Recently my Facebook feed was abuzz with a controversial issue: 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 adopt the western clothing of our colonial masters to now having patriarchal standards policing women’s clothing.
Except now gender enters the clothing equation, 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; men and women, 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? When is it even necessary?
I’ll answer that for you: Never.
At the core of not liking the way a woman dresses be it too covered, covered in a manner that doesn’t please, or not covered enough is a blatant disregard and lack of respect for a woman’s right to choose.
If we can ignore the right a woman has over her own body through dress and go further than that by demanding she wears something else by denying entry to a place or through law, then it comes as no surprise that her life isn’t weighty either.
Patriarchy tells us that men are the pillars for determining the way a woman should dress and it’s about time that crap stops.