We Are What We Wear

We Are What We Wear

This photo is of two female college students backstage at a New York City concert. Due to the way they were dressed, the man photographed offered to take them, with full VIP passes, backstage at a concert for the night. As women, we should be able to express ourselves through clothes any way we want without harassment. According to the conflict theory perspective, that views the structure of society as a source of inequality, which always benefits some groups at the expense of others, as well as the feminist perspective, which focuses on gender as the most important source of conflict and inequality in social life, these women may not only be victims of sexual harassment, but due to their clothing choices, it is their fault as well. As an example of underprivilege, women are treated differently, often degradingly, if they decide to express themselves and their sexuality in such a way that turns men on. Many current protests, including the “Slut Walk”, claim that women’s clothing choices do not lead to rape, but rather, mysongynistic men do. According to the main theme of gender and sexuality, the objectification, the practice of treating people like objects, of women is ultimately what leads to rape, not women’s clothing choices.

The film “The Bro Code” clearly exemplifies the role society plays in creating mysogynisitic men. “An alpha male, by the measurement of music videos, is a man who possesses and controls women. In this world, men don’t often view women as equals. Rather, women are objects to be used sexually, to show other men that you have power. (Keith, Bro Code).” The film goes into detail about how music, the media, and pornography each play a role in society in teaching men how to be “manly,” which includes objectifying women, holding in their emotions, and following the norms of college binge drinking and playing sports. Any academic or emotional vulnerability leaves men open to other men calling them “fags” or “wussies.” This film shows how boys are taught at a young age that women are on earth for their own sexual pleasures. This photo exemplifies how women must dress and behave to live up to male expectations. As a form of gender overprivilege, men don’t have to dress up, wear little clothing, or wear heels to promote their sexuality, and in some cases, get permission to enter certain parties or clubs. The conflict theory perspective is present as society teaches men that women are here as sexual beings. The self fulfilling prophecy,  the assumption or prediction that in itself causes the expected event to occur, thus seeming to confirm the prophecy’s accuracy, of women dressing to be objectified for sex occurs, leading to sexual harassment and rape. Dressing in this manner only promotes what men are taught what masculinity is, as defined by Thomas Keith in “The Bro Code,” and yet, women have every right to dress as they please, emphasizing their sexuality in any way, and should not be threatened with rape for doing so.

The feminist theory perspective, claiming patriarchal power and control in society, is present in this photo as it exemplifies how women promote their sexuality, for male attention. This is also present in the cheerleading world. “Cheerleading is said to embody the qualities associated with ‘emphasized femininity,’ notably supportiveness, enthusiasm, and sexual attractiveness. (Grindstaff, West, 2006: 308).” This sport, along with other mainly “feminine” sports such as figure skating an gymnastics, was not considered a ‘sport’ due to its “emphasized femininity,” in comparison to the furiously masculine sports such as football. Yet, the overt sexualization in the girls’ uniforms are not too different from those of the girls attending the concert. For each cheerleaders and female concert goers, make up and little clothing is the costume of choice. It is inferred that these choices are for male attention, whether a woman is choosing to dress this way because its required of the team or because society, and the males in charge of the NYC concert industry tell them that they must “look hot”, women are being objectifed in many aspects of American society. This ”gender stratification…devalues women on the basis of alleged biological differences between men and women (Newman, 2011: 200)” along with the social forces influencing gender roles between men and women are each present in the cheerleading community as well as the social scene within New York City nightlife. The superficiality that women must embrace, to become visual pleasures for men, is what our society as taught women.

America’s “Rape Prone Culture” is evident in this photo. Though no sexual coercion (Smith, 2012), which involves acts that rely on various acts/techniques of social control to get someone to do or experience something sexual regardless of their reluctance or lack of desire, occured between these people when this photo was taken, the glorification of masculinity is present as the to women kiss him on the cheek.

During George W. Bush’s presidency, America’s societal ideals, campaigns, and political power was given to extremist Christians in the name of neopuritanism. By promoting abstinence as a form of sexual education for teenagers, birth control, and a form of “safe sex”, America’s youth ultimately becomes uninformed, furthering society’s values on female sexualization and the glorification of masculinity. “Abstinence only curricula typically rely on misleading, innaccurate, and incomplete information by which to warn youth of any and all sexual activity. Even more significant- and indicative of the interest to promote social change in tune with a conservative agenda- is the inclusion in such curricula of information regarding traditional gender roles and male-female relationships (di Mauro and Joffe, :77).” Ultimately, an uninformed youth not only leads to the continuance of our society’s gender roles, in which glorify the objectification of women.

What women wear should not allow men to objectify them, yet, because of traditional American gender roles, this continues to occur. The “Slut Walk” is a feminist protest in which women claim that the clothing they wear, whether it be revealing or not, should not and does not lead to rape. Mysogynistic men is what leads to rape, often which are so engulfed in society’s ideals for masculinity. The cheerleading community also enforces the femininity of women, as well as the ‘masculinity’ of the sport itself. By focusing on the hard work, skill, and physical ability to perform the stunts in cheerleading, it is on it’s way to being catagorized as a sport, along with football and baseball and other ‘masculine’ sports. By promoting abstinence, our society only furthers the ignorance of our youth and promotes the unfair gender roles created 50 years ago. The outfits the two women in this photo are wearing exemplify the superficiality women must embrace to sexualize their image, often to be accepted into a social scene. These outfits, in our rape prone culture, promote the sexist, the system of beliefs that asserts the inferiority of one sex and justifies gender based inequality, gender roles that currently exist in our society.

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