Can I just dress naked in peace, please?


With summer looming 'tis indeed the season to wear less and go out more.

One can't help but notice (and appreciate) the advent of racy fashion available - wearing bralettes as tops, shirts as dresses, hip-high slits and sheer blouses/dresses with our innerwear in full view. Lord knows we're tired of wearing our daily onion outfits over here in The Mother City.

But often my excitement for this time of the year is a little dampened by the thought of slut-shamers staring me down in the mall for wearing a backless dress.

Vogue recently mused on the return of the exposed thong and how it would be received in public spaces in 2017.

Read more: #WednesdayWishlist - spring scents and sexy lingerie

The Vogue writer alluded to the fact that while the look may have been a hit on the runway, it doesn't necessarily mean it will get the nod in real life, so she decided to put this theory to the test in the office. Of course, this would never fly in other office settings, but this is Vogue dahling.

There were mixed reviews for the thong, but none as scathing as some of those hurled out at us every day on social media or in public for dressing a certain way.

I'll actually never forget the day I wore distressed jeans, waiting in line to pay at a local retailer, an elderly lady turned around and disdainfully remarked in Afrikaans, "your jeans are so shameful," and further mumbled, "so aaklig, sy lyk arm."

Uh, this is Levi's.

And don't even get me started on the remarks I have to brace myself for whenever I decide to sport a pair of high-waisted denim shorts. (Not necessarily to the beach)

However, about three weeks ago I went for drinks with my two guy friends, wearing a sheer frock with just a bodysuit underneath. The warm evening allowed and the sheer dress was still new, so I had to take it for a spin.

It was something very similar to this: 

Nice, hey?

Their reactions? "You look amazing," and no further snide remarks about whose attention I was trying to get.

But it's not men's reactions that I want to address here (not today anyway). It's women.

Our virtues, standards and intellect are most certainly not measured by the amount of fabric covering our body parts.

I've recently taken a liking to mini skirts thanks to a superior of mine, who unfortunately also gets clothes-shamed for her affinity for mini skirts too (often at the office and to her face. Someone has actually asked her "whether she has a boyfriend" because to this individual her style apparently screamed "I want a man!").

I'm a fan of both modest and nude fashion, but it seems those who embrace the former are far less accepting of women who believe less is more.

Why is that? 

Is it all thanks to the hypersexualisation of certain body parts, where revealing either your thighs, cleavage, midriff or back is assumed to be a mating call of sorts? An inadvertent request for your body to be violated either verbally or physically?

Donna Karan seems to think so - a woman, who once had an authoritative voice in the fashion industry is of the school of thought that we are "asking for it by presenting all the sensuality and all the sexuality” in the way we dress.

Read more: No Donna Karan, we’re not ‘asking for it’

The policing of women who choose to show off their bodies is about ascribing value. Where it goes a little something like this: Naked = cheap and trashy, Modest = respectable

And a good example is when curvier women get way more flack for enjoying sheer or scanty fabrics than those with svelt-figures. Because how dare a big woman think her body is worth showing off, right? This shouldn't be happening.

Don't tell me to "dress appropriately for my body" Don't you ever play yourself ?

A post shared by fat gal (@thickleeyonce) on

Read more: SA plus-size model slams body-shamer on Twitter – goes viral

Think of how ThickLeeYonce has been body-shamed over her style and approach to body positivity since 2013, how when people found out that Skolopad is actually a rape survivor they said she deserves it because of the way she dresses.

And how people constantly try to impose respectability standards on Zodwa Wabantu.

Nonhlanhla 'Skolopad' Qwabe

Zodwa Wabantu

And while I'm at a point in the year where I'm tired of being simultaneously outraged and disheartend by sexism, racism and fascism, I just feel that I have to address this culture of women in particular shaming women who find liberation in revealing a little more skin than usual.

We have internalised misogyny to such an extent that women shame each other for wearing naked clothing, immediately equating modesty with being "respectable." Dressing more naked (whether you're skinny or curvy) shouldn't ever be seen as an indicator of morality.

Policing what women wear not only makes you a Judgemental Judy, but it renders you an ally to the reinforcement of rape culture too.

Lauryn Hill's 1998 hit 'Doo Wop (that thing)' is almost entirely premised (albeit her initial intention to empower) on shaming women seemingly less self-respecting than herself with lyrics such as;

Showing off your ass cause you're thinkin' it's a trend
Girlfriend, let me break it down for you again
You know I only say it cause I'm truly genuine
Don't be a hard rock when you really are a gem
Baby girl, respect is just a minimum

And it doesn't just stop at the policing of our clothes; a woman who twerks, talks openly about sex or who doesn't subscribe to the confines of misogyny is automatically looked down on, her morals questioned and given all sorts of derogatory names - calling each other "cheap" or "trashy" for posing a certain way in an Instagram pic.

So often are women only accepting of nudity and seductive lyricism when it's embraced by the likes of Rihanna or Beyonce, but when an ordinary woman does it or even a rising star like Cardi B does it, it's deemed 'scandalous' and 'tacky.' Quick to shout "MY president" at the sight of a RiRi picture (rightfully so), but even quicker to dismiss Cardi or Amber Rose with "she was a stripper just yesterday, can't take her seriously."

Our virtues, standards and intellect are most certainly not measured by the amount of fabric covering our body parts. Policing what women wear renders you an ally to the reinforcement of rape culture too.

I always thought modesty was a personal choice and not a weapon used to oppress those who don't always choose to embrace it. We should all be able to cover up or show off as we see fit without having to dread public comment before leaving the house.

And just to reiterate; modesty empowers some and nudity empowers others.

Images: Gallo and Getty

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Yes, I believed it was authentic
7% - 393 votes
Yes, I didn't want to spend that much money on the original item
20% - 1124 votes
No, I always shop at reputable stores
13% - 748 votes
No, I don't wear designer clothing
60% - 3369 votes