Tuesday, June 16, 2015

A Time and a Place

There's a debate going on these days that deals with appearance; everything from clothing to jewelry, and one side of this argument seemingly contends that just about anything goes and that people should not be subject to things like dress codes and that we (both genders, but aimed more at men) should not engage in slut shaming.  I could be wrong, but it seems to me that some people are suggesting that the whole concept of provocative appearance exists only in the eyes of the beholder.  In terms of male-female social interaction, I get the distinct impression they are suggesting that a woman should be free to wear whatever she likes and that if a man dares to suggest that a particular mode of dress is particularly alluring, seductive or erotic, that this notion is totally in the head of the man in question; essentially reducing him and his reaction to some kind of drooling, staring Chester Molester.

I've got a one-word response to that:  bullshit.

Let's begin with young ladies.  Students.  Now, if you're in school - specifically middle or high school - this is of course a time when everybody is supposed to be studying, getting the best grades they can, preparing themselves for adulthood.  And of course, it's the time when hormones (male and female) are running wild.  But that's not the central theme of this blog.  Students need to be concentrating on their academics, on whatever it is the instructor is talking about at the moment - not who is the latest fab music celebrity or what is the latest fashion trend.  There's a time and place for that, and school isn't it.

So schools (most of them from what I can determine) enact dress codes.  In some school districts a big part of that concerns the wearing of gang colors and symbols.  Totally understandable.  And then there's the goth couture; the wearing of spikes, chains, leather, piercings, mohawks, etc.  I don't think anyone would really debate what this particular fashion entails.  Most of the parents I know wouldn't have any issues with banning this kind of dress from a school environment.

But - forgive the expression - some people really start getting their panties in a knot when you start talking about what constitutes provocative clothing for young girls.  May it please the court, I offer you exhibits A, B, and C.  The first two pairs of fabric are hi-rise shorts from a major young people's source of fashion, Abercrombie & Fitch.  They can be found in most major malls.  And exhibit C is from a popular Seventeen, the largest monthly teen magazine.

I could pretty much guarantee you that 90% of the middle and high schools in the country would send home any young girl who wore this stuff to class.

Whether or not you consider any of these items provocative is your own preference.  I'm just telling you they wouldn't fly in most schools.

And if you do think they're appropriate, then YOU'RE part of the problem.

Does the fashion world (meaning everything from Seventeen magazine to Versace) promote anorexic women, revealing clothing and fashion that is designed to draw attention to women's bodies?  Absolutely. 

But here's the rub (no pun intended).  If you're under 18, you're not an adult.  You do what adults tell you to do.  Especially in school, much less at home.

And if you're a parent that's comfortable with letting your daughter out of the house in leggings that might as well be painted-on, well then, you can't really complain if down the road she decides to get a part-time job dancing on a pole.

You can contend till you're blue in the face that every person should be free to express themselves (specifically in mode of dress) but people do not dress just to express themselves; they dress to attract attention.  If you disagree with that, don't bother reading any further.  I have nothing more to say to you.

Now, about piercings and tattoos.  For decades the only body part that people got pierced was their earlobe.  I'm not talking about native tribes; just your average industrialized society.  And for the most part it was women.  And somewhere along the line - I'll say the 60's - ear piercing became more popular with men.  Not all men.  You first began to see it in the west coast cultures.  San Francisco. Woodstock.  That sort of thing.

Tattoos were for the most part something you saw on merchant mariners and young men who did military service; especially those who served anywhere in the Pacific rim area.  And then it was bikers, a culture that really took off after WWll.  These days, just about everyone has at least a small tat, somewhere on their body.

But the issue of piercings and tats - at least as far as the business world is concerned - is not so much the extent of the work, but where it's located.  In other words, as long as your face doesn't look like you fell down the stairs with a tackle box or like you're on display in a carnival tent, most employers don't have a problem.  If you're just working in say, a machine shop environment, as long as you keep long hair tied up and you're not wearing hardware that can become entangled in a machine - as long as you're not a safety risk - you're cool.  It's when you're dealing with the public - the customer - that it becomes an issue.  An employer is usually totally within their legal rights to specify what they think is an appropriate mode of appearance for (at least some) employees.  How about this young lady:

Do I find her appearance attractive?  Not particularly.  Do I find it offensive or off-putting?  No.  But that's just me.  If this is how you want to look, I guess it's your choice.  As long as you're over 18.  If you're an adult, you can express your inner freak any way you like.  But many employers might have a problem if you were applying for the job of front desk receptionist or salesperson.

And then there's the ever-so-popular butt crack.  Do we really have a debate on this one?  What's the deal with this girl?  Does she NOT know the degree of her display?  If she does, what's the point?  Does that make her a whore?  Of course not.  It makes her look rather stupid.  It says something about how she chooses to present herself to the world.  Now, you can debate what that something is all you want, but I'm saying that she IS making a statement. 

Here's another garden variety example.  Not really what I'd call blatant exposure, but…is this particularly attractive or appropriate for being out in public?  I dunno.  Maybe.  If you on the boardwalk at Venice Beach or on the strip in Vegas.  AND you have the cheeks to pull it off.  She doesn't.  Is that chauvinistic?  Is that objectification?  Sorry.

Then there's this babe.  Again, extreme?  I dunno.  Apparently not in this day and age.  Is she a stripper?  I dunno.  Could be.  Might be.  Is she making some kind of statement?  You bet your ass she is.  Is that an invitation to be rude or crude to her?  Absolutely not.  But she's making a fashion statement as much as if she were wearing a Halloween costume.

Here's a classic male version of butt crack.  Makes me want to slap a trowel of spackle on it.  Dufus.  Dude probably drinks Bud Lite.  Just sayin'.

That's all I got time for, today.  I got shit to do.  And it doesn't involve mooning people at Walmart or anywhere else in public.

I'm thinking about talking to three women in my life - my mother, my wife and one of my best friends.  All of them extremely successful as parents and professionals in the business world.  All of them open-minded but also painfully logical.  If any one of them gave me the stink-eye at something I did or wore, I would definitely think twice about it.  I'll get back to ya about what they have to say on these issues.


  1. A slippery slope, to be sure--and I thank you for giving me the impetus for a blog of my own (to be written later). Thanks for putting it out there. ~ Blessings! :)

  2. Dress codes should be gender neutral; e.g. if the midriff is not to be exposed, this should apply to both male and female students.

    There is a post going around featuring a young woman dressed so that her upper back and shoulders are exposed. She is outraged that she was sent home and so are several of my contacts, claiming she is being "slut shamed" and that if she is a distraction, young men should be taught not to be distracted. Good luck with that.

    As far as employers, I think they have the right to impose dress codes, as long as they are gender neutral. As negotiated with the union of course. What do you mean, "What union?"

    1. And thank you, too for your input. I just got done listening to my wife's take on all this and there was nothing that was in significant contradiction to what I wrote. And…she's an HR person for a major lodging chain.