It started with a proposed law in Nigeria, then a column in the UK and then a post from my WHYS colleague Fuchsia. For several days now you’ve been discussing women and the way they dress.
Should women be able to wear whatever they want? Or should they have to consider the affect their appearance can have on men, or people of certain faiths? Also, if they dress in an ‘immodest way’ are they promoting the inappropriate sexualisation of our public appearances? And should the law in your country be used to control which clothes women do and don’t wear?
One of the most interesting things I read today was this piece in the British Guardian newspaper by Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It’s about the ‘indecent dressing bill’ that is currently before the Nigerian senate (or, to give it its full title, the ‘The Bill for an Act to Prohibit and Punish Public Nudity, Sexual Harassment and Other Related Offences in Nigeria’). It seeks to ban women from wearing miniskirts and other ‘indecent’ clothing.
Proponents of the bill say that banning women from wearing short skirts will help to prevent rape and reduce social immorality. But Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie argues it dehumanises women and makes them scapegoats for social problems, as well as insulting men by assuming that they are incapable of self-control if they catch sight of any female flesh.
It also resonates with similar debates all over the world – think of the view held by many Muslims that women should protect their modesty by wearing headscarves and clothing that obscures their figures.
Do you think society should tell women what to wear? Or should they be able to wear anything, no matter how provocative, and expect men to take full responsibility for curbing their sexual desires? What do you think constitutes sexually provocative clothing, anyway? Many people might agree that a women would be ill-advised to walk around late at night in a bikini – but what about a miniskirt? Or, in many cultures, an uncovered head?
If you’re a woman, how much responsibility should you take for the effect you have on men around you?
If you’re a man, do you feel insulted at the idea that you can’t control your desires? Or do you think a woman who dresses attractively has only herself to blame for unwanted male attention?