03-17-2005, 11:33 AM
WOMEN SHOULD RETHINK DISPLAY OF OVER SEXUALITY
Susan Goodwin, Oregon Daily Herald, 6/1/04
I have been thinking lately about skin and the enormous amount of it on campus. In particular, what it does to our respect for ourselves and from others as well as our place in American society. These thoughts were enlightened by a lecture I attended -- "Women & Human Rights in Islam" -- presented by the Muslim Student Association.
A significant portion of the audience was Muslim women, who displayed little skin. Their lack of displayed skin made me notice both my own and other Western women's attire. We wore tighter, smaller, shorter and skimpier clothes. The line of skin that peaks out from the bottom of my shirt to the top of my pants had never been more on the front of my mind. I like to think I am not a provocative dresser, but in comparison to the Muslim women, I definitely was less dressed.
Western cultures have evolved into rather sexually open societies where exposed skin is common. Western women epitomize this openness in our clothing: painted-on jeans, impossibly tiny tank-tops and skirts that stop two inches below our behinds. We see these clothes everyday on women in our classrooms, acting on TV, walking down the street, sitting on our couch, looking back at us in the mirror.
The Muslim women at the lecture made this pervasive sexiness even more apparent with their opinions. The topic of oppression and head scarves came up. In Western media, head scarves often symbolize Islamic oppression of women. However, the Muslim women felt otherwise. One felt liberated by her modest apparel because she has the freedom to choose the man who sees her body, rather than displaying it for any man on the street. She said Western style of female dress is oppressive because it forces women to display as much skin as possible, to be sexual objects. Further, Western activists will come to Muslim countries and decry the "oppressive burqa," but will not question their provocative clothing as a form of cultural oppression. It's an interesting point: Revealing our skin is a way to keep women subservient, as beings whose primary value is sex and how much we exhibit it.
This sexiness is, of course, defined by our culture and expressed through the media. Our culture tells us that women are liberated, equal participants in American society which values production, independence and hard work, while the media shows us that our value is primarily dependent on our appearance -- how toned our abs are, how white our teeth are, how well-dressed we are. The travesty is, we all buy it to a certain degree. Some women spend hours in the morning primping themselves while others reject this value, spending little time in front of the mirror. Most women fall somewhere in between the two extremes.
I think we should try something revolutionary -- putting our clothes back on. For just one day, check out of the hyper-sexualized culture that tells us to wear skirts seven inches from our knees and shirts two inches above our waistline. To women who already do not wear provocative clothing, tell others why you don't! To women who do wear provocative clothing, evaluate why you do and what tells you to. Then decide if you still want to participate in the overt sexuality of our culture.
Susan Goodwin is a freshman pre-journalism major.
03-17-2005, 11:48 AM
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