“Oh my god, what is she wearing?”
A classmate of mine once muttered something along those lines in the middle of my math classroom. A student had just walked in to talk to our teacher and she was wearing very short shorts (for lack of a better term) that showed off quite a majority of her legs.
People in the midst of social activism often jump to immediately calling out behavior like that as slut-shaming, and it’s painted as such a negative concept from the very get-go that I feel we’ve forgotten to take the time to explain the core problem with slut-shaming. It’s easy for people against activism to ask, what’s wrong with old-fashioned modesty, and why is it so horrible to tell young women to cover up? They argue that girls should be taught to show less skin, because there are more important things than looking like a slut. Instead of just labeling those people as ‘horrible human beings’, yelling a lot of things at them and moving on, I want to take the time to deconstruct the concept bit by bit. This is because we’re still caught right in the middle of both ideas; one end is completely against slut-shaming, and the other end is half-bigoted, and half just plain confused about the concept. I want to distinguish people who are confused from people who are just exceptionally rude and small-minded; ignorance does not mean deserving of hate and anger.
I’m going to focus on the clothing aspect of slut-shaming, rather than the negative labeling of women who have a lot of sex. I may make another post later, because of how horrendous a lot of the comments here were, but that’ll be a later date. The concept of slut-shaming someone for what they are wearing ties closely into ideas of someone being conceited, vain, or too obsessed with their appearance. In my opinion, the reason judging someone for their clothing is bad is because it is a slippery slope filled with too many personal constructs, clashing ideas of what is morally okay, and a very thin line between ‘right’ and ‘not right’ that can never be universally defined.
Take my classmate, for example. She was judging someone for wearing shorts that were ‘too revealing’. But if you asked others, they might have considered her shirt to be too revealing; in fact, a lot of the shirts she wore showed a lot of cleavage. So some may ask, why is she allowed to show cleavage and for it to be okay, but for that other girl to be ‘skanky’ to be wearing shorts like that?
Here’s a hypothetical example: a boy scoffing at a girl for wearing ‘too much make-up’. He mentally labels her as vain, absorbed in her appearance, and attention seeking. But let’s take a look at the boy. He happens to be wearing dark, skin-fitted jeans. His hair is artfully styled up, and you know that those shoes weren’t cheap. He obviously put some effort into his appearance, and how he wanted to portray himself to the world. Is he vain or shallow? And what point do we say being concerned with your appearance is being too concerned?
The problem with judging people for their appearance is there is no clear line to define someone, or label them as something. My standard is different from your standard. Everyone will always have different standards. So then how can we run around saying some standards are better than others? How is anyone to judge?
When people blow-up their own opinions and make them approved by a large group of people, especially through media, it’s saying that their standard is correct and all others are wrong. How can we live in a world where every single person has different standards for what it’s okay to look like, but some people just yell louder than others?
You may think my skirt is too short. I could think that you put way too much time into putting tattoos on your body. So maybe we should all shut up and stop imposing personal beliefs as universally accepted moral standards.