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What should women wear, according to society?

What should women wear, according to society?

What should women wear, according to society?
February 28
22:01 2017

On Feb. 21, Marine Le Pen, the presidential candidate of the National Front – France’s far-right political party – was on a three-day trip to Lebanon. On the day she was scheduled to meet with the country’s top Sunni Muslim cleric, the meeting was canceled over a brief quarrel.

The commotion began at the entrance when Le Pen was handed a white scarf by an aide to wear before addressing the clerk. After a quick discussion with his aides, she refused and walked back to her car. This incident got me questioning the role a woman’s appearance plays in the world stage.

Although Le Pen has many controversial stances, we will not be discussing her candidacy. Rather we will discuss the frequency in which men, and at times, society as a whole, subjugate women to only having interests in our physical appearances, and having the urge to tell women what to wear and how to wear it.

This is not an isolated case or even representative of only one religion. As a matter of fact, we can go back in history to see the real source of controlling women’s clothing as way to maintain societal order.

For example in ancient Sparta, as a society, they made the necessity of regulating female dress clear. In 4th century B.C.E., they appointed a group of magistrates to observe women’s actions. This group was entitled to control how much women spent on clothes and assure “proper attire” at religious festivals. They were designed to enforce a dress code to preserve the chastity of women.

In Rome, a similar law was passed. It was the Lex Oppia, which was established in 215 B.C.E. during the Second Punic War. Among its provisions, it stipulated how much gold a women could own, the dresses they could wear and even the way they should ride a horse.

There are no short instances or lack of historical evidence that support the idea that, throughout human history, women have been suppressed or that control of our clothing was a way to ensure power over us.

Marine Le Pen, or any woman for that matter, deserves the same respect that would be given to a male counterpart. When we are asked to change the way we dress, you are asking us to compromise ourselves, and to accommodate society with our physical appearance. Situations with what we are wearing should be the least of society’s worries.

Women are CEOs, doctors, engineers, prime ministers, presidents, judges, professors and mothers, each here to serve a purpose. We have been working for this and should not be belittled to the point of feeling like, every day, we are encountering “the fashion police,” a cultural phenomenon which has made us women feel like our worth is only dependent on our looks.

I’m not here to advocate in favor for or against any religion, but what I want to make clear is that what women wear should not be up for men to decide. Asking a women to wear a headscarf can be just as demeaning as demanding her to “take it off.”

We are powerful, we are valuable, we have a voice and what we wear or not wear is our decision. Not men or society. It is only ours to make because as Ayn Rand once said, “The question isn’t who’s going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.”

Featured Illustration: Antonio Mercado

About Author

Gabriela Macias

Gabriela Macias

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1 Comment

  1. Older and wiser
    Older and wiser March 02, 13:06

    There’s a time to fight the “fashion police” who dictate what women may or may not wear, but there’s also a time to be respectful and meet people halfway, for the sake of improving relationships. Look at it this way: If you belonged to a conservative Christian church or conservative Jewish synagogue, where men and women wore clothing that was not revealing, you’d probably want any visitors to your church to dress the same way. The same logic applies to certain ministers/priests wanting brides who are married in their church to not wear revealing wedding gowns that the ministers/priests believe are more suited to nightclubs than a religious ceremony. Coming into another person’s space means you should act respectfully, and that may mean following a dress code (written or unwritten). Doing that shouldn’t make you feel any less empowered or less of a woman. Pick your battles carefully, kids.

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