From Role Reboot: A Message To Teenage Girls About Summer Dress Codes By Chelsea Cristene
The other day while driving home from work, I saw a shirtless man who looked about my age—mid 20′s—mowing his lawn. I did not roll down my window and cat call, or yell to him that I’d like a piece of that. I did not scoff in disgust, thinking that his lack of shirt was an invitation for me to comment on his appearance in a derogatory way or to view him as someone with no self-respect. He was a man mowing his lawn, sweating under the high afternoon sun, and dressed for the weather.
That is the difference.
We live in a culture that produces girls’ tops with narrower shoulder straps than boys’ tops, girls’ shorts that expose more leg than boys’ shorts, and then shames girls for wearing the clothes that are sold to them. We live in a culture that tells boys it’s OK to shed clothing in the heat in order to be more comfortable, but tells girls that their comfort is secondary to how others perceive them.
When people tell you these things, they are part of a larger system that often operates without their full knowledge. It is the same system that excuses assault if the victim was drinking or was not a virgin, and that tells women not to get raped instead of telling men not to rape. You are not a piece of uncovered meat, and you are not to blame when your fellow autonomous human beings choose not to exercise self-control. Your body and the clothes you put on it are not “things” “given” to others.
The difficulty is that this message is being sent to young women. It also needs to be sent to young men. The script needs to change. Tell young men it’s their responsibility to keep their hands to themselves, and that understanding the importance of clear verbal consent from young women is their responsibility and anything else is illegal and immoral.
Women have been spreading this message for years. When men finally get with the program and join them in spreading it, then young men’s behavior will change.