So, I spent a good while thinking about this topic, how women present themselves in social media and whether I thought showing skin was radically feminist, or the internalization of misogyny.
Could it be possibly both?
Just as a disclaimer, how a woman chooses to express herself is her choice and I totally support that, above all. When I see a hoop dancer on Instagram in booty shorts, I’m not judging her choice of clothes because I’m too busy admiring her hoop dance. I just remember being mildly shocked when I first came across this phenomenon, and I wondered, despite my self-declared open-mindedness, why?
I never feel like a woman is “asking for it” whether she is in a string bikini purchasing batteries at Walmart or walking downtown at night. Above all else, this is my firm and unshakeable belief. I just wanted to state that clearly, in case I appear too judgemental of others. A woman is a human full of ideas, thoughts, emotions before anything else and we should always be treated as such no matter what we are wearing.
Nor do I think myself intellectually superior because I choose not to hoop in my underwhoopies.
Yet, I hoop in my sports bra and post it to Instagram (which some might think a 40-something year old woman should not do), and I often get sidelong glances for walking downtown in my leggings. Yes, I have legs! Unbelievable! Some women have legs. Shocking stuff.
This is my point. I consider myself to be a feminist. However, I wanted to examine this issue a bit more deeply for myself than dismissing it thus: “Whatever people want to do, if it’s not hurting anyone, is just great!”
To be honest, I am finding my answer harder to express than my question. Here it goes:
I think this issue is less about women themselves and more about the ideas about women in any given society. Whether it’s the Canadian conservative government trying to ban women from wearing the niqab at the citizenship ceremony, or the judgements that arise from how a woman presents herself in social media, it’s less about the cloth trappings and more about the controlling of women. The irony is, whether it’s the niqab or the using of scantily-clad women to sell beer, both are expressions of patriarchy imposed upon the female body and therefore both shape society’s perceptions of women.
Yet, when women try to claim these physical expressions for themselves, it becomes a social, political, and moral outrage.
This, I understand now, is why I have some messed up beliefs about when and how I thought it okay to expose whatever body part, and when and how contradictory, nae, hypocritical, these now self-imposed regulations were.
All my life I have been delivered contradictory and hypocritical messages about my body, and as a result, I have internalized these messages into a bizarre set of rules about when and how I should express my physical self. These rules do not make any reasonable sense; for example, hooping in a bikini on the beach versus hooping in your underwear in your living room. Is there a difference, really? I mean, really? The same way rules around what a woman shouldn’t wear because she is a certain age or size are equally illogical.
To end, perhaps a woman hula hooping in her underwear and posting it on social media is a most radical act against patriarchy. So is the woman insisting on wearing her niqab at her citizenship ceremony. For some reason, it has been deemed okay if women are wearing these clothing options as an expression of patriarchy, but as soon as they are choosing them for themselves it becomes problematic. Women are told to be modest, but if we choose it for ourselves we are prudes. We are told to be sexy, but if we choose it ourselves we are slutty. We are told we should look like a certain physical standard and wear certain clothes, but when we choose that standard for ourselves, we are hostages of a patriarchal Stockholm Syndrome.
Society has made it almost impossible for women to be perceived as independent thinkers.
In these times, rejecting these double standards and reclaiming our physical self expression is a rebellious thing, indeed.