The policing of a woman’s body is such a common act, that it is almost a right of passage for the American woman. From the day we are born, we are told that we must cover ourselves to be deemed respectable by society. The body of a girl is sexualized before she even knows much about sex. There have been newsworthy instances occurring all over America where young women are being sent home from school because their shoulders or collarbones are exposed. Many schools have deemed the showing of any skin as a distraction for heterosexual boy students. This means, girl students have to watch what they are wearing despite the fact that they are in school to learn and there shouldn’t be such a focus on whether a girls’ shirt shows her shoulders or if her knees are visible.
Society’s rules of how a girl or a woman should dress does not stop when she enters college, in some ways it becomes worse. When I first started college I noticed that I would take into consideration whether my outfits would get stares or unsolicited attention from men, especially when going out on the weekends. It was something I was so accustomed to, that I didn’t notice it until I became interested in feminism and began learning about the policing of women’s bodies. Now when I get dressed, I get dressed for myself and I do not allow the opinions of society to stop me from being comfortable in my skin. But this is not the case for every woman. I still get asked by friends if they should not wear a short skirt because they are not sure of how men will react to it.
Walking around the UAlbany campus, especially during the warmer months, women are constantly being condemned for wanting to show some skin. One of the strongest examples of this is when a woman decides to wear a bikini at the fountain. Men will be at the fountain wearing swimming trunks and no shirt and it is perfectly okay for them to be dressed like that. Yet, as soon as a woman simply takes off her shirt to reveal a bikini top or she’s wearing a full bikini, you can hear the people start to whisper. Everyone is wondering “Where are her clothes?” or “Why is she trying so hard to get attention?”. If a guy can be in full beachwear while at the fountain, why can’t a girl?
The choices women make with their bodies and how they dress their bodies is their
business. We should be allowed to wear whatever makes us happy and confident. But society has a problem with this because other people want to decide what the definition of self respect is for each womanly body. Respecting ourselves simply means to honor yourself to be prideful and confident. If other people are deciding for us what should or shouldn’t make us feel good, how can we really express our individual selves in a confident manner. Every person on this planet is a true individual and the way we show and honor our individuality varies from person to person. The want to express our individuality shouldn’t be a luxury given to one gender.
Society looks to break down women a lot more than it cares to uplift women. The patriarchal make up of American culture doesn’t care to promote a healthy mean for self respect. Instead they want women’s bodies to be under strict control so that other people aren’t uncomfortable. Our society doesn’t teach self love; when most people don’t love themselves unconditionally they’re going to ridicule others. And it isn’t just men who police women’s bodies, many times it is women who are judging other women and try to control what they do with their bodies all because they are uncomfortable. Over the years I’ve noticed that women and girls can be the meanest and the worst at policing other women’s bodies. And they typically do it because they are not happy with themselves in some sort of way. Which is why this issue needs to be combated. No person has the right to control another person’s body, or control how they feel about themselves. We’re all in our own bodies for a reason. Rather than shaming women, more love and acceptance should be given to women. She, also, shouldn’t be reduced to her clothing nor should other people be in control of her body.
About the Author
Asha P. Class of 2016 | Transfer Major: Communication Minor: Psychology Blog Theme: Women A Loud
Please Note: The views of our student bloggers do not necessarily reflect the views of the UAlbany Advisement Services Center. These are their stories and their voices.
Asha found her voice after taking Introduction to Feminisms in her Junior year. You can read about her process of awakening in her post, “What do with Your Voice Once You Find it.”
A WSS 101/101Z Introduction to Feminisms (3)
The origins and development of feminist thought, with emphasis on the political, social, and economic conditions of contemporary women’s lives in the United States and abroad. Emphasis on student exploration of issues that confront women and men across the range of their differences in race, class and sexual orientation, and that produce multiple orientations to feminism. Based on a pedagogy of peer-learning; co-facilitated by undergraduate members of the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Teaching Internship working under the supervision of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies faculty and graduate students from related departments. Only one version of A WSS 101 may be taken for credit.