An incident with a Chinese actress, Reyizha Alimjan, wearing what seemed to be overly revealing clothing started a debate regarding women’s freedom of dressing in public. Many social media users criticised her tank top for being overexposing and even accused her of using provocative dressing to attract attention.
Freedom of dressing is a significant issue in China that has built up in the past decades. Women face malicious comments including, stereotyped and offensive descriptions such as weak and unintelligent; vulgar and humiliating words and many other disrespectful comments on the way they dress and behave. While they are portrayed to be shallow, many Chinese males constantly guy talk about female’s looks and dressing, seeing females as sex objects and domestic workers. These disrespectful jokes have been normalised and children nowadays are being brought up with unconscious ideas of the society being patriarchal.
As a Chinese girl, I value my freedom of expression and clothing highly. I believe that my household is rather unconventional compared to the majority of families in China. As a child, I had the choice of what to wear as long as it was appropriate for the situation. However, I still face pressure from the family and society to fit in with the norms and standards of being a female. For example, I used to be taught that if you wear exposing clothing, it means that you are flirting and giving consent to sexual assault.
A sexual violence survivor is always asked what they were wearing. This is a leading question, implying that the victim is responsible for rape and the assault, could have been evitable. In a UK survey conducted by The Independent, while 55% of men believe that the more revealing the clothes a woman wear, the more likely she will be harassed or assaulted, only 41% of female respondents held this view. The statistics genuinely reflects our fundamental misunderstanding about rape. 83% of female victims of rape were offended by someone who they know, including partners or family and only 13% of them were offended by a stranger. Sexual assault is not caused by uncontrollable attractions due to biology, but a choice of one to. Comments of how ‘she tempted me’ or ‘she was advertising for sex’ are not excuses and should never be accepted.
An art gallery shows the world the nature of rape crimes. “What Were You Wearing?” is a student-survivor art Installation in Arkansas, USA set up in 2013. It presents the clothes the female students were wearing during their sexual assault and contained stories of their clothing. The range of clothing installed amplifies the fact that changing clothing does not stop sexual abuse.
We must realise and accept as a society, that there are no excuses for rape and that the victim did not ask for the violation in any way. Women should not feel restricted about the way they dress and fear disrespect from men. Furthermore, body shaming of women has to stop.
Finally, this is what Reyizha commented under her fiercely debated post:
“Please be confident girls. Whether you are fat or slim, good-looking or not, you are always the special one! Just be yourself and love yourself.”