Lexi Moubarak ’15
Needless to say, for an American girl growing up with a very conservative Lebanese father was not easy. What was I allowed to wear out of the house? Definitely not what my friends wore. A short jean skirt was a huge no…unless of course it was accompanied by thick black tights, which always came off in the bathroom at my destination (sorry Dad!). Most of our arguments revolved around what I wanted to wear out of the house. To this day I am criticized by my family’s cultural standards for the way I dress. My dad regularly says things like, “We don’t wear dresses that short” or “Lebanese girls don’t have so many piercings.”
To clarify, my dad is a very loving father who has given me an incredible life. Although his insistence on modesty as a way of fending off rapists frustrates me, my siblings and I giggle lovingly about his ways. For example, my dad often chases me out of the house to check what I am wearing before I can get in my car and drive away. On the other hand though, he does compliment me just as much on how nice I look when I am dressed for church or daily activities. It is only when I pull out those tight short dresses or high heels do I get I reaction. His reasoning: “I don’t want men to look at you and think they can have their way with you.”
Yes, I may draw more attention to myself when I wear less clothing. But guess what… sexual assault and rape DOES NOT only happen when women are dressed in that way. Most times sexual assault happens with someone you know in a place where you are comfortable. I was sexually assaulted wearing jeans and a T-shirt in a school setting. It can happen ANYWHERE and at ANY TIME. Warning women that sexual assault is more likely to occur when they are provocatively dressed is misleading, and doesn’t address the underlying question of why rape and sexual assault of women continues to be a reality around the world.
It is not fair to ask us to change the way that we dress, stay out late, or not wear too much make-up in order “to not be raped”. Especially, because that is not going to guarantee us safety and in my case may even give young girls the impression that they are safe in places like school where modesty is expected and there is no alcohol involved. It is important to realize that when encouraging women to dress modestly that often takes the blame off of men. This implies that if women were to dress more modestly it would be less likely for them to be sexually assaulted. Which in fact is not fair and misleading because it makes women think that somehow it is their fault. We must demand that men learn self-control and respect, and be held to a higher standard of behavior, rather than take a one-sided approach of embracing and perpetuating slut-shaming.
I was blessed to grow up with an older sister who built up my self-confidence. She was always there to tell me how beautiful I am and how I should love myself. This isn’t to say that I am the most confident person with no insecurities. Of course I have insecurities. Every person does. What makes this topic hard is to whom do we blame for our insecurities? The media? Our parents? The pressure to wear certain clothes? These are not questions for which I have answers. But, I do know that when I dress, it is for style. It is for comfort. And it is most certainly for me. There is no way that I am going to tolerate (or ANY WOMAN should tolerate) being harassed or assaulted by a guy, no matter what she is wearing.
Yes, modesty is in my culture. Whatever culture you come from and whatever pressures you are battling – whether it is the pressure to wear more or wear less – my advice to you is to dress in a way in which you feel strong. Although your clothing is one way to express yourself, what matters is who you are on the inside and how that shines through. May you dress in a way that makes you feel BEAUTIFUL, CONFIDENT, AND COMFORTABLE. May you know that you are worthy of love and respect no matter how you dress. And may you know that sexual assault is NEVER OK and you are not to blame. So ladies, if you are feeling confident…. stumble on 😉
P.S. This applies for both men and women. Men deserve the respect of women as well because the reality is that men are sexually assaulted and fall under the pressures of wearing certain clothing too.