For years, women have been told that their clothing choices can affect their safety. We’ve been advised to dress conservatively, to avoid certain parts of town after dark, and to never walk alone. But this advice has always been directed at women and never at men. This idea that women need to dress a certain way to avoid harassment or assault is flawed and outdated, and Gloria Steinem said it best: “Feminists can wear whatever the hell they want. They should be able to walk the streets naked and still be safe.” In this blog post, we’ll discuss her statement and why it’s important for feminists to reclaim their right to dress however they please.
The idea that women need to dress a certain way to protect themselves is victim-blaming. It implies that women only get harassed or assaulted because of what they wear, ignoring the fact that the overwhelming majority of these crimes are committed by men. It also suggests that men can’t control themselves if they see a woman in revealing clothing, which is not only insulting to men but also perpetuates harmful gender stereotypes. Feminists reject the notion that women should be responsible for the actions of men. We should be able to wear whatever we want without fear of harassment or assault.
Also, fear of what others might think of us should not be an argument for our choice of clothes, as long as we feel comfortable and beautiful in those clothes. If we want to wear a short skirt or a low-cut top, that’s our choice, and we should be able to express ourselves without fear of being slut-shamed or harassed. This is not an invitation for men to harass or assault us. It’s an invitation for them to get over their own discomfort with women’s bodies and treat us with respect.
Feminists also acknowledge that clothing can be a form of personal expression and empowerment. When we choose to dress in a certain way, we’re making a statement about who we are and what we stand for. We might choose to wear clothing that challenges traditional gender roles or that expresses our sexuality. Clothing can be a way to reclaim power and autonomy in a culture that often seeks to control and objectify women’s bodies. By encouraging women to dress however they please, feminists are promoting a culture of self-expression and empowerment.
But let’s be clear: dressing however we want does not mean that we’re invincible. We still live in a patriarchal society that objectifies and devalues women’s bodies. We need a fair amount of self-confidence to ignore catcalling or to confront the callers with our anger. As feminists, we need to continue to fight for a world where women can dress however they please without fear of harassment or assault.
Gloria Steinem’s statement about feminists being able to wear whatever they want is a powerful reminder of the power of personal expression and autonomy. Feminists reject the idea that women need to dress a certain way to avoid harassment or assault, and instead encourage women to wear whatever makes them feel comfortable and confident. By reclaiming our right to dress however we want, feminists are challenging harmful gender stereotypes and promoting a culture of self-expression and empowerment. But we must also acknowledge that there is still much work to be done to create a safe and just world for all women.