So, I’m back to talk about women’s pants again. Actually, though, it’s about girls’ pants. Leggings on 11-year-olds, in fact. This morning, I encountered this story on my Twitter feed. The gist: sixth-grade girls in Beaconsfield (a suburb of Montreal, Quebec) were pulled aside from the boys and kept from recess for a “puberty discussion”. This discussion included telling the girls not to wear leggings with “short shirts” because it might cause boys to touch their “cute little bums”. According to the story, a couple of the girls were singled out from the group as examples of what not to wear.
Going to quote from someone on my Twitter feed: What the actual fuck? Let’s break this down:
1. These are 11-year-old girls. They are not sex objects. While we’re on the subject, grown women aren’t sex objects, either. Except for when we choose to be with a partner, with consent. But sixth graders? Completely inappropriate. (Before anyone jumps all over me – yes, there are sexually active sixth graders. The first person I ever knew to get pregnant in school was in the sixth grade. I still maintain that this has GOT to be due to coercion and crappy parenting, though. I was 11, and I know that sex was about the farthest thing from my mind at that age.)
2. Even if they are potentially sexually active, and you want to be sure they’re smart about their relationships with boys…this is NOT how or what you teach. Again, for the millionth time: if a boy touches a girl’s butt inappropriately, THAT IS HIS PROBLEM. Boys and men should be taken aside and taught not to grab a woman’s ass without asking first, if this is a problem.
Look, this is how it starts. This is how we continue to have a culture where men feel entitled to women’s attention and bodies, and women often don’t even question it. This is the first step in a series of “trainings” where women learn what they can and can’t wear, where they can and can’t walk, that they need nail polish that detects date rape drugs, THAT IF A MAN DOES SOMETHING INAPPROPRIATE OR VIOLATING TO HER, IT IS HER FAULT. This is how we ultimately get to blaming women for their own rape.
I have written about this before. Here, here, and here. Women are taught that we should expect (and desire) the attention of men. If we dress/act in a way that shows we don’t care, we’re shamed for being unattractive, for not seeking out the male gaze. But, look out! Don’t act like you DO want male attention, either. We know we told you you should, but if you’re attractive, you have to worry that you might get too MUCH attention. And it’s your fault.
Cover yourself. Don’t show any part that any man might find too attractive. While you’re at it, cover it in a way that you can’t even make out its shape. Because yoga pants and leggings might make men want to have sex. And if men want to have sex, they just can’t help themselves. They are perpetual children with no self-control, who may just grope you or rape you because you’re so damned cute. So don’t wear that short skirt. Don’t walk alone at night. Don’t go to that frat party.
But wait! Where are you going? I just want to talk to you! Smile! Hey, bitch, don’t walk away from me. You OWE me attention. How dare you act like you don’t want my attention, like you’re afraid of me?
Can’t win for losing, ladies. And we’re starting as young as 11 years old with this. If a boy touches your butt, well, maybe you shouldn’t have worn those leggings.
Thing is, we can fix it. I know it’s possible. Partly because at least SOME of these messages never got to me. It never occurred to me as a girl or young woman that I should consider my clothing choices based on being careful not to be too pretty for the men. It never occurred to me to believe that anything a man did to me against my will would ever be MY fault. I have more respect for myself than that. And, I would argue, I have more respect for MEN than that. I know they can control their behavior. I know that most of them do. I know that, for most of them, they don’t even have to work at it.
So, how about we work on fixing the problem at the source: the socialization of men and women to believe that this is normal and acceptable? Rather than shaming sixth graders for their fashion choices?