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An Old Rant with a Makeover

March 20, 2011

Wow, a month without any new posts?  Good gravy, rock-poolers, we are SLACKING!!!!!!!!!!  But only because of our impressively busy and hectic lives, I promise.  But really, we need to get back with the program, so I will at least apologize for my own blog silence and promise to at least attempt to do better.  If there’s any other completely uncommitted promise that I could possibly make, I will make that one too.

Well, back to an old rant I guess, but it’s kind of a classic. Which one?  Well, women and our self-worth and the way that we see ourselves.  Maybe it’s just because it’s one of my absolute favorite soapboxes, but really, is there any woman out there who doesn’t struggle seeing herself as beautiful or worthwhile out there?  If she/you is/are out there, she/you should contact me.  I would love to know how she/you do it.  And if you can make out that sentence then you automatically win ten brownie points.  Which might not be enough for me to actually send brownies (due to the fact that I am a cheapskate and have no time to send brownies to anyone), but please, feel free to indulge!!!  Brownies and icecream!!!  Oh heavens, I love food.  Possibly a little too much, but that’s not gonna stop me anytime soon.

Most of this post was inspired by Kaimalino posting this article on Facebook.  It’s a good read, really.  It’s a woman writing about how we allow our daughters to wear skanky clothing so that they can be pretty and be accepted.  And trust me, there is no way to downplay being pretty and accepted.  Good gravy, I thrive off of attention, especially positive attention.  It’s the drama queen in me.  Sometimes I go for attention from girls that I think are prettier than me, and since they’re prettier than I am they must be from “a higher caliber.”  Really, I’ve used that phrase before in conversations with people.  Once again, I thrive off of the drama, which is a habit I really need to break ’cause it’s not doing me a whole lot of good.  Tell me that you don’t look at other girls sometimes and say the same thing to yourself though.  “She’s prettier than me, she has longer legs and bigger eyes and beautiful hair and has fashion sense and knows how to do makeup, and so clearly she’s better than me.”

But if you’re anything like me, that’s not the attention you really crave.  And yes, I realize crave is also a word generally applied to the unadulterated desire/need for food… I promise, I’m not even hungry writing this.  I just like food, that’s all.  But getting back on point, just about every girl/woman out there looks to one particular source for attention.  You know exactly which one I’m talking about.

Men.

I admit it, guys are usually the first ones I turn to for any kind of attention.  (Such drama.  Ugh!)  And I’m willing to do just about anything for that attention.  Let’s face it, sometimes we women do some stupid things for a guy, or just for guys in general.  Which might ruin one of my usual wise-cracks about men being run only by their hormones, but really, tell me that you haven’t done something to try to impress a guy at least once.  We dress a little differently if we know we’re going to be around men, at the very least.  And sometimes we do get that attention.

But my question is, what kind of attention are we getting?

You know that phrase about how “It’s not what’s outside, but what’s inside, that counts”?  And how “It doesn’t matter what you wear”?

Someone lied.

Or at least they didn’t tell the whole truth.  People have a great knack for looking at what we wear more than at anything else.  Really.  I’ve spent several months, if not years, experimenting with this concept.  I used to spend most of my life running around wearing camouflage with split ends all through my hair, zits up and down my face, a too-large-sweatshirt, and combat boots.  Still do, every once in a while.  Never underestimate the awesomeness of wearing camouflage.  I still love my camo and boots and stuff.

But I had very little positive attention from any guys.  I made a couple of really great guy-friends, but they fully expected me to be able to beat them into the ground if I wanted to.  Which I could.  And it’s very handy to me now.  Not to mention it’s downright entertaining to be able to grin at a friend and have them slowly inch their chair away because they’re never quite sure what you’re gonna do.  The spontaneity of each situation is completely worth it.

Outside of those friendships though?  Most of the attention I got was negative.  One of the clearest expressions I remember seeing on any guy’s face was contempt, whether they knew it or not.

Eventually I think my taste in clothing turned a bit more feminine, although I still didn’t really go out of my way to be pretty.  Still don’t, sometimes.  For any guys out there reading this; you should probably know that being pretty is tough work, so don’t underestimate the effort that goes into it.

The next phase that I really remember is when I started Blues Dancing.  It wasn’t really that I was dressing differently.  It was that I was moving differently.  There was only one instance where I dressed immodestly, and trust me, I got asked to dance a lot more when I was wearing a tank-top than I ever did wearing shirts with sleeves.  And then I added in learning how to move differently, like being able to move different parts of my body sort of independantly of each other.

I got attention from men.

And it was completely different than anything else I’d had before.  There were times when I could have sworn that my friend was going to start salivating watching me dance.  And there are some guys who take it as an opportunity to try to get their hands on you.  Even when you do dress modestly and make it very clear that you’re not there for anything other than dancing.  And in some sick way, it’s hard for anyone not to think that way. 

I thrived on it for quite a while.  I had rarely had any attention from guys like that before, and so it was a novelty, and therefore it was exciting and it felt good.  And I started looking for some of that attention in other places, trying to manipulate similar reactions out of men who normally wouldn’t look at any woman that way if they could help it.  Which just makes me feel sick to my stomach now.  It was disgusting and just flat out wrong.

