Sunday, December 04, 2011

Neither Slut Nor St. Madonna



Recently, I had a discussion of sorts with Laicite over the issue of how women should dress. Looking through the back-and-fro she and I had, I think it is worthwhile and necessary for me to elaborate on my thoughts on the issue and perhaps arrange them in a more coherent form.

I must firstly state that I, in principle, support the right and freedom of women to wear whatever (even nothing) they want. However, I believe that such a right or freedom is one which should be exercised with discretion.

But before I move on to elaborate on what I mean with the above, I want to point out that it seems to me that when it comes to this issue of how women should dress, people, like in other issues, tend perhaps to adopt a us-versus-them or black-versus-white approach to understanding it. By this, I refer to how people are typecasted into being either "liberals" who will have women go around in skimpy attire, if not no clothing at all, or hardcore "conservatives" who will have women totally covered up, if not implement a roll-back of all the rights and freedoms currently enjoyed by women. The voice of the moderate seems to be absent from this debate. Hopefully, this blog post of mine will contribute towards filling this gap.

Moving on, as mentioned above, I believe the right or freedom of women to wear whatever they want is a right or freedom which should be exercised with discretion. By this, I refer to how women should be allowed to wear whatever they want but they need to be aware their choice of clothing can have certain consequences.

Of course, I am not espousing victim-blaming or that sexual criminals should be excused if and when their victims were dressed in skimpy or revealing attire. [Side-track: another interesting thing I noticed is how people in this debate tend to focus on rape as though other sexual crimes, such as molestation, do not exist] Neither am I saying that all women who had sexual crimes committed against them were dressed in revealing attire or that all women dressed in revealing attire will have sexual crimes committed against them.

The fact is while women may not be dressing the way they do to attract men's attention, certain sort of women's attire inevitably attract a certain sort of attention from men. A crude example here will be how "ladies of the night" are usually dressed in revealing attire to attract the attention of potential clients. And who will dispute that men's eyes tend to linger longer over a female lingerie ad?

I am aware that some argue that women are usually not raped by strangers but, sadly, by people who they are familiar with. And that for women who were sexually targeted by strangers, the women's choice of clothing was only a minor contributing factor to why they were targeted. So it will seem that women's clothing is a non-factor when it comes to the committing of sexual crimes.

However, although I may be ridiculed for making such distinctions, I think it is necessary to differentiate between rape and other sexual crimes, such as molestation and also between "habitual" and "opportunistic" sexual criminals. For the latter pair, I am trying to differentiate between sexual criminals who habitually commit sexual crimes and perhaps plan in advance the crimes to be committed and those whom are tempted into committing sexual crimes like molestation if and when the opportunity presents itself.

Admittedly, for the opportunistic sexual criminal, there may be other contributing factors at work, for example: his own estimation of whether he can get away with what he is going to do, but I will guess that for such criminals, the choice of clothing by their victims may perhaps play a slightly more significant factor than in crimes committed by habitual sexual criminals. This is in view of the opportunistic nature of their crimes - as mentioned above, revealing attire attract a certain sort of attention from men and under the appropriate circumstances, some attracted men may be tempted into committing a sexual crime like molestation.

Of course, this definitely does not excuse such men. And indeed, perhaps we should educate men to treat women with proper respect, regardless of how they are dressed and we should focus our effort on trying to come up with permanent structural solutions that will eliminate sexual crimes once and for all. Yet, such an approach will not be realised anytime soon in the foreseeable future. Hence, meanwhile, it will perhaps be prudent for women to be wise about their choice of clothing to guard against unwanted male attention and if they have to don attire that may attract sexual criminals, it will be prudent for them to adopt other precautionary measures, for example: be vigilant, carry around a defensive tool which can scare away criminals and et cetera.

 In conclusion, it is a woman's right and freedom to wear whatever she chooses to wear but she should be aware that her choice can come with intended or unintended consequences. And she should be wise enough to take precautions against such consequences.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post a Comment