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is it okay: to slut shame?

When a group of professional women raise hemlines and lower necklines when they go out on a Saturday night, they are “letting the team down”. If two women decide to make out in order to impress a man, they are bowing to societal expectations. Allowing women to fight on the front line is not a symbol of equality, it is suggesting that we should aspire to a masculine ideal rather than searching for a middle ground, or entirely new values and responsibilities.

These were just some of the ideas that came up when I attended a discussion on‘raunch culture a few weeks back. About twenty men and women of all ages and background sat in a circle, patiently waiting their turns to weigh in on the conversation. No one got angry, nothing was resolved and out of an interesting (and confusing) night came three main points of contention, which I’ll be covering in my next few columns.

Is dressing how you want to, and acting in whatever way you choose a symbol of empowerment? The views were divided. Women publicly making out with other women “in order to impress men” on the surface may seem like a clear, screaming “NO!”. Indeed, one woman stated how it was clever that a mysterious ‘they’ had managed to turn feminism around on its own head, making a new form of ‘rebellion’ and autonomy actually into its own new form of submission. However, another woman put forward that it actually provided a ‘safe’ zone for women not yet comfortable with their own homosexuality to experiment without having to come out’ and that she viewed it as a valuable opportunity for some.

I think in a lot of ways it is arrogant to judge or shame people for how they choose to dress and act. I’ll freely admit that in the past this is something I’ve been guilty of, and from time to time, still am. It’s a hard habit to break. However, taking a step back, women who overtly try to impress men through their looks are easy targets, and it’s not okay.

One man in the discussion said that he went out with a group of female co-workers one night, and was very sad to see that they were dressed in short skirts, lots of make-up, and generally looked like a pictorial definition of “on the prowl”. I can see how this can make people uncomfortable, and be seen as, in his own words, “letting the team down”, but in order to condemn women for acting this way, we need to believe one of two things; either these people are not entitled to their own beliefs on how they should be allowed to act, or that their views are the result of societal brainwashing.

While it can be argued that pretty much all behaviour is learned and thus a result of societal brainwashing, in this case I think it is a skewed view. To argue that a large chunk of women are suffering under a mass delusion of perceived empowerment when in reality they are actually being subdued by a malevolent “they”, is laughable. Furthermore, it raises issues about where lines should be drawn. Are you submissive if you wear makeup? A dress? Pink? Should men and women dress exactly the same in matching grey overalls? While yes, this is simplified, it feeds into another issue of equality: women shouldn’t be aspiring to be men, they should be aspiring to equal rights and autonomy over what that entails.

If it’s the idea that what these women believe about how they should act is simply wrong, then that brings a whole host of issues into play. Who has the right to dictate that what someone else chooses to do is wrong? While some choices are clearly not good ones, namely issues of legality or deciding to down an entire bottle of vodka by yourself, what consenting adults decide is appropriate for themselves shouldn’t be something up for general scorn.

It’s not okay to tell people what religion they should follow, who they should date, what they should have for breakfast and what bedspread they should buy – but apparently it’s alright to judge a girl passing by in a mini skirt. What?

(Image credit: 1.)

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