“Men will be around.”
Growing up I was always taught, rather warned, to not wear “revealing” clothing in the presence of boys and men. I was commanded to sit with my legs crossed and to “look like a lady.” At times, I was shamed if my skirt was arbitrarily deemed too short and my shirt too tight. If internalized misogyny was an olympic sport, some of my relatives would be gold medalists.
I was told that some men had “mañas” and could not be trusted around little girls. I blindly accepted that pants had the stopping power of steel and that the way I sat worked like garlic to a vampire. Spoiler alert: they didn't.
Little girls should be burdened with booboos and broken toys. They should never be burdened with perceived influence over pedophilia or incest. Adults must stop perpetuating self-blame onto children and change their approach from policing girls' bodies to empowering girls' minds.
Teach girls that sexual abuse is painfully prevalent. That their clothing and behavior are never invitations for sexual attention or harm. To suspect those closest to them and not Ted Bundy.
Gift girls with vocabulary to set boundaries. To seek justice for wrongs done against them. To never let anyone blame them for their abuser's acts.
“She shouldn't have been wearing that.”
I know how I would like to react to this comment when made in response to a sexual assault or sexual harassment case. But, orange isn't really my color. Instead, I will always stress that it is wrong to blame victims.
We do not blame murder victims by asking, “Why weren't they wearing a samauri outfit? He knew murderers were around and he decided to be an easy target with his dad jeans.” We do not blame kidnap victims by asking, “Why weren't they wearing reflective clothing with LED lighting? They were practically asking to be taken away into the night.”
Police the criminal not the victim. Condemn wrongdoers not those wronged.
From Qandeel Balock who was murdered by her own brother for her “sensual presence” on social media to Toronto Police Constable Michael Sanguinetti asserting that "women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized," sexual violence against women is the norm. The female body is the constant target of misplaced hatred whether it publicly nurses a baby or is dressed in Sunday's best.
I need to know: Is my bra to blame for your mansplaining? Did my skirt compel your sexist language? Are my leggings forcing you to pay me less in the workplace? What other alleged powers do a few inches of cotton and spandex have on the volition of men?
I will continue to unapologetically dress how I want to dress and I encourage women to take the power back!
Oh, and for those wondering, I was eight when it first happened. I was wearing pants.
*Note: I include this message to recognize male victims and same-sex victims of sexual abuse. I see you and I love you. This specific post is written from a personal perspective as a Latina. I hope to discuss sexual abuse in future posts and to include the experiences of other identities.
Celebrate women's bodies with our shirts: