Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Explain this to me, if you will.

This is weird. I firmly believe that rape and sexual violence are not the victim's fault. Males have got to learn to keep their sexual thoughts from affecting their professional and personal life and they must treat women with respect. Women want to be spoken to face to face, not face to chest. You know the drill. And I suspect you agree with this line of reasoning.

And yet, female fashion these days seems to feature cleavage to the max. I went to a seminar today and the woman presenting was wearing a neckline that revealed quite a lot more bosom than seemed necessary. She was nicely dressed--that wasn't an issue. But I couldn't look at her without being aware of her generous bustline. I wondered how it affected the male ministers in the room, as she talked about end of life and hospice issues. I was distracted and I'm not male---or even bi.

Styles for women, even young girls, are very low cut these days, apparently for the purpose of showing off the beauty of the female breast. That's nice. But at the same time we are telling males, don't look. Turn off your sexual thoughts. Pretend you don't notice.

I'm not advocating burkha or plainstyle clothing. Women have a right to look beautiful, to take care with their appearance, wear stylish clothing. But what's the message here? "I'm putting it out there but you're supposed to pretend you don't see it and you must not ever think that I want you to do anything about it."

What do you think?


Lizard Eater said...

I'll tell you this -- I have three daughters, all elementary age, and it's FREAKING impossible to find clothes that aren't tarty. But hey, take a look at the "Bratz" dolls. Barbie-style dolls wearing clothes that I'd never let my girls wear.

I don't like "grooming" my daughters to be sexual objects.

Mile High Pixie said...

Aha! You touch on something that the "post-feminist/Third Wave Feminists" don't like to acknowledge. I'm all for dressing to show off my best assets and not hide under a burqa, but I too know what effect my hooters have on men and choose not to slap people in the face with them, as it were, in professional situations. You've hit it right on, Rev. Kit: it's too much to ask folks to not stare at the two bald men I've smuggled into the conference room in my low-cut shirt. By flashing the twins insouciantly, I'm asking men to override 10,000+ years of biology and talk only only only to my face. In our upcoming next Intern 101 seminar at my office, I'll be addressing clothing, and how covering up actually adds to your credibility.

(And I've stopped worrying about whether I look "cute" or not in my business attire--my husband told me that men can tell if you look good or not no matter what you're wearing. they just know how to look at you.)

ms. kitty said...

It's such a huge mixed message---to be overtly sexual in your appearance and be angry if anyone responds to you sexually. I'm remembering the days of being called a tease if a female advertised her wares and rejected anyone who showed interest. And LE, I know what you mean about what's available for girls these days, both in clothes and dolls.

Red Sphynx said...

I think The Onion got the sense of this a decade ago:

Area Woman Tired Of Men Staring At Her Breast Implants

uuMomma said...

I'll have to blog an answer to this...but not now, late for work. (And I agree with you ...)

fausto said...

As a happily married man, there's a difference between asking me to keep my hands, speech and other projectible extremities to myself (which is fair) and asking me not even to notice whatever goods happen to be deliberately presented for display (which is not). The same goes double for randy unattached men, I should think.

This is an arena that falls far outside the question of rape and sexual violence, and has far more to do with issues of common courtesy, privacy, and respect -- not only on the part of men toward women, but at least as much on the part of women toward men.

Here's a simple rule for women: If you don't want the general public inspecting your goods, then don't put them out on public display.

And here's a good corrolary: If you do put your goods right out there in the front window of the market, don't delude yourself into thinking that you're the victimized one when the inevitable windowshoppers appear. You're the angler, not the hapless fish, in that situation.

Some other guy once said, "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you." Without needing to reach the question of whether all men are dogs or swine, it's the same idea. (Although if you happen to be of the mind that they are, it's especially pertinent.)

Miss Kitty said...

My female students fail to understand that when they dress in low-cut blouses with Victoria's Secret Super-Vavoomba Push-Up bras, tight jeans, and 4" spike heels, MEN ARE GOING TO NOTICE. They sometimes get so upset that a guy spoke to them or stared...but when *I* dress like that, I know EXACTLY what reaction I want from men. Perhaps it's being young and clueless: they simply don't have enough life/cultural experience to know when to dress sexy, and when NOT to.

