Sunday, May 2, 2010

American Taliban


To those who say that study of women's clothing is a trivial pursuit, I counter with the evidence that it is actually of the very first interest politically and culturally. A great many people are very interested in telling women what not to wear, and not just in places that are repressive regimes. Western governments roundly criticized the Taliban for requiring that women wear burqas and noiseless shoes, but here in the United States there are people who constantly enforce their own restrictive moral views on other people's wardrobes.
Just consider the school districts that said that they would paddle girls who wore "inappropriate" clothing to prom. Let's even review our corporate work dress codes, which mandate no sleeveless tops, no shorts and no bare legs, no "too-short" skirts. (My daughter and I knew that Dana Walsh was suspicious on 24, when she was at work wearing a sleeveless top.) Most of these strictures involve what women should wear. We are very concerned that women dress "appropriately".(Because incorrectly dressed women drive men mad with lust, so they they are not responsible for their actions. That's the historical reasoning. I was told as a girl to dress modestly, or boys would get the "wrong idea" about me. I'm sure you were too. In rape trials the defense still sometimes tries to show that the victim was dressed suggestively.) These Clothing and Morals Police will even apply their strict code to history. Just this week Virginia Attorney General covered up the Goddess on Virginia's State Seal. As Mr. Hunting Creek observed, "Ken wants to be the only boob in Richmond."

What examples have you seen lately of social control through wardrobe enforcement?

6 comments:

sewing spots said...

Yes! We still have a long way to go!

beangirl said...

This is interesting because where my husband worked (for a multi-national cell phone company), the men were routinely told they had to adhere to a strict dresscode. What the code was would change periodically from "business casual" to jeans but no t-shirts, to jeans with t-shirts with no writing and back again. But the point is, men were told that they MUST adhere to whatever policy was in effect or risk being sent home without pay (and this happened). On the other hand, the WOMEN were allowed to wear anything from a business suit to what I can only describe as clothing suitable (and intended for) a late-night club, skin-tight halter tops with significant cleavage showing. At no time EVER was a woman sent home without pay for wearing something that failed to meet the dress code. Ever.

The only conclusion The Husband and I could come to was that the company was so afraid of a sexual-harrassment lawsuit (of which that particular branch had had it's fair share in the past) that they preferred to just completely ignore anything any woman was wearing rather than risk being accused of harrassment.

I'm not disagreeing with your post at all, but I will say that I think people should have certain standards of what is or isn't appropriate for a particular occaision (a low-cut dress for Prom is a whole different thing than the almost-nipple-baring haltertop that the receptionist at my local physician's was wearing last month). still, I guess I'd rather allow people to make fools of themselves by wearing something a little odd, than tell everyone what they have to wear at any given time.

Linda said...

Being from VA and living in the "old dominion" again, I just love your post. And to think that I had never paid much attention to that symbol on our seal until the "boob" in Richmond pointed it out!

I love your comments.

the short lady said...

Remember when John Ashcroft had the statue of Justice draped? http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/1788845.stm. Supposedly it was done for "aestetic reasons." I agree with your husband, the boobs just don't want competition.

badmomgoodmom said...

Hey, we are not that different from Iran.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/apr/19/women-blame-earthquakes-iran-cleric

I can say with 100% certainty that Iran will be hit with a devastating earthquake. When it happens, we can blame it on the clerics.

Anonymous said...

Yes, there's also France, where a girlcan't go to school if she wears a headscarf (but low-rise and a thong is OK) and Turkey, where you can't work or study in a school or university or enter a military compound (say to vist your son who is doing national service) if you are wearing a headscarf.

What is so powerful about being half-naked, anyway? It has always been a sign of slavery and submission. As my son once said - men don't buy mags off the top shelf to see pictures of women wearing as many clothes as possible.

Have you ever seen the head of state open parliament or the senate in his shorts and a bare chest? Generally speaking (and you can check this with any student of semiotics) the more clothes you wear, the greater your social status. Perhaps that's the real reason why men don't feel the need to display their skin to their colleagues. They know it's degrading.


But I agree with the principle of freedom to choose. Just I think we should all be able to choose to wear more, as well as less. At the moment it's those women who wear more who are under attack from the militant nudist tendency!

Anthropologist