There have been several topics and articles I have seen lately that have made me evaluate my own opinions on the matter of “revealing” female clothing. Some argue that females should dress in a less revealing manner, in order to shield themselves from the attention of males. Others argue that men should control their urges.
Before diving into this too much, I’d like to look at a couple of examples. In this article, the author, Veronica Partridge, explains that she has made a decision to stop wearing leggings. Her rationale is mostly religious, and I won’t get into the merits of that here, as that’s not really my point today. One line of notice from the article is a quote from her husband:
Yeah, when I walk into a place and there are women wearing yoga pants everywhere, it’s hard to not look. I try not to, but it’s not easy.
First, I’d like to corroborate this. When women I view as attractive wear yoga pants or leggings, it is compelling to look. Where I disagree (and again, I am not coming at this from a religious angle, so please avoid arguments along that line), is that I do not believe males should have to try not to look.
Now, I will qualify this with the fact that all people should have an expectation of basic respect. I am not saying that males have a right to stare, catcall, or otherwise act in an inappropriate manner. However, I do not believe a casual glance or quick look constitutes disrespect, regardless of any thoughts that look might engender. Should attractive men feel disrespected if women admire their bodies in a reasonable manner? I just don’t believe that a simple look from either gender is wrong.
While I don’t believe males should be barred from looking, I also don’t believe females should be encouraged or forced to dress conservatively. In this recent story, a teen was asked to cover up what I, and if you read the comments most people, believe to be a very tasteful dress. Now, the dress may or may not have been against the rules, but that’s really not the point. Why are the rules so conservative at a recreational dance?
I can understand an argument that during normal school hours, a dress code that emphasizes non-distracting dress for both genders could be reasonable, given a desire for students to focus on learning. But, at a recreational dance, it’s absurd that an example of dress like this should be prohibited.
There is another quote I’d like to look at from this story, from the teen in question:
“Maybe instead of teaching girls they should cover themselves up, we should be teaching boys that we’re not just sex objects that you can look at and derive pleasure.”
I absolutely agree that we should not be teaching girls to “cover up”. I feel that females should be allowed to wear whatever they want. I also agree that it’s important to teach boys that girls are more than sex objects, that they deserve respect, as I mentioned above. But, I must disagree that it’s wrong to look and derive pleasure. This seems, when handled respectfully, to be a literally victimless “crime”.
If a boy at her dance looked at her outfit and thought to himself, “wow, she has great shoulders!”, so what? Who is harmed by that outcome? Again, I want to stress that I am not saying it’s right to stare, catcall, etc. It’s all about tact and respect.
Now, I can hear the arguments coming. “Looking lustfully is a gateway to trouble. Looking leads to touching.” I don’t agree with this either. The responsibility falls to each person to act appropriately. If someone is rude or aggressive, it’s really indicative of greater problems than that they find a female attractive in a certain outfit. It’s not the responsibility of that female to dress in a way that doesn’t illicit a response, but it’s also not necessary that every male avoid looking to prevent these inappropriate actions. As a male who enjoys looking, but has never acted inappropriately toward a female, I can wholeheartedly attest that this it is absolutely possible to look and not act.
In summary, it all boils down quite simply. Regardless of gender, we all need to have respect for each other, and our actions should reflect that. I don’t think we need mental policing or dress codes to accomplish that. Our thoughts are our own. As long as they stay that way, or are acted on responsibly, then there should be no problem.