When you hear the phrase “body shaming,” odds are, you think of a fashion magazine, promoting beauty as a 5’11” model who weighs 100 pounds. Or a reality show that equates self esteem with plastic surgery. Advertisements aimed at a certain demographic, subtly (and not so subtly) telling us about a miracle cream that reduces cellulite. Body shaming is usually aimed at adult women, and it’s a multi-billion dollar industry. What’s never been publicized is how body shaming is also aimed at young women, often starting in grade school.
I have a unique view into this, as I was a young woman once, and I am now raising a son. Our son attends public high school, and Friday, I asked him about the dress code at school. If they had one, and if so, what it covered, so to speak.
“I don’t know, I don’t have to pay attention to it.”
“It’s mostly about wearing shorts that are too short, or clothes that are too revealing. Stuff like that.”
“So, it’s for girls?”
“Pretty much, yeah.”
Boys can’t wear hats. That’s the dress code as it affects the young men who wander the halls of my son’s school. Girls, on the other hand, have a laundry list of “do’s and don’t’s.” That’s body shaming, and it doesn’t just hurt the girls.
Remember Liz Trotta’s comment about women in the military? Trotta was a guest on Fox, and she was speaking about female rape victims in the military when she said:
I think they have actually discovered there is a difference between men and women. And the sexual abuse report says that there has been, since 2006, a 64% increase in violent sexual assaults. Now, what did they expect? These people are in close contact, the whole airing of this issue has never been done by Congress, it’s strictly been a question of pressure from the feminists.
What did they expect, these harlots who choose to enlist in the Armed Services? They’re in “close contact,” and obviously, whenever a man is in “close contact” with a woman, his first thought is “I have to rape her, I cannot control myself.” Trotta’s comments were offensive to both men and women, as is the body shaming being practiced by teachers, school administrators, and parents all over the country.
Body shaming doesn’t just occur in America. A female politician in India, Asha Mirje, said female rape victims were “responsible to an extent” for rape, and their “clothing and behavior” played a part. Clothing. Here’s a fact: When I was raped, I was wearing a tee-shirt and surfer shorts. Not really sure how a tee-shirt and shorts that hit the top of my knee could have contributed to my own rape, but I guess Asha Mirje could tell me.
While researching this article, I happened upon the website GirlsAskGuys.com. There was a discussion thread entitled “Is clothing ever an invitation for rape?” The initial question was:
A guy I went to school with said that if a woman dresses a certain way, then she’s asking to be raped and when she gets raped it’s her fault. What are your thoughts? And don’t give the typical GirlsaskGuys answer, be honest. I’m gonna block anons, because I don’t want trolls on my question. 🙂
Many of the replies said no, clothing has nothing to do with sexual assault. But a few were, well, less enlightened:
It’s never an invitation to rape.
However, you can see that some people think there’s some, I dunno, shared responsibility there or whatever. This sort of messed up thinking is prevalent in the culture.
And that makes it *kind* of self-fulfilling.
Imagine rapist is hiding in bushes on a street, watching women go by. He’s going to pick a victim.
I’m sure his first concerns are things like opportunity. But all things being equal, he might think to himself – if I get caught, I stand a better chance of getting acquitted if I chose a woman dressed as a “slut”. The judge might be a guy. Half the jurors might be guys. They might think “She was asking for it”
So he avoids the girl who dressed down, and pounces on the one dressed in a way that prudes would call “sluttily”.
So in a bizarre kind of way, it *may* be that the girl who dresses in a certain way, has in fact increased her liklihood of being raped.
But that doesn’t mean it was an invitation or that she was asking for it, or deserved it, or anything of the sort.
In this person’s world (the commenter is using a screen name and photo of Leonard Nimoy, so I don’t know if it’s male or female), wearing revealing clothes if you’re a women is “self-fulfilling.” Which explains why 85-year old women are raped, and I was raped, and 5-year old girls are raped, and women in the military are raped, oh wait, NO IT DOESN’T. Rapists rape, regardless of age, clothing, skin color, hair color, location. Rapists rape. Men are raped, and when men are raped, no one asks them what they were wearing. It is incredibly hard to prosecute male rape; society believes only women are raped, and we get raped because we dress like whores.
Last month, a Utah high school gained international infamy for photoshopping girls’ yearbook photos. The school added fabric, and sleeves, citing their dress code, which bans articles of clothing that:
…cause an actual and/or perceived disruption of the educational environment or activities…
And addresses modesty:
…covering shoulders, midriff, back, underwear, and cleavage at all times.
Body shaming. Girls cannot dress to match the weather, because boys are all mad-dog rapists, hiding behind bushes, waiting to rape the “slutty” one.
Our son is learning to drive, and I worry about that. He just had his first job interview, and I am pretty nervous about that. He will be a junior in high school next year, and I am worried about college, and grades, and how to buy him a car his senior year. What I am not worried about is my bright, funny, empathetic son, seeing a 16-year old girl wearing shorts and a tank top and raping her. Because that’s not how it works. We cannot body shame rape away. We can teach our children about sexual assault, what it means, what it does, what it is.
If your school body shames female students, stand up and say something. Our bodies are not the problem, nor are our clothing choices. Rape is the problem, and until we learn that anyone can be a rapist, and anyone can be raped, we will never end rape culture.
Please visit RAINN.org if you are a survivor of sexual assault, and need resources, help, or just someone to talk to.