“If A Girl Dresses Like A Piece of Meat, Why Shouldn’t She Be Treated Like One?”

I was recently contacted by an acquaintance of mine who, politely enough, wanted to know what the hell I was thinking… It took a few emails to determine that there is a writer in Illinois who shares my exact name and writes pieces like “Girls need to consider the implications of their immodest clothing choices and behavior”.

This promisingly-headlined college piece, published in March of this year, starts off with springtime on campusS3
where boys walk about “looking at the ground” in order to avoid regarding scantily clad co-eds as pieces “of meat.” And yes, she really does say, “If a girl dresses like a piece of meat why shouldn’t she be treated like one?”

Let me repeat: she really does say, “If a girl dresses like a piece of meat why shouldn’t she be treated like one?”

Are you kidding me? This profound “insight” so moved my namesake that she was roused to write a column piece on the subject. I assumed undergraduates these days were a little more enlightened than this. I also assumed that even opinion pieces were held to a certain standard of journalistic quality. This is fish in a barrel, but I can’t seem to help it (she’s publishing with MY name!) So here goes:

* The headline includes “…and behavior” where no actual behaviors are ever in the piece.

* The author repeatedly asserts that “no one wants to see…” varying areas of exposed skin. Really? No one? This unqualifiable blanket-statement is covered in writing 101. If she herself doesn’t want to see it, say so. If she can get quotes of others who don’t, use them. It’s called journalism.

* The author also asserts the old fall-back that things today are so much worse than they used to be and oh, if only we could get back to the family values of yesteryear. In the 80’s, she tells us, we had bad hair but at least we were “covered up.” Yeah, because no one in the 60’s and 70’s wore skirts that ended above her self-proclaimed standard of “mid-thigh”. Jesus, had she thought any of this through?

If she wanted to honestly write about the issue she would have talked to people – the provocative dressers, the conservative dressers, the disgusted men, the appreciative men… Instead she spouts off a dangerous viewpoint as though it’s either widely accepted fact or simple majority opinion. If this were so, then why write the piece? If not, then she surely needs more than “no one wants to see that!”

For a brief moment it seems as though the piece may swerve into societal issues when the author roughly touches on the fact that dressing promiscuously may provoke certain assumptions about a woman.

However, she promptly veers back into familiar territory, as she wields said assumptions as fact. The author asserts that instead of lasting romance, provocatively clad women will end up with “one night stands” and affirms that any amount of disrespect toward a naval-baring female is simply a man’s right. After all, any man, although stridently gazing at his feet, may happen to gaze upon some exposed flesh and will then assuredly be unable to see anything but available “meat” and therefore act accordingly. This is, the author concludes, her fault.

“Her fault” is, in fact, the beginning, middle, and end of this piece.

I actually feel sorry for this woman. In an attempt to put herself and other modest females above their debauched and disrespected brethren, she instead pulls the entire female sex into the second-class status we still strive so hard to climb out from.

Rather than any genuine concern for her female schoolmates, this article belays a petty envy. In my experience, overly zealous piety often does. She betrays insecurities surely as large as any woman who may, in her search for her own identity and confusion about what she has to offer the world, use her body to gain some fleeting attention. (And certainly more than a self-aware women who wears what she pleases just because.) The author may well secretly covet those desirous gazes that she smears and equates with cheapness and invited scorn.

This type of thinking – in addition to smug and annoying – is downright dangerous. She doesn’t go as far as to intimate violence, but really — meat?

To be honest, if this person didn’t share my exact name and profession I wouldn’t have bothered to tear apart this hackneyed belief so poorly espoused in some tiny college paper. It just galls me to think that anyone may come across this dangerous drivel and think that I could possibly think this way. I had to post something.

Anyway, a much more reasoned and better-researched response to this piece came less than a week later from another columnist at The Times-Delphic, a sophomore named Marina Yakhnis. She concludes her well-thought piece with

I hope that occasionally the editorial pages of the TD actually print something worth reading. And finally I hope that a TD columnist never, ever, ever, ever implicitly condones rape or sexual harassment. Ever again.

Yay, Marina!


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