Gender, Social Justice

Stop telling us to “dress like a lady”

'Ladies get free entrance' is a popular slogan for clubs but is not one that extends to all women.

Recently my Facebook feed was abuzz with a controversial issue for some: As a woman you are supposed to look a certain way or you will pay the price – literally.

Here’s the story: A group of female friends decided to go to a club and one was denied free entrance not because the time had passed for free entrance, but because her outfit didn’t make her look like a lady or arguably a woman. She shared her experience on Facebook and a lot of people shared their opinions.

The Trinidadian society in which I live is a post-colonial and patriarchal one. For centuries, the land and people have been exploited for monetary gain. One of the remnants of that is the exploitation of Trinidadian women.  Our women have been boasted about. Our culture prides itself on the objectification of women – specifically for Carnival. It’s a street festival, a big tourist attraction and women are at the front of Carnival promotions.

Not only are we expected to look a certain way, but we have been portrayed a particular way and not by our collective doing.

Our clothing has been policed before – from having to shed traditional clothing to being forced to adopt the Western clothing of colonial masters to now having patriarchal standards policing our clothing. Yet now, gender enters the equation. Now, we have clothing playing a significant part in gender identity.

Policing of women’s clothing is nothing new, and many can relate to it. Many women have experienced being judged for not dressing how someone, man or woman, would like them to. It is tiresome and infuriating to have to be placed in the position of pleasing others, when they have no say over what you wear.

Nor should they.

It’s not anyone’s business to say how a woman should dress. How do you determine someone’s lady-ness? Why is that even necessary?

At the core of the entire affair is a blatant disregard and disrespect of a woman’s choice. It’s time for that to end.

If we can ignore the right a woman has over her own body through dress, and then have the audacity to  go further than that by demanding she wear something else, then it comes as no surprise that her life isn’t considered weighty, either.

Patriarchy tells us that men are the pillars for determining the way a woman should dress. It’s about time that crap stops.