I don't know about the rest of you out there, but as much as I love summer, the clothing change can be… intimidating, to say the least. For one thing, as someone who’s had to overcome body image issues, I’m worried about wearing less clothing because I’m still working to feel confident in my own skin. While this is already a challenge, I also feel that wearing less clothing to accommodate the warm weather will be misconstrued as an invitation. An invitation for attention that I don’t want.
From the time I was a kid and the “three finger rule” applied to tank tops at school, I was taught that my clothing was a statement. When I was handed some gym shorts from the lost and found if my skirt was shorter than the length of my fingertips grazing my thigh. The first time the difference between how I sat and how my male classmates sat was pointed out. The first time I was conscious of someone staring at my chest instead of my face. The first time I walked into a club, nineteen-and-one-day old, and before the bouncer even checked my ID someone had already put their hand on me without my consent.
It’s a hard thing, explaining the fear that comes along with someone looking at you. You know, in that way. Not even looking at you, I guess. It’s like they’re looking through you. Not through you… they’re looking at you like this… thing. This statue in a museum that they can gawk at for their own enjoyment. And it’s scary. One minute you can feel confident, and the next, someone looks at you and you feel this… shame. You feel guilty. For having the nerve to have a body in that moment. You want to disappear. And others tell you you deserve it. You dressed that way. I mean, yeah it was a beach. But you didn’t have to wear the bikini. Yeah it was a hot day, but you could have at least covered your shoulders. Who hasn’t heard comments like these? Who hasn’t had someone minimize their experience because of an article of clothing that someone else designed, marketed, and sold to them anyways?
This is for all the women (and men) who have ever felt this way. My tank top is not an invitation for you to come up to me and make a comment. It’s not an excuse for you to grab me, touch me, poke me, stare at me, or come up to me on the street. It’s not an excuse for you to honk your car horn at me, or dance super close to me. My tank top is me dressing for the weather. For trying to take ownership of the body I was made to believe belonged to someone else. My tank top is me trying to believe that I’m more than just a body while having the strength to try to walk around and be comfortably uncomfortable. It’s me believing that I have a right to my own body and comfort before anyone else has a right to me. It’s me choosing to accept that, unfortunately, me and my tank top are an act of vulnerability. A political act. An act of defiance. My tank top is not attention-seeking. To anyone who feels like commenting on someone’s clothing choices… think before you speak. Think about how your comment would make the
other person feel. If there’s even a slight chance they would feel uncomfortable or unsafe… don’t say it. It really is that simple.