Summertime Doesn't Mean We're Easy | Opinion | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Summertime Doesn't Mean We're Easy 

Wardrobe choices are less vamp and more a game to beat the elements.

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As we enter the summer season and update our wardrobes with the hopes of staying cool in a valley that can feel like walking on the sun come July, many women are subject to ridicule for their summer style. Despite significant data suggesting a woman's choice in attire has nothing to do with being targeted by a predator, this debate seems to continue as though it has merit.

Just last month, Suzanne Venker—The Federalist contributor and traitor to all womankind, who authored a handful of books containing theories more reminiscent of the Edwardian era than the 21st century—wrote a delightful piece called "How Women Can Prevent Sexual Harassment At Work." In the article, she compassionately points out how "strong" women avoid unwanted advances from the opposite sex.

As one might expect, Venker's ideal working girl has three qualities: She is dressed appropriately, never flirts and is able to nip unwanted advances "in the bud"—sage wisdom that conveniently leaves out how easy this is for women who receive threats against their livelihoods or their careers.

Venker is the perfect example of an individual who—gosh-darn it—feels it appropriate to throw women under the bus for the misconduct of individuals I identified in a previous opinion piece as "shadow men." She furthers a theory so dated it could be found during an archeological dig: that, when it comes to unwanted sexual advances, women have all the power.

It is not just Venker who feels this way; junior-high and high-school girls in Utah are held to dress codes to help boys focus on their schoolwork. I'm sure you think you're reading an article from The Onion at this point, and all I can say is, I wish you were (and not just because I would love to write that level of satire). Unfortunately, this is legit.

Although I'm not opposed to dress codes—in fact, I think hats and gloves are long overdue to make a comeback—it just seems that they should be based on principles of etiquette instead of gender bias, which creates a disservice to everyone involved.

Making young women feel as though they are to blame for the behavior of another is misguided, and misses an opportunity to teach respectful behavior to young men, regardless of his female classmate's tank top strap and its measurements.

Luckily, not all opinions are quite as archaic. In July of 2016, Jessica Wolfendale, an associate philosophy professor at West Virginia University, published an article for dangerouswomenproject.org that argued a "provocatively dressed woman" is dangerous not because of the mystical power society seems to have given them—in statements suggesting short skirts can make a man do anything—but because of the societal narrative that "reinforces and reflect attitudes" assigning men's misbehavior as the responsibility of women.

I can wholeheartedly get on board with a well-informed argument seeking to break the societal pattern of condemning the individual not responsible of misbehavior. But I struggled with some of Wolfendale's reasoning—mostly her argument that suggests women are damned, no matter what. For example, if a women wants to dress sexy for a man she is interested in, she then risks attracting unwanted attention from a man she is not.

Granted, this argument has some merit; hence why it has been discussed ad nauseam as a daytime TV hot-topic. However, there's one major factor that no one seems to be discussing: What if said woman is not thinking about men at all? Has no one ever considered the plausibility of a woman deciding on an outfit to please no one other than herself?

In my experience, the time of year I dress more for myself than any other, is indeed summer. Sure during those glorious 93 days the "livin' is easy," but finding an ensemble that can both decrease and hide sweat of epic proportions is not.

As temperatures rise to the low 100s, clothing begins to fall in the category of less-is-more. Men stay cool in light cotton blends with Gold Bond powder close by to avoid chaffing, while women seek breezy outfits capable of arriving at their destination without a wading pool in their bra.

The scene is less femme fatale attempting to trap as many suitors as possible, and more a game to beat the elements in this desert we call home.

During this time, no one will tell a man how their summer attire is going to lure in unwanted advances and despite what some smart-ass guy might claim, this is not because there is no such thing as an unwanted advance for a man. Yet, countless women leaving the house in a strappy sundress or tank top with shorts will be asked, "Should you really go out in that?" or "What are you trying to say by wearing that?"

Questions that not only further perpetuate blame on women—instead of the shadow men actually at fault—but are also completely unfounded based on statistical data.

According to Utah Department of Health, one in three women in the state will experience some form of sexual assault—a rate that has remained significantly higher than the rest of the United States since 2000. Additionally, Utah Department of Health's rape and sexual assault statistics state, "Sexual assaults are rarely committed by strangers." Only 13.3 percent, to be exact.

From a statistical standpoint, sexual assault crimes are more frequently committed by a family member (30.9 percent), an intimate partner (20.8 percent) or a neighbor (14.3 percent).

Which begs the question: If sexual assault is more likely to occur by those who see their victim covered from head to toe in winter (as well as, less so in the summer), is clothing really the issue? The obvious answer is, no.

This summer, as we all try desperately to stay cool while it's 96-degrees in the shade, I propose we stop assigning blame to women wishing to be left alone in their comfy sundresses and start calling out the behavior of the shadow men for what it is—despicable at any temperature.

Aspen Perry is a Salt Lake City-based aspiring author and self-proclaimed "philosophical genius." Send feedback to: comments@cityweekly.net


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Aspen Perry

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