From time to time, I operate a photo-booth. I cover weddings, birthdays, school events – things like that. Recently, I attended a semi-formal event for a relatively prestigious girls’ school. These girls were around 16 years old, and many had bought a male companion as their date.
In conversations with close allies, we sometimes comment on what seems to be the oppressive nature of some people groups towards some women. For example, we note in this hot Brisbane weather, the men of a particular group are free to wear what they like, where their wives and daughters are usually draped from head to toe, covered, as it was, for modesty.
At this particular semi-formal event, I was struck by the gowns and dresses these girls were wearing. What struck me was the almost overwhelming majority of semi formal outfits that to me, a conservative dad, were almost completely inappropriate clothing these girls were wearing. It was almost like it was a race for many of these girls to see who could wear the least amount of clothing. It was evidently clear by the way these girls held themselves, constantly adjusted, wriggled, moved, pushed down, pushed up and pushed their gowns that they were not comfortable in their chosen outfits. Without a word of a lie, a majority of these girls spent their evening making sure their dresses sat as they were meant to. It was painfully noticeable that the minority of girls with elegant, modest (if I dare say) gowns seemed to travel through the night without any major or regular readjustments . Interestingly, it was the boys at this event who were overdressed for a semi-formal. Yes, these gangly, pimply 16 year old boys were all in suits, had cuffs with matching tie-pins, watches and spit-shiny shoes!
I want to stress at this point that this post isn’t about body-shaming, slut-shaming, blaming the victim, being a male pig or anything like that. My libertarian leanings compel me to allow individuals to wear, do, say, act however they choose. This blog isn’t about getting anyone to dress, or not dress in a certain way. What this blog is about, being the dad of a seven year old girl and five year old son, is wondering ‘why do we keep hurting our girls’?
Why, in 2016 Australia, our girls seem to be racing to almost objectify themselves at such a young age. Why 16 year old girls feel the need to compete with each other for who can wear the least, not who can achieve the most with their brains or character. Why sixteen year old girls feel the need to dress in a way that shows gratuitous cleavage, leg and mid-drift.
Have we created an environment where dressing elegantly for an evening event is no longer in vogue? Has our society become that ‘pornified’ that 16 year old girls feel they need to show all their assets to be noticed by others, to remain in the ‘in’ group or to be accepted?
I’ve never been a 16 year old girl. I’ve never known the pressures these precious girls face.
I mentioned in the second paragraph my musings about a certain group of people and my thoughts on what seems to be oppressive attitudes and behaviors to women. It seems to me that almost wherever this group is found, the status of women is greatly diminished. Men of this particular group are permitted to have more than one wife, women have reduced voting rights (if any), baby girls routinely have their genitals mutilated, girls have access to education restricted, and the list goes on. I wanted to compare that to ‘our’ girls (if I can say that) who are entering university at higher rates, have equal voting rights, can choose to marry or divorce, have an equal voice in a court, have legal protections against discrimination. I wanted then to maybe muse that why, in 2016, these precious girls would even have to consider showing that much skin at that young age at an event that otherwise should elevate girls to the highest standard.
Again, I don’t want this to sound like I’m judging girls or women for what they wear. This isn’t about saying girls or women should cover up. What I’m musing is why, in 2016, we have created an environment where girls would choose to dress in a way that is unedifying to themselves. Why in 2016 our girls feel they still need to display more than enough skin to get noticed. Why, in 2016, we are subjecting our girls to what seems to be an absolute pornification of dress. Why, in 2016, have we sold our girls short, creating an environment where their talents, achievements, hopes and dreams are hidden behind a very short dress?
Image from http://houseofretro.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/281.png