Black women's sexual agency bodily autonomy misogyny respectability
Y'all, Women Can Walk Out the House Half-Naked If We Want5/13/2015
by Kesiena Boom It seems that many people have forgotten—in this era of regressive and misogynistic laws about birth control and fetu...
by Kesiena Boom
It seems that many people have forgotten—in this era of regressive and misogynistic laws about birth control and fetus ‘personhood’—but women have the right to this little thing called bodily autonomy. That is, just like men, we have the right to do whatever we damn well please with our bodies. This includes larger issues like the choice to have an abortion, to smaller things like having the liberty to dress our bodies however we see fit.
You would think that people would have grasped by now that there is nothing inherently shameful, sexual, degrading, immoral or questionable about women wearing revealing clothing. Yet this year’s Met Gala brought all the low-key misogynists crawling out the woodwork—entertainment reporters and your average twat on social media alike—making judgments about how Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez, Kim Kardashian-West and Zoe Kravitz were basically repping for Satan by daring to show up in dresses that were see-through in parts. Never mind that the theme of the evening was “China: Through The Looking Glass” and the repetitive sheerness was most likely inspired by this.
Isn’t the sexist assumption that flesh equals ‘trashy’ over yet? Take a moment to consider what the implication of that mode of thinking is. It basically says that a woman’s body is in and of itself a ‘bad’ thing. That it is meant to be covered, that it is not ‘suitable’ for others’ eyes, lest they be tainted by the danger a woman’s body holds. It is infuriating to see the same ideas trotted out over and over again: a ‘real woman’ should never do this, a ‘real woman’ should never do that. In the words of Janelle Monae, "get off my areola" and leave our bodies be.
You may think that this denigration of flesh is just a question of ‘classiness’ and is common sense. Ask yourself: Why do you think that? Why do you believe that wearing revealing clothing makes a woman ‘less classy’? Why you so mad that women do what they want? Why do you see a flash of flesh and think ‘slutty’? Surely something is wrong with you and not the scantily clad woman if you immediately see a hint of thigh and think, “This woman clearly has lots of sex and that is despicable. How dare she?”
It gets me so vexed that people look out upon the world and they see the sadness and the misery and the hurt… and they choose to get riled up because Beyoncé decided that she was going to fucking kill it by looking majestic in a dress using strategically placed crystals. Check your priorities. Women have enough problems in this society without people moaning that our nipples and butts and thighs will be the downfall of respectability. Fuck respectability. The world doesn’t respect women no matter what we do, so we may as well strut around in the nude. I bet Bey and Zoe and their other sheer dress wearing comrades felt amazing and beautiful at the Met Gala. I bet Jay-Z was like, “Damn, you really killed it this time honey.” I bet none of those women give a flying fuck what some ashy, whiny man-baby or a girl steeped in internalized misogyny has to say about their bodies.
We have to get to a place where we don’t feel entitled to make value judgements on a woman’s worth just because she’s not wearing a nun’s habit. Taking jabs at the way women dress may seem like a relatively benign pastime, but it’s indicative of a wider cultural narrative which encourages a virgin/whore dichotomy that divides women, fuels rape apologism (“She deserved it by dressing like that!”), and generally contributes to a society in which the length of your skirt is used to measure your worth as a human being.
Let’s all just take a deep breath, leave women’s bodies alone, and listen to these wise words from Rihanna when she said laughingly: “My tits bother you? They’re covered in Swarovski crystals, girl!”
Photo: George Pimentel / WireImage / Getty Images