Post By Relief Staff, Rebecca
I love summer. I also love fashion. The former has always been true. The latter is more of a late-in-life interest that has developed as I have become more comfortable in my own skin, and more comfortable expressing my femininity.
Recently, I was on the Skytrain. The weather was finally starting to look like summer. Sun! Walking with friends on the Seawall! I couldn’t wait. I was wearing a low tank top, and a lacy bralette (which is essentially a fancy, lacy sports bra). This look is comfortable, casual, and cool (literally). I wasn’t breaking any barriers with this ensemble – search any Pinterest board, and you’ll see pages and pages of it. Overall, highly unoriginal! And I like the way I look in a tank top. It’s summer, and the neckline and shoulders are coming out. Sue me!
From the moment I left my house, until I got off the train, I was more than aware of the attention I was getting, both from men and women. I heard catcalls and indescribable, disgusting sound effects from men. From women, I noticed disapproving looks, and even a few not-so-subtle whispers to their friends. This was all within a thirty-minute timeframe. I wish I could tune this judgment out by now (or better yet, imagine if it wasn’t an issue at all anymore. Let the woman dress how she likes! What a concept!) Was I just stuck with an unfortunate group of overly judgmental people, or is this just bound to happen anywhere I go?
I get it – my body is sexual, and therefore, in our society, it is dangerous and shameful. Or, conversely, it exists solely to be stared at, commented on, picked apart and policed. I myself do not have permission to love it, embrace it, or be proud of it. Women and girls are damned if we do, and damned if we don’t. The way our bodies are oversexualised, only to be scrutinized and shamed when we comply with society’s standards, is an unsettling reality about how women are seen in society. This hyper-sexualisation places more emphasis on body parts than on a whole person, and when a woman is harmed or abused, we wonder what she expected. Look at what she was wearing! Somehow, in 2016, we still believe that how much skin a woman is wearing is directly related to how likely she is to be raped. The more skin, the more she deserves it. Rape culture at its finest!
After one particularly gross come-on on the train, I found myself slouching, and trying to make myself less noticeable. I was trying to disappear, because I felt so self-conscious about people’s judgments on my appearance. This was such a shame; I had left the house feeling fabulous.
I don’t want to spend my summer feeling self-conscious and ashamed to be a person with body parts. They have been sexualized for decades, and I should not have to adapt my style to avoid shaming, snark and judgment.
Sadly, none of my ideas here are original or groundbreaking. I’m just repeating what other women have been saying for years and years. We’ll be saying it until we’re blue in the face. So what do I do? Do I wear what I want and risk unwanted judgment (and likely, being told I’m “asking for it”)? Do I wear something I find uncomfortable and unflattering with hopes that I’m left alone? Wear things that are alright, but not season appropriate, and spend the summer covered in sweat stains? How ‘bout we all just do us. Stop the judgment, people! It’s summer, it’s beautiful, and all bodies deserve respect.