Not a Short Issue

I bought my first pair of short-shorts last winter. The first time I wore them, I felt a previously unknown thrill of excitement and confidence. My legs were no longer hidden behind the bondage of my skinny jeans, and I pranced freely with a new and unfamiliar ease. More importantly, loosening the gender divide in my personal wardrobe gave me the freedom to thoroughly express myself in a way that I never had before. Hardly a day goes by during Spring Term when I don’t hear an impressed, “Wow, Jaleel, your shorts are shorter than mine!” But none of the special attention I receive is paired with the concern that females on campus seem to experience regarding attire. I never have to worry about showing my bra, I do not wonder if “my butt hangs out” and I never fear being deemed “slutty” for showing too much cleavage. As a man, I am not affected by these considerations. Male bodies simply are not sexualized and objectified in the same way that women’s are. I may still be judged by society for other reasons, but the amount of skin I show will not affect whether or not I am seen as a sexual object. Women, on the other hand, face these stigmas every day. Our society hyper-sexualizes women’s bodies to the point where what they “should” wear is dictated by how sexual others will perceive them to be. The difference between wearing a crop top and a tank top depends on whether a small sliver of stomach will incite judgement and shame or sexual arousal. When we do not challenge the overt objectification of the female body, we are inadvertently supporting the control that men and society as a whole exert over women and their decisions. While I, as a man, can be judged as “inadequately clothed” in the same way that a woman might be, my body is never in danger of being objectified as a woman’s might be. If I wear a crop top and short-shorts that I made myself, I am labelled creative and artistic. When a female wears a similar outfit, she is called a slut. In his e-mail on Saturday, Paul Murphy, Dean of Students and Residential Life, clarified a policy that attempts to regulate women’s presentation of their own bodies. Though it applies only to dances, it has implications far beyond. Although the intended purpose of the policy is to theoretically end the objectification of girls at school dances, it will in fact further support such objectification. This is because when society regulates women’s choices, its ownership of their bodies grows. This is surely not the intended purpose of the new dance policy, but it nonetheless feeds the cyclical culture of rape and victim-blaming that poses such a problem in society today. As a student body, we need to recognize the significance of this new rule. We are creating a power dynamic in which women’s and men’s bodies are being controlled unequally, and supporting a system that gives men more freedom and thus more power over women. As a feminist and a friend to many women on this campus, I ask the administration to reconsider their actions and to realize the damage they will cause by removing women’s autonomy in a society that already does the same.