Only an hour ago, I was doing homework in my room and my mother walked in with a grave expression on her face. She told me that my white shirt was too see-through to be wearing around the house without a bra on underneath. I have several stepbrothers and a stepfather who are constantly milling about, so in her eyes this was a reasonable request. I, of course, did not exactly compromise so easily. As I angrily took to my journal to vent my thoughts, I thought about the implications of this small moment in the context of female injustice around the world.
We live in a society where both men and women are constantly judged based on appearance and conformity to social norms. Beauty standards are notorious for giving people of all ages and body types the wrong impression about how to live their lives. As a woman, however, these standards are amplified both in one’s community and the rest of the world.
As someone who never breaks school dress code or is rarely out of place in a formal situation, this comment my own mother made about me was incredibly offensive and condescending. However, her tone and mannerisms were not the awful part about this situation. It was her hyper-sexualization of me, a severely self-conscious teenage girl with awful body issues and confidence problems, that struck the rawest nerve. Because this misconception that women’s bodies are objectifiable by others (and other women nonetheless) is not only seen on a personal level, but internationally as well.
I like to think of myself as a strong advocate for human rights, whether it be women or LGBTQ+ people or for #blacklivesmatter. But in that moment, in my poignant realization of its connection to other female lives, I was rendered silent. I could not even stand up for myself or my hardly see-through t-shirt. I just smiled and nodded, like “okay I promise to wear a bra around my own house so my body does not /offend/ the males around me.” Too often, women are afraid to speak up about issues that affect them because they are worried their voice will not be heard. And I fell into that pattern again today.
Let’s work to change that; for women, minorities, LGBTQ+, people of all ages and shapes and colors and abilities. We are all human, and we all make mistakes. We fail ourselves and the people around us. But we must recognize our flaws and seek to change them before we can be forgiven by those we have wronged. I will strive to do that in every situation, and I hope everyone can learn to do the same. Voices that have been silenced can be heard if we seek to amplify them for the betterment of our society.
I have included a picture of the t-shirt in question. You can make your judgments, but I will stand by my convictions forever.