Hemline Feminism



Whenever a story crops up about a sexual or sexist attack in which the (female) victim is accused of wearing the kind of clothes that ‘ask for it’, I always feel that one important point is never made. Although the argument that women really should be able to wear what they like without incurring ‘justified’ rape ought to be enough to end the discussion (if only!), I think there is more to be said on the clothing choices available to girls and women.

Now, I know I am not the only person who has purchased a lovely summer dress, which looked absolutely fine in the changing room, only to find that once you start walking around in it the skirt is barely swishing over your buttocks. Or the difficulty in finding tops with a neckline high enough to cover your bra. Or a shirt for work that is not completely see-through. I mean, seriously, why would you ever want a see-through shirt?

And yes, if you are concerned by these things you can choose to wear something modest like trousers and a shirt – oh wait.

Choice is a funny thing. It is very easy for a rape apologist to say that women can just choose to wear clothes that cover their bits up and then, erm, there will be no more rape. However, if you cast a critical eye over the window displays of clothes shops aimed at young and youngish women, you will see an overwhelming dominance of teeny skirts, skintight jeans, low-cut tops, see-through blouses, backless dresses, hotpants and this summer – God forbid – crop tops. These are the clothes that girls and women are encouraged to wear by adverts, magazines and the celebrities who unfortunately function as role models. Add to that the immense pressure to be hot and sexy and it no longer seems like a simple choice for a sixteen-year-old girl to wear a polo neck and bootcut jeans from Marks and Spencer.

If there is a better solution than safety pins and opaque tights then I for one would like to hear it.

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