I recently read one of my good friends blog posts about her experience being called out by some strangers for wearing a corset on a train in the middle of the day, insulting her and basically trying to ‘slut shame’ her. (You can read that post here: http://bit.ly/1iqIeOq also check out the rest of her blog!) Instead of just being angry at what had happened (I was) and proud of how she responded to them (I am), I decided to use it as a talking point for this weeks blog. In terms of rape culture, this is an interesting issue about women being able to wear whatever they want, whenever they want, and it in no way being an invitation for men or women to sexually objectify or abuse them in any way. However in a much wider context for everyone, it is also an issue of difference, expressing yourself, and being accepted and accepting of others.
I have quite a few friends who are into various fandoms (groups of fans for specific TV shows/books/comics/films etc) and as a part of expressing this they enjoy dressing up in costume as characters from those shows/books/so on. I personally think it’s brilliant, and always enjoy seeing what outfits they have put together from shows and books which I love, but all too often I’ve heard their stories of negative experiences wearing costumes in public. People have had abuse shouted at them, been laughed at by strangers, and even physically attacked just because they are wearing something a little unusual. It’s not just cosplaying either, just dressing in a way which is considered ‘different’ by someone with a narrow mind can be enough for them to outwardly display their prejudice. Some people will say ‘oh well you should stop dressing like that in public if you don’t want people to react’, but that is just perpetuating the problem. It’s the same principle as telling women to avoid doing certain things or dressing certain ways to stop them getting raped. It’s disgusting, and it’s backwards. The fact of the matter is, society needs to be teaching the message of tolerance, acceptance, and acting like a decent human being, not how to protect yourself from the inevitable bad people who didn’t get the memo. Standing up for who you are and what you believe in is one of the most important things you can do in life. If you’re dressing down or acting differently to ‘fit in’ and prevent others from making fun of you (or worse) then you won’t be truly happy.
One of my main aims in my twenties is to work out who I want to be, truly and without pressure from anyone else, the things which make me happy, what motivates me, what I want to do with my life and all the other twenty-something questions. Now I don’t know about any of you, but I am definitely not going to let the fact that certain people may disagree with who I am stop me from being myself, and moving forward in that journey of self discovery. I will wear the short skirt and high heels if I want to, but I will also dress up like Katniss in the arena from The Hunger Games, or wear a guys’ shirt and jeans if I want. I will sing along to songs on the radio in the SU when other people are around, I will skip down the street when I feel like it. I am not going to let society dictate to me what I can and cannot be or do, just because I should fit in with ‘normal’ which doesn’t even really exist. I am proud of who I am, and as much as I have moments of doubt and shakes in my self confidence, day by day I am getting stronger and more sure of myself, and the fact that nobody can change that.
Tomorrow, chose one thing which you feel really expresses who you are – it could be a piece of jewellery, an item of clothing or even some make up, and wear it with pride. Notice how people view you, but don’t let it get to you, if they react negatively they are probably just afraid of something which isn’t familiar to them. You may even be surprised and connect to people because of your individuality. Those people, the ones who appreciate your differences, are the sort of people worth knowing.
I will be wearing my skinny jeans, leather jacket and lots of eye-liner tomorrow, as it’s a side of my style which I feel I haven’t expressed in a while! I hope you’ll join me in being differently you.