Slut-shaming and why it isn’t fetch at all

I know exactly what you might be thinking right about now: “what does slut-shaming have to do with fashion?” – and you’re raising a fairly good point here. Slut-shaming as a subject doesn’t usually focus on clothes per se (it more frequently underlines the lack thereof, to be honest). I mean yes, I could talk about exceptionally plunging neckline dresses or your standard Coachella hot pants. However, I’ve decided to write about leggings – garments that cover the entirety of the leg but yet appear to be controversial in some schools.

Feminism 101 blogs define slut-shaming as “the idea of shaming and/or attacking a woman or a girl for being sexual, having one or more sexual partners, acknowledging sexual feelings, and/or acting on sexual feelings.” This therefore means that women who choose to wear seductive clothing can be (and often are, let’s face it) subject to slut-shaming: they are allegedly dressed like sluts and ought to be called so.
The problem is, women aren’t just the victims of slut-shaming: they are often the perpetrators as well. As our Lord and saviour Tina Fey says in the Bible (also universally known under the title Mean Girls):

Image courtesy: globalgrind.com

Image courtesy: globalgrind.com

So why do we keep on publicly or privately insulting each other? Is it the ingrained and implicit competition between women that causes them to slut-shame? The reasons are still somewhat inexplicable because of the depth of their roots, but it has been prevalently witnessed amongst teen and preteen girls. This is the age at which girls are most impressionable, which is also why cyber slut-shaming, for instance, is still trivialised in court as “puerile attempts by adolescents to outdo each other” according the University of San Francisco Law Review.

Last year, Dockterman wrote about dress codes on Time.com and how the latter encourage slut-shaming. She accounted for a protest in Haven Middle School, Illinois, and the arguments that were raised by 12 and 13 year-old girls regarding one of their favourite items of clothing: “not being able to wear leggings because it’s ‘too distracting for boys’ is giving us the impression we should be guilty for what guys do.” Instead of telling boys not to sexualise or make fun of a girl’s outfit, we tell girls that they are distracting the opposite sex and imply that boys can’t control themselves. To a great degree, this attitude promotes the transfer of the blaming towards the female victim, as opposed to the male executioner. The story naturally unfolds, and we come to assimilate these values as we grow up.
Yep. Here’s a taste of rape culture for you.

The contentious debate about wearing leggings as trousers has been going on for a few years now. “Is it ever OK?” asks Cosmo. The article gives tips on how to style an outfit with leggings, but the very fact that the working title allows for a negative response is slightly depressing.
The award for the most disastrous leggings-related article, however, goes hands down to The Huffington Post: “Do Straight Guys Think The Leggings As Pants Look Is Hot? We Asked Them!” (and yes, the content is just as cringe-worthy as the heading). Ever wondered if Prince Charming thought you looked like a streetwalker? This article will tell you!
(Thank heavens some random “straight dude” was there to endorse your outfit.)

As an ex-tomboy and someone who used to slut-shame myself to fit in with the male crowd at university, I genuinely hope that this unfortunately common mentality shifts in the near future. The relentless optimist in me looks forward to the day all women will look at other women and think: “You go girl, you dress like this if it makes you feel good [insert sassy hand movements here]. I’m so proud of you for having the confidence to wear this. And guess what? You look freaking flawless.” Females empowering other females is the first and foremost approach to reframing our existing mental models. Wanna wear leggings as trousers? I have two words for you: GO and ON. Nobody should ever have to feel ashamed about how they choose to dress.

Even Pippa Middleton is a slut. (Image courtesy: blog.newscom.com)

Pippa Middleton, you slut.
(Image courtesy: blog.newscom.com)

This article isn’t a hate message to men, parenthetically. There are changes to make in both camps, by all means, but this initial understanding ought to come from within. We’re also slowly but surely beginning to see the rise of celebrities telling us not to be afraid: Jennifer Lawrence refusing to lose weight for an acting role, John Legend telling all men they should be feminists, Patricia Arquette’s cry for wage equality during her Oscar acceptance speech… 2015 should be the year we start raising awareness regarding the stigmatisation and shaming of women for all of the rampant sexual double standards.
Easier said than done, of course, but if teenage girls in Illinois have come to realise that it’s time to fight for their right to wear leggings in school, then shouldn’t we all?

Olivia Kutxi

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