?
Yeah fucking right.
I know, from personal experience, how damaging the idea that girls are "asking for" any sort of attention from men can be. When I was taken advantage of one night in college, a night I didn't say no, but I also didn't say yes, I was told I was asking for it. I'd been in his room on my own accord. I'd had a few drinks. I knew him. That - in nearly everyone's opinion that I confided in - meant that I'd invited his advances. When I moved back to Texas after a rough breakup just over a year ago, I got a job serving tables at a restaurant that required very little clothes. When a customer slapped my ass, I was told promptly - by he and his friends - that I was asking for it. I was half-naked. I'd chosen to work at that particular establishment. That - in everyone's opinion - meant that I deserved to be touched without consent. These are only a few of the times I've been blamed for the things that have been done to me. Things that shouldn't happen to anyone, but do happen to most woman.
It's fucked up. And it fucked me up for a long time. It destroyed my self-worth. It annihilated my self-confidence. It led to countless instances of men taking advantage of me. But I refuse to let it continue. So let me set there record straight:
If I’m asking for anything I’ll straight up ASK you, loudly and joyously – THAT’S what consent is. Not silence. Not a yes spoken out of fear. Not a drunken yes. Not semi-consciousness. My wardrobe isn’t an invitation. My inebriation isn’t consensus. My decision to go, be, do anything is not permission to invade, touch, or abuse my body in any way, shape, or form.
And yet, girls everywhere are being taught that, if they conduct themselves properly, wear more conservative outfits, don’t stay out too late, don’t drink too much, etc., then they are far less likely to find themselves in dangerous situations.
Okay, fine. Only staying out until 7 pm is safer than partying until 2 am. Having a glass of water is probably safer than having two beers. And wearing sweatpants will garner less attention than wearing a mini dress (maybe).
But what kind of message does that send women – young and old alike?
Live our lives constantly catering to fear?
Give in to the fact that people want to rape us? Stop standing up for ourselves? Stop fighting against rapists and perverts, and let this ridiculous and terrifying inequality continue?
How about we teach men (and women) that raping someone is WRONG. How about we put the pressure on the people who deserve it – not the victims or potential victims.
Instead of telling women not to wear short skirts, we need to tell the whole world that women are not sexual objects. We are not playthings. We are not Barbie dolls or your baby or your honey or your shorty. We aren’t walking down the street for you to shout at us, leer at us, or antagonize us. We aren’t here for your pleasure or your entertainment.
I refuse to let society and rape culture force me to live in fear.
I do take the necessary steps to avoid danger – I carry pepper spray, I try not to walk alone at night, I don't take open drinks from strangers, and I always look out for my ladies. Even the fact that I have to make these concessions gets me worked up and angry. But I’m also not stupid. I’ll do what I have to in order to stay safe, but I will not give in. I will make concessions, but I will not stop fighting.
I’ll wear my thigh high black boots, my tight black dress, and my fuchsia lipstick, but I’ll walk with my girls on well-lit streets.
I’ll have that second or third glass of wine, but I’ll make sure it’s somewhere I feel safe and that I have a designated driver.
Unfortunately, there are certain measures women must take to retain even a basic level of safety. But we can make an effort to put the pressure and the blame where it belongs in this society – not on our dresses or our cleavage, but on the people responsible for making us feel endangered, uneasy, and unsafe. And maybe, one day, I won’t have to walk through parking lots with my car keys between my knuckles and my cellphone screen ready to dial 9-11. Maybe, one day, girls won't have to share the same sorts of stories that I shared above (and that I've heard shared by so many other women). They'll have their own stories about consent, respect, self-love, and living in a world without rape. It's a long shot, but it's something I work toward every single day.
** I’m writing from the prospective of a straight, white woman, who has experience with a particular type of stereotypes/aggressors/etc. I just want to express that my views and opinions and experiences are not everyone’s, but that rape and victim blaming do not discriminate based on sex, gender, race, background, career, etc.