Even though I’m afraid to admit it sometimes, I think about my appearance a lot. I look in every mirror that I ever see and check my reflection in windows. No, this does not stem from feeling confident in my appearance and loving my outfits. Instead, this is a product of me having been slut-shamed from the age of 10.
I went through puberty earlier than my peers. I remember going bra-shopping at the start of fifth grade with my mother. I had only had trainer-bras before, you know, the $10-dollar kind from Old Navy. The person working in the bra section of Macy’s measured me, and I learned that I was a C-cup. I honestly didn’t care about the information that I was just told and wouldn’t have given it a second thought until my mother made a comment. She told me that I would have to start dressing more modestly to hide my cleavage.
At my mother’s insistence, I bought some new clothes that day, but her comments did not stop there. Before and after my soccer practices, she would criticize my decision to wear tank tops in 80-degree weather. I had told her I was comfortable, and it was hot. She had brushed me off and said that I was being inappropriate.
My mother was, unfortunately, not the only person who criticized, or slut-shamed, me. At my middle school, we did not have a dress code, but we did have dress code regulations. I, on more than one occasion, was criticized by my guidance counselor for my clothing choices. On many occasions, this was when I was wearing t-shirts. Even though it should not be a problem if I did, I did not show any cleavage. At the same time, my t-shirts were not incredibly baggy. This sent me one message: My body, because of its curves, is in itself inappropriate.
Well, that’s one message I should not have been given, and no one else should be given. There is nothing wrong with my appearance. I hated my body for years because of criticism from adults. Fortunately, that period is over, and I am trying to reclaim my appearance now.
What does reclaiming my appearance mean? It can be different for everyone, but for me, it means dressing in clothes that make me feel comfortable and that I think are cute. It means embracing my curves. If I show some cleavage or wear something form-fitting, that’s fine. If people have a problem with this, that’s on them, not me. Sure, I definitely do follow societal norms when it comes to attire — I don’t know anyone who doesn’t. I’m going to wear formal clothes when I go to a job interview, but if I’m just studying or going out with friends, I’m not going to care if my clothes are “appropriate.”
Unfortunately, I am far from being alone when it comes to slut-shaming. Many schools across the world are guilty of slut-shaming and teaching girls that their bodies are inappropriate. This can often be seen in dress codes or guidelines, where there are often more rules pertaining to girls than boys. For example, some guidelines insinuate that girls cannot wear yoga pants because they would distract boys. Instead, why don’t we teach boys to not view girls as sexual objects? Sounds like a better place to start. Confronting notions, like dress guidelines, which either promote or lead to slut-shaming is crucial.
Being slut-shamed sucked, and I get annoyed now when people make comments about how I need to be more modest. It’s a work in progress, but I’m working on embracing my body, specifically my curves. This includes looking at my reflection and telling myself that I look amazing. Because I do.