Nnaemeka Ali, O.M.I
Policing Women Body through Dressing Codes
Updated: Feb 24
Everybody, including women, is engaged in the debate over women's dress code. But unfortunately, our society seems to be perpetually transfixed on their outfits. It looks like the entire problem of our communities is linked to their butt and bust. And the consequence is that we keep equating societal decadence to their physical appearance. Unfortunately, we have so repeated it to the point where women themselves are now playing to it. They have joined in this culturally orchestrated policing mechanism and are often harsher on their fellow women, even without understanding why men are obsessed with women's outfits and bodies.
Yet, the truth is that, comparatively, it is not women that dress more loosely but men. The difficulty is that we have so much underlined women's dressing to the point where it appears to be an empirical truth. More ever, it is now known that many men feel that women dress either to be admired by men or for men to lust after them. At the same time, a brief look at how men dress in different areas of life shows that men have more tendency to exhibit their bodies in public than women officially. So, while a woman's show of graciousness appears to be the measure of femininity, the male folks are, from their childhood, thought to express their masculinity as proof of their virility. And while we keep on accusing women of trying to seduce men, men are praised for their ability to reinforce their strength, and energy and improve their sex drive – virility.
And despite that, our society continues to regulate women's dress code in universities, religious circles, workplaces, etc. And whenever we make those rules, they are generally for women because men can virtually come to work almost with anything they want. And their female counterparts are often asked not to wear (short) skirts, put on this or that trousers, don this or that colour of bra, etc.
In religious places, the rules are even divinely motivated that not obeying them means offending God or the gods, like they can't see through our suits and women's long skirts. Funny enough, no religion makes any exception here. In different Christian groups, women can't attend one activity or the other, either in trousers or in one form of top or the other. And both in African and North American indigenous religious circles, women have one code of dressing or the other. For example, they have to dress in long skirts or uncover their hair. In Islam, and likely in Judaism, the codes are of another dimension.
Yet no one cares to ask:
1. Do women dress to seduce or impress men?
2. Why don't [or, better put, do] women feel seduced when men dress loosely?
3. Should we control how women dress, or rather men's relationship with women's dresses?
4. Can our society allow women to be women instead of policing their dress and body?
5. Are women aware that they also help perpetuate the socially constructed sexualization of their bodies?