I was just 10 years old when I hit puberty and I physically matured into a young woman very quickly. I had C cups by the time I was 12 which made me the target of a lot of unwanted attention from a very early age. However, my body still hadn’t finished growing and soon I became known as the ‘girl with the big boobs’, whether I liked it or not.
As a young girl with a body of a grown woman, things got really awkward. During my school years I would be so embarrassed to participate in sporting activities, especially running for obvious reasons. I wouldn’t dare to get undressed in the common areas of the changing rooms, I’d wait for the next free cubicle. And clothes just didn’t fit or if they did it was because I had stretched out the material to maximum capacity. The buttons on my school dresses would constantly break free.
In my teens I became acutely aware of how I would be perceived if I wore certain clothes. Things I wore always tended to look suggestive or provocative without even trying. Even if I wanted to wear such clothes my parents wouldn’t allow it. So, the only other option was to wear clothes that made me look and feel – and I mean no offence – like a nun. My sisters have always been petite and they could wear anything – singlets, backless tops, crop tops, but for some reason they didn’t look suggestive, so it was okay for them to wear whatever they wanted.
I remember how I would CRY. I would throw the worst tantrums because I was frustrated. It felt so unfair that I couldn’t wear nice clothes because I was going to be perceived as attention-seeking, slutty and promiscuous, yet my sisters could wear whatever they wanted.
As I entered my late teens, like any other girl my age, I wanted to look and feel sexy. I felt so constricted and repressed that I couldn’t wear the clothes I wanted, so I started to rebel. My parents (who are the greatest and who I love very much) were not happy. ‘Have some self-respect’, don’t look like ‘trash’, ‘cover yourself’ they would say, as if there was something inherently shameful about my body. And for a moment in time I internalised that shame, that false correlation between what one wears and their self-respect, and the view that our bodies are somehow tied to our worth.
However, it wasn’t long before I became ‘woke’ (a slang word for socially aware). I learnt about women’s sexual liberation. A movement that challenges traditional social expectations about how women should look, dress, talk and act, in relation to sexuality. And IT IS LIBERATING. IT IS EMPOWERING. TO OWN AND EMBRACE YOUR SEXUALITY. TO EXERCISE CHOICE. To rid yourself of the shame and outdated expectations that have been imposed upon women for so long.
Unfortunately, not everyone is woke. People still judge, criticise and condemn women for embracing their sexuality. What makes me so sad and quite frankly fucking angry – is that there is ALREADY so much self-hatred in this world, so many people suffer from body-image issues, low self-esteem and depression. Why are we trying to bring people down and shame women for embracing themselves, or for showing an ounce of confidence? (live and let live, love and let love). It’s freaking hard enough to love yourself in a society that constantly tells you that you’re not good enough.
However, I do believe that one should dress for the setting they are in, like in a professional setting, funeral or gym. There are appropriate clothing conventions we abide by for various reasons. But even if a woman respects dress codes where ‘appropriate’, the moment she’s caught violating ‘traditional social expectations’ which dictate how a woman should dress – some people will question her worth, credibility, value, assume things, judge and criticise her.
Don’t believe the Western world is as dire as I’m making it out?
Well, Emma Watson’s recent photoshoot illustrates the situation. Watson, a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador and highly successful, talented actress was criticised for a ‘topless’ photo taken as part of the shoot. She was shamed, even by other women on social media. Watson, known for championing feminism, was called a hypocrite for showing her boobs. A writer for the Huffington Post described the situation PERFECTLY:
“In one simple photo, Watson has inadvertently bared a troubling truth that our society still, in 2017, cannot fathom the possibility that women can both express themselves sexually AND express a desire for equality, simultaneously” – Hannah Cranston.
A few years ago, a similar image went viral:
As perfectly evidenced by this picture (below-right) – the price of a woman owning her sexuality means that people will try to diminish and discredit the reputation, accomplishments and character of even the most highly influential women in the world – just from her choice of attire.
Rape Culture/Victim Blaming/Slut Shaming/Image-Based Sexual Assault:
The price of a woman owning her sexuality can and does become very dangerous. Women are often victim blamed and slut shamed in cases of rape, people say ‘she shouldn’t have worn that, she was asking for it’. Women are often victim blamed and slut shamed in cases of ‘image based sexual assault’ such as revenge porn, for sending intimate images in the first place. It really seems like women are being punished for just being women.
For too long, women have been told to hide themselves, that they should feel ashamed of their sexuality. Women SHOULD NOT have to pay a price for embracing their sexuality. Let’s celebrate women reclaiming their bodies and dressing however the fuck they want, in whatever the fuck they want.