I’ve written before of the dilemma women face when they get dressed in the morning. I’ve written about how people are more likely to die in a hurricane if that storm is named after a woman, because we don’t believe that women mean what they say. I’ve written about how young women are taught to feel ashamed of their lovely bodies because of the sexist nature of school dress codes.
I’d like to be done writing about this. I’d like women to be treated with as much respect and autonomy (or maybe even more!) as corporations are by our politicians. (If corporations are people, Mr Supreme Court, could women also be considered people? “Sure, little lady. As long as you let me tell you how dangerous it would be for you to have access to birth control or make your own best health care choices for your own life.”)
Honestly, I’d like to be able to set aside the remnants of shame I still carry around in my own body. All of the time catcalling men have made me feel unsafe walking down the street, and the times in my childhood when people called me fat, and the many times I told myself I was fat–so many moments that have led to my own complicated relationship with my own self.
Just when I think I’ve overcome it, I hear that voice in my head saying “you’re not going to wear that, are you?” Or I catch myself judging the body of another woman in my head. Or I measure my body against the picture of a body I see on Facebook or the bodies of any Olympic athlete. Body shame is pernicious, and getting rid of it requires constant vigilance.
Which is why I was gobsmacked today by this image:
Fifteen towns in France have outlawed women wearing full body swimsuits on the beach, citing “security risks“. Which led to the image I saw this morning:
Armed police officers in France forcing a woman to remove clothes on a public beach because some people who claim to share her religious tradition have killed people in France.
Listen France. I get that you’re afraid. I do. Terrorism is horrible. And it is unsettling. When no place is safe from threats of violence, it can make you feel better to think you’re doing something to fix the problem.
I also know you are a more secular country than we are here in the US, so this is not the first time you’ve limited public religious expression.
Terrorizing women, however, does not fix the problem. I guarantee this woman, forced to disrobe in public, does not now better understand the motto of the French Revolution: liberté égalité fraternité.
I guarantee you that her daughter, who cried as people cheered the police and yelled for the woman to “go home”, does not feel safe from your own brand of terror.
Armed men telling me to take off my clothing in public is a terrifying thought.
Armed men telling me to put more clothing on in public is also a terrifying thought.
There is a security risk involved in men policing women’s bodies–but the risk is to women, not to national security.
How about we just let women wear whatever the f*ck they want. (Here’s a great article to that point.)
There was another image in the news recently that sums it up. Egyptian beach volleyball player Doaa Elghobashy, aged 19, wore a hijab, long sleeves and black leggings to her ankles. German Kira Walkenhorst, 25, wore a dark blue bikini as they competed in the Rio Olympics. This photo, by Lucy Nicholson of Reuters, illustrates how women can wear whatever they want to wear and still successfully play volleyball, or swim at a beach, or run for president, or be a pastor, or go to school.
Life is too short for body shaming–shaming of ourselves or of others. Life is too precious to pretend that by policing women’s clothing on the beach that we are somehow building a safer society. Let’s do better. And wear whatever we want to wear.
My friend Amy Pence Brown shared this today:
Friends, love yourself. As you are. Allow others to love themselves too, even if it involves different choices than you might make.