By Caroline Turner
As kids, some of us dealt with school uniforms. Luckily for me, I did not. I would have hated the idea of being restricted to wear only two pairs of pants and two different colored shirts. In fact I remember writing school papers passionately siding on why kids should be able to express themselves, make their own decisions, and wear what they want without uniforms. In an institution that requires strict dress codes or uniforms, you know what you’re signing up for. But in the real world once we graduate from those institutions do we still have dress codes telling us what we can and cannot wear as grown-ups, specifically as women?
When men go shopping there are many options to choose from. Wear a bow tie, wear a tie, or no tie. Get a tight tee shirt or a loose tank top. Wear baggy pants or tight pants. Wear sneakers or dress shoes. All of these choices are ok and express one’s freedom of choice and personal style preference. Once the clothes are purchased and taken home, the man would probably not have a second thought when getting dressed in his new clothes later on.
When women go shopping, very similarly, there are also many options to choose from. Wear a bra, wear a push up bra, or no bra. Get short shorts or jeans. Wear a crop top or wear a tank top. Wear sneakers or heels. Again, all of these choices are ok and express one’s freedom of choice and personal style preferences. During the process of shopping, once the clothes are bought, or maybe both times, there is a thought that creeps into women’s minds when getting dressed. And it’s not about how the clothing will feel, or if the clothes will last a while. It’s a thought about how others will treat her based on what she’s wearing. “Is there too much skin showing? Will people be looking at me unwantedly? Will they think of me as promiscuous, easy? Will they interpret this clothing as me wanting to make a sexual advance? Will I be respected or taken seriously?”
Sexualizing women unwantedly has largely become socially acceptable. The media and our culture works to pin-point styles and behaviors as being sexual, even if there is nothing inherently sexual about them.
The in depth report on the sexualization of girls by the American Psychological Association explains that girls can then self-objectify themselves by “(internalizing) an observer’s perspective on their physical selves and learn to treat themselves as objects to be looked at and evaluated for their appearance.” There is no clear dress code on what women can and cannot wear, but based on societal standards we monitor ourselves. For example, we may not wear shorts because they might be too revealing.
For women it seems there is a dress code, albeit one that is more clearly read between the lines. Some of us may be more aware of it than others, but it is one that is created by us, our sisters and brothers. This dress code is based on sexualizing women and teaching us how to monitor ourselves in the process. I never was a fan of dress codes, and this woman’s code is an especially sneaky one that has got to go.