What women wear and choose to do with their bodies is an act that has either empowered and inspired people or terrified them. It’s also an age old debate which has recently sashayed its way back into the public eye, following a number of sensational claims made by politicians across Asia and the rest of the world.
In Indonesia, the Parliamentary speaker Marzuki Alie, threatened to ban female politicians from wearing short skirts and cited them as the reason behind an increase in rape cases and immoral acts. His words echoed the Religious Affairs Minister, Suryadharma Ali, who has recently called for miniskirts to be outlawed.
In addition, Chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman in Pakistan, has come under fire for reportedly stating that women who wear jeans are ‘responsible for earthquakes and economic crises.’ I wish I could say that these comments are a joke but they are not. It is unbelievable to imagine that in this day and age, we are still preoccupied about the types of clothing that women wear, when we have much bigger global issues to tackle.
The deeply troubling – and ironic – aspect of passing such laws is that they often end up criminalising those that they are supposed to protect. One of the biggest examples was when France decided to ban all religious symbols, following national anxieties surrounding the niqab and its social implications. It is fair to argue that France acted with respect to national security and – at a glance – that their ban has nothing to do with banning miniskirts in Indonesia. However, the only people who seem to be protected by this ban were non-Muslim, French citizens and even then it’s not fully protected them from potential terrorist attacks. The ones who became increasingly demonised and isolated were Muslim women – the segment of society who were in dire need of their state’s protection. And to think that this partially stemmed from an item of women’s clothing.
“You know what men are like. Provocative clothing will make them do things.” Marzuki Alie
The result of such bans, pushes female sexuality and any notions of power back into the rigid boxes of Freud’s Madonna-Whore Complex – it is interesting to note that these decisions to either control or quash the way that women dress themselves have been made by men. It is also worth mentioning that female sexuality in Britain, the West and beyond is either hypersexualised (Page Three, pornography, various Instagram accounts and lads’ mags) or stripped away to become the stereotypical Plain Jane who nobody really fancies.
At this point, I’d just like to say that this is not a post about hating men nor is it condemning all men to be misogynists – there are many women who agree with these opinions. This post is merely an exploration of the issue at hand.
By banning certain items of women’s clothing – whether it’s a miniskirt or a full face veil – governments and individuals merely alienate and ostracise women. In my eyes, it’s just another way to control women; after all a dis-empowered population is far more easier to control and less likely to kick up a fuss than one who is educated, informed and empowered. These actions also create unnecessary anxieties/complexes within women and the way that they view themselves, their bodies and other women. Think about it: the harshest thing you can say about a woman is by criticising her physical appearance or attacking her sexuality. These remarks tend to come from other women – as well as men – in the form of verbal abuse such as slut shaming, social isolation and even violence.
Last week, I was getting ready to go to a work meeting and I found myself thinking twice about the dress I was wearing. I suddenly felt sick with anxiety: was it too short? Was it suggestive? Should I wear a pair of thick woolly tights? What if something happened to me? Would it be my fault? Call it overthinking or being super self conscious, but that thought process is one which goes on in the minds of millions of women. And who can really blame us for thinking like this?
Every time we hear of another rape case, one of the first questions asked is what the victim was wearing. Why on earth does that still matter? By saying such statements, we are indirectly pointing the finger at victims – and the general female population – and saying: “You are the problem. If anything bad happens to you, you brought it upon yourself.” It is hugely problematic that we still blame victims for sexual assaults, attacks and rapes without scrutinising the mindset of their attacker/rapist.
Whether you choose to wear a burqa or a bikini, you will always be judged and objectified, despite of who the woman behind such items of clothing is. Until we stop judging women based on their clothes, the amount of make-up they wear and how they choose to style their hair, we will continue to see a disunited female population, more attackers/rapists get away with their crimes and more victims never being given justice. Is that how we want our society to be remembered?