Women have the right to dress the way they like and feel and not be in danger or at risk of being raped. Just like any other human being. The dress code justification for rape has been discarded, writes Sane Sunyshine Sihiya.
We live in a society where nudity is the order of the day. We are slowly parting with dressing up fully, especially in relation to females. Of course the reasons for such an explosion of body exposure vary, and are driven by various agendas. Some internal while others external.
In African culture, the point of departure may be, nudity is not necessarily a new phenomenon. We used to never dress up but simply cover certain parts. It was acceptable because, it came natural and pure, if we may. In this era, one may argue, women were not ‘sexually objectified’ when naked. It wasn’t a scenario of ‘meat exposed, lets indulge’ atmosphere. It the order of the day. There were no external forces to dilute the practice.
Then we eventually entered the era of capitalism and its terrible tendency to always seek financial gain from everything, both dead and alive at all costs! The idea of sexually objectifying women was introduced because it was a lucrative means of making money. The nudity was turned and translated into a commodity under the idea of ‘sexy’. The body of a woman became a representation of sex, the act and sexy the idea! We removed the human from the woman and she became just a sex well! A commodity that serves sexual fantasy, needless to say, fuelled by patriarchy, major audience were men.
We further went ahead, and now dictated how the woman’s body ought to be, the shape and size. To please men sexual fantasy, she cannot be a certain size or shape, for example. Again, needless to say, this is the stance that favours the ideals of capitalism. We need not engage them now. Capitalism, through media utilizing has endorsed this idea with both arms. To a point where, the average woman, is on a daily basis, in search of this ‘shape and size’!
There has been bad side effects and trickle down effects from the capitalist version of nudity promotion. These have been disastrous and oppressive for women. Because some men, no longer see the being but the sex object from the woman, they have felt entitled to engage themselves sexually without her consent! We say things like, ‘because of what she was wearing or rather not wearing, she wanted it…..she was looking for it…it was too short…her outfit was an invitation for sex’. Yes, women have been victims of rape because they were not and the stats are on a shockingly, alarming level.
And of course, as society, we have engaged the matter and consensus is, it is not right. Women have the right to dress the way they like and feel and not be in danger or at risk of being raped. Just like any other human being. The dress code justification for rape has been discarded.
The question, we ought to perhaps ask now is, what happens now, when women voluntarily sexually objectify self, for whatever the reasons known to them? Are they being progressive towards the mission to dismantle their sexual objectification in the eyes of patriarchy or are they being regressive? Maybe, the more women do nudity, they are trying to normalise the idea again, so that men will calm down, eventually. Or is the agenda, just always personal? No ‘sisterhood’ vibes.
This was what, lately known ‘dress less personality’ Zodwa claimed. With regards to her outfit at the Durban July, she said, she did it for women. And to show, she doesn’t wear underwear and to show her cellulite. The not wearing underwear part is a bit vague. However, the cellulite part, may be granted because as we know, cellulite is shunned upon on a woman! That ‘size and shape’ barometer of the ideal woman, cannot have cellulite.
What is the motion going forward, for women? We should, as women, engage these questions. At least, arrive at some form of consensus, not rules, as per se. But agree that, we are not in contradictory angles when embarking on the fight against patriarchy.
Should we take the premise that, Zodwa, for example, is allowed to dress or maybe not dress if she wants? Should we say, it is not right for her to do so because, she is using herself as a sex object, the very thing, we are fighting from men? Should we say, she is correct, the more nudity is normalised, the more patriarchy will calm down and not be as excited by it? Imagine another Zodwa, then another, then they are everywhere! Or should we all just keep quiet and mind our own businesses?
When it’s all said and done, stand for something!
- Sane Sunyshine Sihiya is a professional Social Scientist, a liberal and feminist, who pushes for discourse that advances humanity.