This could also be something very subtle on the part of fashion marketers: market too-sexy fashion to the young and clueless, who don't have enoguh gumption/power/spine yet to tell you to fucking quit staring. It reminds me of Martin*, who only chooses women he can control (young clueless ones). Women his age turn him off b/c he can't tell them what to do.

In the meantime, I ask my big-push-up-titty students to please sit in the back of the room, or bring a scarf to cover up those gazongas while in my classroom.

Joel said...

I find myself often wishing that Victoria would just keep her secrets to herself.

I think it comes with our culture's overwhelming obsession with matters pelvic. Modesty is currently something risible at best, psychologically repressed at worst. I know trends like this come and go, but I'll be glad to see this one end, as it's dangerous. I have daughters, too, and it's harder every year to keep them from dressing like little lolitas, because (a) there's not much clothing out there that's not indecent, and (b) because they hear in music and TV all about how they should be catching a boy's attention, starting at a much earlier age than they ought to.

Robin Edgar said...

"I find myself often wishing that Victoria would just keep her secrets to herself."

Say no more. Say no more.

Nudge, nudge.

Wink, wink. . . ;-)

John said...

Well, you've hit on something that pretty close to home for me - female (particularly feminist) attitude towards male sexuality in general. American sexuality is dysfunctional, and I'm sad to say that men are taking a beating because of it. Maybe that's just my bias... maybe I'll write a blog entry about it so you could see my point of view.

- John

ogre said...

Yes, John, American sexuality is dysfunctional.

But the bottom line is that human wiring is to notice (I observed this behavior in my mother... who seemed more attuned than my father or either of her sons, my sister and a number of women I know. And it's not as if gay men don't notice, too. It's where the noticing goes). I've a dear friend who's trans (FTM). His perspective is fascinating.

He comments that before he was aware of. And like good feminists of the era, thought that male behavior (such as the spot-and-track...) was just... despicable. After he started getting testosterone and transitioning, he found himself on the street one day and... caught himself doing precisely that. Unconsciously.

That's the wiring. It's probably older than the species.

The more that a woman puts her body on display, the more it's going to be noticed (shocking; who'd imagine that putting the goods in the front window would make people windowshop them?).

A young woman needs to learn to dress for the effect she seeks. If it's to be taken by men as an intellectual equal, then dress that role. Equally, young men need to learn to keep the autonomic reactions discreet and to shunt them aside.

The idealistic concept is that people should be able to walk into a setting and dealt with more or less like people act via email and the web, whee the sex and gender cueing is about as minimal as it gets. But the absurdity of that notion can be tested with a little thought experiment:

Assume that various people in your life walk into your home and/or office naked--but otherwise in a normal manner. Are you going to notice? React?

How about an attractive young woman or man dressed in the skimpiest of beachwear?

We notice, because we're wired to notice and react. Clothing, other than for protection from the elements, is a cultural cue. Arriving to class or to a committee meeting dressed for a hot, hot date is simply giving all the wrong cues. That doesn't justify grossly inappropriate actions or comments--but one shouldn't be at all surprised that the cues one gives get some of the responses those cues appear designed to elicit.

Joel said...

Arriving to class or to a committee meeting dressed for a hot, hot date is simply giving all the wrong cues.

Or, depending on the instructor, a recipe for an A.

John said...

Ogre, I agree that noticing is a part of human behavior - it isn't that which I'm commenting on. Male voyeurism is, as you said, hardwired into our behavior; my question is why should we be disciplined with like a bad dog for doing what only comes natural?

I wrote an entry based on this post today - and while it maybe a bit forward, I would like you to read it. You can find the blog entry at

Tell me what you think.

ms. kitty said...

John, that's the whole point of my post---that males should not be despised for doing what comes naturally and that women need to be aware of the messages they're sending out. At the same time, a woman's provocative appearance is not an excuse to rape her or treat her disrespectfully. If that didn't come across, I'm sorry.