Why You Should Fight Your Judgmental Side Eye During Shorts Season

by Andrea Stopa

So, it’s right around the bend: the season of the flesh. It is about to be (already kind of is?) super sticky out, which means it’s time to try on your old shorts/skirts/dresses to see if they still fit/look for an excuse to buy some cuter and trendier ones. 

In being a people-watcher and shameless ease-dropper, I can’t help but notice how much judgement is so casually thrown on women’s dress–pretty much all the time, but especially in the summer, and especially by other women. 

Let’s take a moment to just agree that women’s bodies are always ogled in a patriarchal and misogynistic society that relegates women’s worth to only their physique, and sees women’s bodies as always presentational and sexual. Let’s just say we get that, because I want to acknowledge up front that the issue at hand is patriarchy and how to not play into it, not women being bitchy to other women. 

Sign should read “Not Your Bitch, Patriarchy”

The other day, I was listening to a group of women talk about their younger sisters, and what they “have the nerve to wear” to school, or prom, or whatever and I was deeply uncomfortable. Things like “you should see what she left the house wearing – I was never that bad” or “I can’t believe what girls are even wearing these days.” As usual, I sat quietly and analyzed their comments through a feminist lens (my #1 past-time). The women were unknowingly slut-shaming their sisters, and inadvertently defending a sexualized and inappropriate male gaze. 

You have to ask yourself and others, what does it really mean when you tell your sisters or friends they shouldn’t wear those short shorts, or you judge their dress as too risqué? It means you are policing their bodies, and ultimately telling them they are responsible for looking “presentable” (read: responsible for not enticing inappropriate male attention).

I have news for y’all: the male gaze is always on a female body, no matter how you dress it, and it should not be a woman’s responsibility to defend her body from it because a) it’s a losing battle and b) that’s rape culture. 

Yup, I said it. Call me hysterical or whatever (but really, don’t) but when you look at at a woman on the street and say “Put some clothes on, lady!” what you are really saying is “You’re shirking your responsibility to protect yourself from sexual predators!” and therefore confirming the notion that it’s up to women to end rape/sexual violence/assault when we know it’s not, and it’s a damn distraction from the real issue at hand; that we live in a society where women are never safe. 

Of course, there are potentially other reasons you want a woman–young or old–to wear more clothing. Maybe you’re projecting that she is cold, or uncomfortable, or desperate for attention, or selling herself short of the respect she deserves, or over-sexualizing her beautiful body. But I reiterate, she is not the one sexualizing her body, society is. 

You might have heard of the dress-code ban aimed at girls wearing leggings to school that were deemed “too distracting” for boys–to which the public fabulously responded with a resounding “are you effing kidding?” The ban on the leggings was a systematic confirmation of a boy’s right to ogle, and a girl’s responsibility to protect and police her own body, which of course, is horse shit. It’s up to dudes to keep it in their pants, and it should never be the responsibility of a girl or woman to police herself as to not be “too distracting” in her dress (also, just saying, this is all terribly and problematically heteronormative). The ban inadvertently confirmed girls bodies as inherently sexual objects, as it implied to girls that simply showing their bodies was overly-sexual. They had to hide their butts more, so they didn’t distract the real students (a.k.a the boys) from their studies. I could really go on and on about this one, but I will resist. The point is, when you police a girl or a woman in her dress, you are supporting an ideology you might not mean to support, so you might want to check yourself.

Next time you’re about to throw some massive judgement, think more deeply about the root of your reactions, and don’t fall victim to these old and ridiculous paradigms when you see a woman wearing what looks like denim underwear as she walks down the street. Maybe you feel protective of her, maybe you’re worried about her potential chaffing, or maybe you want her to be safe and feel strongly that she is in danger when she wears those shorts, but that is not her fault or yours, it’s the fault of a society that doesn’t systematically protect women, and places blame on individuals.

Images via Tumblr, VaVaVoom TV

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