Inadvertently of course. Though it’s quite sad that they campaign with such passion to be exactly what patriarchy (and capitalism) wants of women.
Take slut-walk for instance. Sure, I agree that women should have the freedom to wear whatever they want and not be oogled or worse raped. But we all know that clothes have nothing to do with men oogling, passing remarks, sexually harassing or raping women.
There are friends of mine who despite wearing an abaya have been subjected to first three. I’ve heard cretinous men making disgusting comments though I was wearing a long sleeved kurta (not figure hugging) and jeans.
So men will harasses women no matter what they wear.
If I’ve managed to convince you of that, then the easy part is over. In order to illustrate how wearing revealing clothes is buying into exactly what patriarchy wants, I’ve posted a little quote from John Berger’s ‘Ways of Seeing’. It should help you understand the difference between being nude and naked (hopefully).
Tribal women in Africa are naked. And there’s nothing wrong with that. If you wear a pair of shorts because you feel comfortable in them, there’s nothing wrong with that. If you’re exposing parts of your naked body because it makes you comfortable or helps you function better, then by all means you should continue to do so. The problem arises when women are ‘nude’. When they expose their bodies not for themselves but for men.
The day before I left for Nepal, I was at a social gathering of sorts and I noticed a girl in a very short dress. The dress ended a little below her bum. She didn’t look very comfortable in her dress. In fact, I think she must have been quite uncomfortable in it because every two minutes she would tug at the hem of her dress pulling it down. Every time she moved she seemed to instinctively pull her dress; putting whatever she was holding aside to do so.
From what I could see she wasn’t dressing for herself; she was dressing the way (most) men want her to dress; how patriarchy wants her to dress. By giving into patriarchy, she becomes an object in the eyes of the men in the room. An object for all the men to enjoy, at the expense of her comfort and mobility.
Now that wouldn’t be the same if she was completely comfortable in that dress. If she was exposing her legs and thighs, but had to compulsion to pull her dress down and could move about freely, then she is not nude.
Here’s a little extract from ‘Ways of Seeing’-
“But this has been at the cost of a woman’s self being split into two. A woman must continually watch herself. She is almost continually accompanied by her own image of herself. Whilst she is walking across a room or whilst she is weeping at the death of her father, she can scarcely avoid envisaging herself walking or weeping. From earliest childhood she has been taught and persuaded to survey herself continually. And so she comes to consider the surveyor and the surveyed within her as the two constituent yet always distinct elements of her identity as a woman. She has to survey everything she is and everything she does because how she appears to men, is of crucial importance for what is normally thought of as the success of her life. Her own sense of being in herself is supplanted by a sense of being appreciated as herself by another….One might simplify this by saying: men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves. The surveyor of woman in herself is male: the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an object — and most particularly an object of vision: a sight.”
So when feminists say they should have the freedom to dress as they please and walk on the streets in clothes that to them are symbols of liberation, but in reality they are uncomfortable, restrict their movement (such as tight clothes) or harmful to their health (4 inch high heel shoes will make their hips swing as they walk but it’s a strain on their spine and calves), they may well be shooting themselves in the foot.