Showing Skin: Why are Women Told to Cover Up More than Men?


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Written By : Monique Lapointe ~


Sunbathing with my friend Tova in a gorgeous Parisian park, soaking in the sunshine and drinking champagne— it felt like life couldn’t get much better. Until a female member of the park security approached us, and asked us to cover up our bikini and swimsuit. 

I tilted down my sunglasses and glanced around the park. All I could see was shirtless men— playing sports, sunbathing, reading books…enjoying the French summertime. Although my torso was covered up completely, I could practically see the the outline of men’s pubes due to the tightness of their tiny briefs. 

This is just one experience I have had where the double standards glared me in the face. I thought to myself: “What is it about my slight cleavage and bare legs that has offended this woman so much?”. For starters, it may be due to power. Men— clothed or naked— have a sense of power and ownership of their body. Women— especially less clothed or naked— are seen as a threat. For some people, it is utterly terrifying to even think of a woman being in control of how the world sees her body. We are policed, left, right and centre, about what to wear. When it appears that we have taken back ownership of these ludicrous and hypocritical rules, there is a complete moral panic. 

What do you mean that woman over there is wearing whatever she wants, having a good time and not harming anyone! I can’t allow that! Is probably what the park security guard was thinking. 

Luckily, we have come very far in history when it comes to ‘dress requirements’ for women. Less than 100 years ago, an employer could tell their female employee they were required to wear a knee length skirt, heels, blouse and a lick of red lipstick. Today, this would be considered discrimination. 

Our freedom with clothing and everyday fashion has grown, but still not enough. Women, even from childhood, are taught to worry about their sexually desirable assets and how some outfits may make them appear.

A short skirt makes you less intelligent, kitten heels make you older, a low cut vest makes you ‘slutty’ and neck high jumper makes you a prude. Yet— an intelligent man in a suit or a tight t-shirt is still an intelligent man, no matter what he wears or shows to the world. 

What can we do to eventually solve this issue? I think the answer is simple— keep fighting back and wearing whatever we damn well want. It may seem small and insignificant, but commanding that women cover up is a small way in which we are told to be submissive. It’s a way to hide female sexuality and empowerment, rather than allowing women to express themselves however they please. 

The next time someone tells you to cover up to suit their sensibilities, rip off your shirt and run away topless— happy and nipple-free! (or just tell them to f*** off, if the first option is a bit too out there). 

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