Taking Self-Affirmation To An Extreme

I think, in many ways, we have come to a point of extremism in our search for ultimate freedom, ultimate equality and ultimate self-affirmation.

1) Take women, for instance. We were once forbidden from using any kind of clothes we wanted to, forbidden from using pants, forced to cover our bodies entirely. But now, beyond wearing any clothes we want, we have also made them a lot more revealing than it is necessary. In our search for utmost freedom of choice and freedom of expression, we have gone from the extreme of not being able to reveal any parts of our feminine body to the extreme of showing too much. Anyone who says this will most likely be criticized by the so-called defenders of liberty and freedom of expression, and by a large number of feminists. But I don’t believe this (contesting everything goes when it comes to wearing revealing clothes) stands against feminism: actually, I believe it is in its best interest. It isn’t a matter of being too modest; it’s a matter of not being scandalous and not putting ourselves out there to be possibly ridiculed. We, women, can own our conquered freedom with strength, bravery, joy and modesty without having to make a show out of it. If we incur in this, we may lose our validity by being accused of trying to outrageously “draw attention” only because we can.

Also, and maybe even more importantly, I believe that wearing boldly revealing clothes just because we want to, just because we can, can be demeaning to ourselves because we are indeed drawing attention to our bodies, and will therefore be much more easily objectified as sexual beings instead of wholly complex, multidimensional beings. Modesty is not submission to a sexist society that prevents us from wearing what we can wear; it is choosing not to sexually objectify yourself when you can wear what you want to. In the Western societies where this currently happens (women and girls wearing a lot more revealing clothes than they could, and maybe should), this victory is already won: we are already free to wear what we want to wear. We don’t need to celebrate this victory or rub it in society’s face and men’s faces by going from the extreme of oppression to the extreme of exposure. I would even dare say that a greater lesson for this sexist society would be to wear what we want to – but dress modestly, confidently and independently, not giving in to what society secretly expects from us. Yes, because men know that, in a free society where women are allowed to dress in any way they want to, there will more displays of flesh. They like it when we wear revealing clothes, because it makes it easier for them to objectify us and then to blame it on us when they can’t contain themselves. “It’s her fault; she was wearing provocative clothes”, they say. Obviously, we shouldn’t – and cannot – stop ourselves from doing something we want to just because we fear men might use it as an excuse for their own selfish, sexist acts. If we choose not to do something in front of men, it must be only because we do not view it as respectable or desirable.

All of this is, of course, a highly controversial debate, because it also depends on how much worth or sacredness you give to the human body. In this case, to the female body, which has always been a greater object of fascination, secrecy and passion for humans. If you are an all-time liberal who believes in absolute freedom of choice and freedom of expression, and if you believe that human bodies are only a natural part of the world and should not be viewed as something untouchable or divine because they are, well, to celebrate and to be celebrated – well then, maybe you don’t give much importance to women and girls walking around in the shortest, tiniest possible clothes. Maybe, for you, they will only be displaying a beautiful part of what Nature has given them; it is in their right, and they are acting accordingly to the natural world, for all that is beautiful should be seen and admired. But there are other people who think that the human body can still be celebrated and admired without having to be “exposed to the masses”, displayed to the public. There are people who think that the human body is somewhat sacred in its intimacy, and that it should be respected by not being exposed to the eyes of everyone, indiscriminately.

I’m not saying that you should treat your body as a secret painting and never reveal it to anyone. No, that’s wrong. The female body is beautiful, sensual, delicate and strong at the same time, and as any wonderful painting, it should be looked upon with wonder, passion and love. However, there is a big difference between revealing your body to someone in private, or revealing it in front of a large, undetermined audience. You must own your body, yes; but owning it does not mean showing it off in front of a crowd in a way that says “Look at this; it is gorgeous, and it is mine, and you can’t have it”. Why should we make this argument once again about men? Some women may say that they wear revealing clothes for themselves – because it makes them feel powerful and strong and independent. I disagree. I don’t believe that, when you dress in a way that is meant to be looked at by others, you are doing it for yourself. You can feel perfectly beautiful and strong and independent and not wear something that exposes a large part of your body. (Once again, I stress out that I am not referring to revealing your legs in a short skirt, or your back in a backless top, or even your belly button. I am speaking of that kind of clothes that makes it look like there’s more skin than fabric around). So, I believe that when women wear revealing clothes, they are making themselves dependent of men once more. Why? Because they want men to look at them, to look at them and to think that they can not get what they once would have taken without having to ask for permission. But why do you have to do that in this way? Every conscious woman knows that when a man sees her walk by in a revealing outfit, the first thing that will go through his mind is this: sex. She will be objectified.

I am not trying to depict men as absolutely irrational beings with purely instinctive impulses. But even us girls, when we see an attractive man walking by in a good-looking outfit, that only makes him look sexier, even we will be attracted to him. However, our fight against men’s constant sexual objectification of women loses part of its strength when we ourselves make it easy for men to objectify us. So, maybe, the next time you are choosing what to wear before you go outside, you will look at the clothes you’ve got in your closet and you’ll ask yourself: Who am I wearing this for? What am I wearing this for? Dressing more modestly is not surrendering to a sexist society where “men can’t control themselves just because we wear sexy clothes”. No. It is owning our freedom of choice by not giving in to the need to be recognised as beautiful, sexual beings, when we should be recognised as simply beautiful beings, men and women alike.

Anyways, this is only my opinion, and I’m sure it differs from the opinions of many others. Any debates on these subjects will only improve the general debate on the rights and emancipation of women and should, therefore, be encouraged. Progress can only come by the conflict of ideas and the search for the better ones – which can only be done when there are different ideas to share.





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