Women wearing any type of clothing they like does not contribute to women’s liberation, but to the degradation and animalization of women.
There have been intellectuals who have covered this topic well, Books, poems, and other pieces have been written on this, and documentaries and movies have been made on this, but I think the matter is so important that it deserves to be restated: Women wearing any type of clothing they like does not contribute to women’s liberation. It contributes (further) to the degradation and animalization of women.
The code of dress worldwide for women has gradually (and systematically, one could argue, thanks to the power of the fashion industry) included showcasing women’s bodies…as much as possible, in many cases. Whether a woman’s outfit these days is scarce in material (e.g., the short-shorts, mini skirt, midriff top, sleeveless shirt), so they are tight-fitting as to display the woman’s shape quite well, or otherwise, women’s dress has become skin and shape-revealing…more than at any other time in history.
Certain people in society would have us believe that in order for women to remove “the shackles”, they mustn’t wear concealing clothes, for this isn’t ‘liberation’. It is argued that clothes that conceal the body of a woman is not liberation at all. The arguments brought forward are that, firstly women are ‘free’ to choose the clothing they wish to wear, and secondly this frees them from subordination to an oppressive power, be it religion, culture, or otherwise. (Note: there are probably more points, but at the moment of my writing this essay, these two arguments have really come to my mind and have settled there.)
But here’s the thing. A woman that wears anything she likes (which can include revealing clothing, with the recent societal ‘ok’) does not free a woman from oppression. It oppresses her even more. And the reason behind this is so obvious that I’m pretty sure you probably already know it. But here it is, at any rate: wearing anything they like does not liberate women, because it opens channels for elements of society to exploit them. And one type of exploitation that I would like to focus on (among the many that exist, but this one really bothers me) is women becoming sexual objects in their societies/communities.
Women can become sexual objects in their interpersonal relationships, in the workplace, at school, and in countless other situations. One example of women becoming sexually objectified is in the media. I use this example because it is of large-scale, and it affects many people. Females in the media are often used as tools for sexual gratification, they are used to satisfy the sexual desires of people. One can certainly argue that the idea of women being ‘used’ to fulfill the desires of others has appeared for many centuries, its just that sometimes it went unnoticed. However, in today’s day and age there is no shame in it – instead, people try to justify it. It is espoused. Money is being used in many industries today to keep the objectification of women existent, in pornography, Music videos, movies, magazines, billboards – you name it. Women are either completely naked, or semi-naked and the purpose is to simply fulfill the sexual desires of people. You will hardly ever come across an advertisement of a woman fully clothed. The worth of a woman has been reduced significantly, as if the sole purpose of a woman is to allow others to be sexually pleased. I firmly believe that if all women wore modest attire, the issue of women becoming sex objects in the media would simply not exist (because there would be no naked women to exploit—excuse the crass language).
I have briefly attempted to establish the fact that wearing revealing clothing contributes to the degradation and animalization of women, which further leads to the sexual objectification of women; but a person may argue that women becoming sexual objects is not so bad. Well, what’s wrong with that? A person in this hyper-sexualized age might ask: ‘Being an object of desire is a good thing. It brings you a lot of benefits.’ My answer is that it brings you more harm, once you realize that you are no more than an object. You are only good for fulfilling sexual urges. What human would be content to know that the only part of another’s body that she effects is the private parts? That she has no impact on the heart, on the mind—only on the genitals? Another argument is that a woman could be a sex object, but is also intelligent, good-hearted etc. My answer to that is: well, kudos to the intelligent and good-hearted part, but why have any negative traits in you when you can have none? Why be intelligent, good-hearted, and a sexual object, when you can be smart, good-hearted, and not a sexual object?
Women should to wear clothes that conceal them, because of the exploitation that can come from elements of society. I have focused on the much-applauded naked, near-naked, and half-naked women. I say “much-applauded” because it seems like the less clothing a woman wears the more she is appreciated by those that work in the fashion/media/porn/music industry, as well as those that are consumed by their lustful desires.
I haven’t discussed the standard jeans and t-shirt outfit – you know the typical tight-fitting jeans that outline the legs, and the t-shirt which outlines the shape of the chest and exposes the arms (I think you can already tell why this standard outfit is questionable, to me, in terms of self-respect.) So, the jeans and T-shirt (and other midway-dignified clothing) may be better than a mini skirt or a bikini…but I mean, why would a self-respecting woman settle for “ok” when it comes to dress? Why not want to walk with total assurance, knowing that her appearance reflects her mind-set? Why not tell the people who she interacts with that “I want to be dealt with solely for who I am” (not how a person looks)
So in my opinion, at least, women wearing anything besides 100% concealing clothes does not contribute to women’s liberation. It degrades women. And it is, in fact, for this very reason that Islamic texts mandate concealing clothing, modest clothing, the hijab, (as it infamously known.) So, if you walk away with nothing else from this essay, please take the advice that you shouldn’t think the hijab degrades women, it actually protects women, they wear it with pride because it frees them from becoming sexual objects, and frees them to become who they are (smart, quirky, funny, caring…what have you). It liberates them, in short.
Author:Ethar Hamid is a Sudanese-American Muslim aspiring writer, with her sights on becoming an essayist, poet, and memoirist.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of Ijtihad Network.