It was nighttime when I pulled out my favorite dress to wear. There was no special occasion; it just made me feel gorgeous. Nevertheless, I was experiencing an all too familiar nagging feeling as I examined the material. The dress was cut so as to expose the back, and was short in length. Years of training myself to fight against rape culture and slut shaming, and my vivid remembrances of being sexually assaulted no matter what I wore did not stop me from putting the dress back and choosing something else to put on.
Let’s clarify for a moment here: clothes don’t cause rape; rapists do, and they search for vulnerability. I know this. However, the messages I, as well as I believe many other women are taught are the former message instead of the latter truth. At least for me, that conditioning stuck. Also, not only is the societal standard against women putting on certain types of clothes considered as revealing by some associated with rape culture, but it is also connected with other parts of women’s lives. The advice given to women by one law firm was an implication that their cleavage should not be shown due to their attire as this would lead to less significance being placed upon what they say. Even women who work in a place associated with prestige, then, find themselves combating a restriction that places more emphasis on what they wear rather than the job they do.
So, why is it that women choosing to cover their bodies find themselves facing consternation as well? Women who want to wear a burka find themselves unable to do so as this type of clothing has been banned in various regions.
Women are thereby taught that they should reveal their bodies, but only by a specific amount that is, at the same, not clearly defined. There is no way to fulfill such a contradictory and fluid expectation, so women become chastised no matter what they wear.
The double standards don’t end there. Women are told to put on makeup that makes them look more like what society considers as natural, such as a “nude” concealer that assumes that the humans are always white, or skin illuminators, which make people appear lighter. Nevertheless, if women wear green lipstick to actually express themselves, their makeup may be considered as odd. Also, bodily matters aside, women are advised not to speak in certain settings such as church, as seen in an depiction of Google searches. Then, women are critiqued for not raising their voices and letting their needs be heard in the workplace.
Clearly, this contradictory regulation towards women needs to change — the rules certainly aren’t helping women; they’re hindering them.
What double standards have you seen applied to women?