Sexualisation

L B

Standing in a bookshop flicking through a book when a man comes up to me. He says, “Good book?” I say yes, no eye contact because I’m not interested. He says, “Where are you from?” I say here, not looking at him. He says, “I thought you might be Dutch.” I ignore him. He looks me up and down and then says, as if I’m not there, “Cute, but probably taken.” I say “I am,” put down my book and walk away, but inside I’m seething. The book I was reading was Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things To Me. ……. On a train, a middle aged man is sitting with his two teenage daughters, swearing at them, telling them, “You don’t fucking know what the world is like, you fucking bitches.” He goes on like this, and people are exchanging looks, but not doing anything. An older woman, visibly distressed, leaves the carriage. No one says anything, so I feel I have to. I get up, although I’m scared, and I say, “You can’t talk like that.” He says, “Why the fuck not, they’re my fucking daughters.” I say, “I don’t care.” (I do care, but I don’t want to involve them.) “This is a public place, you can’t talk like that here. You’re upsetting people.” It shames me that my voice shakes while I say these things. He tells me to fuck off, but he stops in the end.

A Confused Teacher

Inspired by this website, a talk from Laura, reading Laura’s books and many others, I have begun questioning policies that, as a teacher, I am expected to enforce. Uniform is an issue, but what has concerned me recently is a particular aspect of mufti day outfits. My school, like many others, occasionally has days when pupils are allowed to wear their own clothes. Particularly in the summer time, this causes an issue over midriffs. Now, in principle, the rule about covering midriffs applies to boys and girls, but in practice, it only effects/has an impact on the girls. Now, as a teacher of politics, I am a big fan of students asking for clarification and challenging rules. As long as it is done in an appropriate way this is a mark of an intelligent and independent person who will not blindly follow orders. When a pupil wears a crop, or a short top that may ride up, they will ask why it needs to be covered. To be honest, I can think of no good answer to this question other than a woefully inappropriate ‘because that’s the rule’. In a bid to find a justification, I have been trying to find possible justifications online. After many searches, these are basically the only justifications I can find for why girls (or women for that matter) should cover their midriff: It’s disgusting (what a wonderful message of bodily pride to give to women and girls) They’re just doing it to get attention (really? Even if that were true (which in many cases I doubt) why is that an issue?) It’s too sexual (firstly, it only seems to have become sexual because everyone is trying to cover it up, much like the Victorian obsession with ankles, and secondly, surely the issue is with the people who find the stomachs sexual) It will distract the boys/make male teacher’s uncomfortable (seems to be a bit of victim blaming here; covers girls legs, shoulders and, basically everything else too (pun intended). Maybe girls should hide until no one is distracted by them, or maybe men should hide themselves away until they’ve learnt to control themselves and stop,blaming girls for their issues) A general trend seems to be that by exposing the midriff girls are asking for trouble, which is just completely wrong. I could go on, I really cannot find any justification for requiring girls to cover midriffs other than boys/men sexualising them or that girls,stomachs are disgusting (which seem very contradictory views). Sorry for the long post, but if anyone can give me a reasonable justification for girls and women being required to cover their midriff (or shoulders or legs for that matter) I’d be eternally grateful.

Lucy

Almost every day when walking on the street, no matter what I am wearing, where I am going, or the time of day, I get catcalled in some way or another. Sometimes it may just be men jeering to on another as I walk by or honking from their cars. But other times there are comments and gestures of a sexual nature. Sometimes it has even been young boys, younger than me (I am 18). Which shows that the issue is not just regarding the older generations who were ‘brought up in a different time’. It is a current, on going issue that is not going to go away.The fact that young boys today are taught that this OK to do shows just how relevant the issue is in todays society. Teach young boys to respect women and girls, rather than teaching young women to fear men and boys.