Change culture, not clothes

Last week's 'Campus Style' claimed this would be a poor party outfit, but it remains a woman's choice to wear it. (AP Photo)

This letter was written in response to Carly Koziol’s “Campus Style” column, published on Feb. 13, 2013.

The slut shaming needs to stop.

Let’s get this simple concept down: a woman can wear anything on her body. A woman can wear nothing on her body. Regardless of whether she is completely covered or completely naked, she should be treated with the same amount of respect as any and all deserve. How she dresses should never negate her personhood and should never deny her right to be safe.

For all its talk of women suffering in the “backdrop of patriarchy,” the Campus Style article is painfully ironic, since its “advice” only fuels detrimental beliefs that continue to oppress women. As feminist Audre Lorde states, “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” And, while not intentional, the article wields these tools like a master. The article shames women who dare show “too much” skin and suddenly, because of this atrocity, they are not deserving of respect. They are not deserving of a conversation about their internship or the most recent book they read. In fact, these women deserve the degrading leers from men because as the article argues, it’s absurd for these women, and their DD’s, to expect otherwise.

How about this radical notion: is it absurd to think that men can’t be anything but beasts unable to control themselves when some skin is shown? This terrible portrayal of masculinity and attitude of “blaming the victim” is appalling. What I found more disturbing though was the constant reinforcement of the idea that women’s attire exists only to attract men. Talk about adhering to the male gaze while supposedly informing us how we’re oppressed under it! Talk about the gross heteronormative mentality that plagues the Campus Style article and erases the existence of LGBTQ women on campus!

The article never considers that perhaps women wear certain clothes because it makes them feel good, feel sexy, feel powerful. Sometimes, I cover up. Other times, I reveal more skin. Whether it’s exposing my legs to be kissed by the summer sun or reveling in the fact that despite its quirks, my body is just as beautiful as my mind, I want to celebrate myself. Regardless of my attire, my ability to choose what adorns my body, to express myself and my sexuality, empowers me.

My body does not serve to make the chase “fun for men.” My existence does not revolve around the century-old belief that I need to get a man.

So instead of policing women’s bodies, how about we do this: how about we start teaching men, from when they are boys, not to judge a woman just by her body and clothes? How about we start saying that women are free to express their sexuality however they want without fear that they’ll be judged as less than human, for aren’t we more than just our bodies? How about we deconstruct the reasons why women’s bodies are demonized and reduced to sexual objects in the first place because of the simple act of showing skin?

Campus Style has been a section I often looked forward to reading because it highlighted the unique expressions of self that are found in our diverse, student body. But if you step into how I should express my sexuality and tell me to cover up again, instead of teaching everyone to respect me as a human being, then let ME and MY cleavage and MY healthy amount of legs say this:

Stop trying to control me. My body. My choice.