A little more recently (thank goodness; I don’t think I could handle it if I was still in that phase) I started trying to dress a little differently.  It’s not the healthiest thing for my checkbook (really, I don’t go shopping that often, and I think what I bought was pretty versatile and flattering, so I’ll get over it), but I decided to try to dress in a way that makes me feel beautiful, and I make sure that it’s modest so that I feel absolutely comfortable with my own body and how people (and in particular, men) look at me.

It’s an awesome change.

If nothing else, the way you dress affects how YOU feel about yourself.  I dress differently, and I carry myself differently.  I walk with a slightly different posture, when I’m in public I look people in the eye a little more, I smile a little more confidently.

And the change in responses is huge!

I was talking to a couple of guys who might well have looked down at me a few years ago.  They were willing to hold an intelligent conversation with me, and they compared me favorably with a person that I completely respect and almost hero-worship: My brother.  They looked me in the face, and there was an expression I hadn’t really seen there before: Respect.

I walked into a store and the lady at the register smiled at me a bit longer than she normally would have.  Of course, it helped that I was certain to be polite and smile at her the whole time, and for all I know it was just because she was thinking “this poor girl is trying so hard to be something that she’s not, it’s like watching a little kid play dress up.”  I really hope that wasn’t what she was actually thinking– otherwise it would ruin my whole point.  But she dealt with me a little differently than she normally would have.

Of course, there are a few things that don’t really change.  Or if they do change then there’s something wrong.  Some of our friends should still be treating us the same.  This is where the inside stuff really does count.  If it doesn’t, clearly we’re gonna need some new friends.  The fact that I had a purse only made one friend take it from me and hit me (gently) with it, just so he could say that he had hit a woman with her own purse.  And so I took it back and smacked him (a little less gently) with it afterwards.  I let him hit me twice or three times, so my hitting him once a little harder did not cause me any particular guilt or shame.

Here’s what I’m trying to say.

We claim that we don’t judge people based on first impressions and what they wear.  Sorry.  We lie.  And people will always be judging us on the exact same things.  I am not saying that we should go out and dress in an entirely different way so that we will get different responses from people, in spite of the fact that it is both interesting and informative.

We claim that we’re confident and strong women, that we deserve the respect that comes with that.  We complain incessantly about how men were checking out our bodies instead of talking to us.  We say that we’re not shallow, that we want something more than a physical connection with another human being.

So why don’t we dress that way?

Maybe we should try dressing in a way that makes us feel like we’re human beings, not just toys to be dressed up and looked at for someone else’s pleasure.  Maybe we should consider not showing off everything we have just to get some guy to look at us.  We’re meant to be more than eye-candy: We’re meant to be beautiful.  We should be confident enough to dress in a way that tells the men around us that we deserve their respect, and that we are gorgeous, strong, beautiful, smart women with more to us than an expensive, low-cut shirt that nearly fails to cover anything.  We’re worth a lot more than that, ladies.

For the men who dare to read this and endure my scathing comments about people who just happen to possess an XY chromosome: We do deserve your respect.  We shouldn’t have to feel like we need to dress indecently to get your attention.  Yes, we do have beautiful bodies– we’re kind of genetically programmed to.  But we are people living inside those bodies.  We need to be treated like people.  Could you maybe help us out a little bit?  Please, try to stop looking at us like we have no greater worth than that expensive outfit.  In a ratio of money to amount of fabric put into that outfit, sometimes it’s a complete rip off.  I guarantee there are some fascinating patterns in the ceiling when all else fails, and honestly, you’re much more likely to earn my respect if you don’t look at us like that.  Could you please help us break that cycle here?

You might think I’m being preachy, and maybe I am.  I don’t mean to tell you that you’re wrong, and at the same time, I have to say kudos to the women who are brave enough to dress modestly.  But no matter what you think about me, my religious views, my social views, or anything else, there is one thing that I can tell you, which is that we are worth more than that.  And we deserve to be treated like something more than that.  Yes, we want attention from men, but we deserve respect.  We do have to try to do something to help them out a little bit though.  A plenty good place to start is dressing like we deserve something more.  Eventually the rest will come.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Madame L permalink
    March 30, 2011 11:57 pm

    Thanks for your comments. Great experiment! I knew some sociology students who spent a summer in an area where no one knew them, and defied the local dress code for church meetings in order to see how the people would respond. And it DID make a difference, of course.
    So, here’s the question: In a Utopia, would we all wear the same drab and shapeless clothes so no one would be able to judge other people by their clothes? (Thinking of Maoist China. If that was the intent there, did it work?) Or what other way would we figure out to differentiate ourselves to attract the attention of the opposite sex?
    Or are we women as interested in the attention of the opposite sex as we are in the approval of other women? Are our dress standards different for men and women?

  2. April 2, 2011 12:26 pm

    This may sound shocking, but I don’t care for the attention of men. I’d rather not have it. The reason for that is back in high school and college I always wound up sitting near guys in class or the library or the cafeteria who would talk smack about their female friends. Basically as soon as the girl/s left the room they’d say things like, “What a whore. Someone should tell her to put some clothes on.” and other such things. That actually surprised me, but I guess guys who seem to enjoy women who walk around in skimpy clothing like them for that reason only. They don’t see that woman as girlfriend/wife material. They’re just a nice distraction.

    I figured it’s better to not get their attention at all than to get their disrespect. I wouldn’t even mind as much if they made fun of my hijab or religion. I think I’m more comfortable knowing that their comments are ignorant, racist ones rather that comments scrutinizing my body and the way I dress.

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