A lot of stupid things have been said in the great debate over women in this country, and you hear a lot of victim-blaming arguments from those who somehow believe that women need to restrict themselves to live safely in a society of supposedly dominant men. The idea that a woman must carry herself meekly or swaddle her body in “modest” clothing to avoid attracting male attention is ridiculous, and shows not only a lack of self-restraint but also a lack of respect for 50% of the world’s population.
Thus, it’s understandable that outrage erupts over hare-brained ideas like a certain local magazine’s#SaveYourDaraCampaign.
The effectiveness of campaigns like this one aside – it doesn’t work; ask the Christians, they’ve been trying it for ages – the major issue here is not the idea of abstinence-only sex education, as it looks to combat the social ills of baby dumping and illegitimate children. While teaching young women about contraception would arguably be a lot more effective than abstinence, we can see how it would be favourable in the eyes of the more puritan members of our society.
The issue that everyone is up in arms about is that “a lot of importance was given to how we carry ourselves, how we dress to not arouse men,” according to one of the participants.
Why is this a problem? It’s simple. This is victim-blaming at it’s most insidious level, subliminally suggesting to young women that the burden falls on them to control men’s sexual impulses by becoming meek, by dressing modestly or conservatively. It’s as if men are not physically or mentally capable of being in control of their own sexuality, and thus the women must limit theirs or face threats to their chastity. Not only is this idea demeaning to women, but also to men as it paints them as little more than lustful animals with no self-control, slaves to their impulses.
Certainly, there are some men who buy into this way of thinking, populating online forums with proclamations against the dressing and behaviour of women in this day and age, screaming obscenities and graphically describing the sexual things they would do to those same women. This maladjusted community of disenfranchised men is more of a concern that needs to be addressed than#SaveYourDara, if we’re to be honest with ourselves.
I am not condoning women who wear revealing clothes at all times. Civilized society does ask that we maintain a modicum of modesty after all, and a well-dressed woman is just as appealing as a seductively dressed lady. However, a woman should not be forced to deny her own sexuality and her right to dress as she pleases for fear that it be held against her in the facetious argument that she is “asking for it”. A woman does not necessarily dress up for men. It is not an open invitation for sexual advances or assault, and we need to come to terms with that fact as a society.
The campaign we should be conducting is #LearnRespect.
As men, we must learn to respect that women have the right to dress in ways that are appealing to them, whether conservative or not. We must respect that sex and all the pleasures that come with it are not owed to us in any way. It doesn’t matter if you bought her a RM1,000 necklace or took her to dinner at a 5-star restaurant. You are owed nothing, least of all a woman’s body.
As men, we need to respect ourselves and learn self-restraint. We are not animals driven crazy by the mating instinct; we are in control of our every action and as such we must take responsibility for our mistakes, our lapses in judgement.
Some will say that women too need to learn self-respect when it comes to their dressing and demeanour, and I will not argue the point as all of us need to learn to respect ourselves. But enough of blaming the victim whenever undesirable sexual situations arise. We need to be a better society than that, and teaching our young women, the hopes of our nation, that they must make themselves less for the sake of those who refuse to learn self-control is not the way forward for anyone.