Clothes Maketh the Woman

I want to ramble about clothes.

Let me first make it clear though, what this blog is NOT about… It’s not about fashion. It’s not a critique of fashion trends or expression of self through clothes. I have no strong opinion on fashion as an industry, I don’t buy into the body positivity movement or the idea that any one body shape is better than another. I’m not offended by any style of clothing (Actually, that’s a lie. I have a physical reaction to men in super tight trousers that don’t reach their ankles, teamed with a deck shoe…But I know that this is my irrational problem!), I don’t care if people want to cover up completely or let it all hang out. Personally, I couldn’t care less about labels or brands – I don’t particularly feel anything much about people who do. Everyone has a body of some kind and everyone puts clothes on their bodies. Brilliant.

So, what DO I care about? Well, being a feminist killjoy, I care about the ways in which girls are oppressed and how they carry their oppression with them into womanhood. And yes, clothes are on my hit list right now!

It’s been lovely and warm recently, as we enjoy some spring sunshine. I am incredibly lucky to live in a flat that overlooks a beach and a playground of sorts. One of my favourite things to do is people watch – everyone is happy in the fresh air at the beach, so I get to see happiness through my windows every day. And not just happy people – all the happy dogs being walked are a joy to watch too!

What I have noticed, however, is how differently girls and boys enjoy the playground, depending on what they’re wearing.

Sunny days for boys means trousers / shorts and t-shirt. Trainers or sandals on their feet. Beachwear of shorts / wet suit / t-shirt. That’s about it.

Sunny days for girls has the added options of leggings / dresses / skirts and / crop tops / vest tops / floaty tops. Beachwear with the added options of swimsuit / bikini (despite the top half of pre-pubescent girls bodies being identical to that of pre-pubescent boys! But that’s for another blog) / tankini / sarong.

“So, what’s your problem?” I hear you cry. “Get to the point already Rosa”

Well, my problem is that all of the additional clothing options that are aimed solely at girls, result in an inequality that offers boys more freedom than girls even when they’re little children and all they want to do is play.

Skirts and dresses restrict girls’ movement and they force girls into a premature and unnecessary awareness of modesty. For boys to have more freedom than girls because of how we, as parents, are clothing them in the name of ‘conformity’ is actually really awful when you think about it.

A three year old girl doing a cartwheel or climbing in the park, should not have to face commentary from other children or adults about being ‘careful’ that she’s not showing her knickers.

A four year old girl should not, when all the children sit cross legged in assembly, know that she needs to push her dress into her lap to hide her underwear from view.

A six year old girl should not stop herself in her tracks, from following her trouser wearing peers climbing railings, because she’s conscious of what she’s wearing.

An eleven year old girl should not feel anxiety about going to school on a windy day, because her skirt might blow up.

A twelve year old girl should not have to consider when it’s ‘safest’ for her to climb the stairs depending on who might be behind her.

A thirteen year old girl should not feel forced into shaving her legs because not doing so would leave her open to ridicule and bullying at school.

So, I suppose I’m on the school uniform part of my post now then? And what might my thoughts on that be, I wonder?

Well, I’m not a fan of school uniform full stop – I don’t buy the argument that it creates an ‘equal standard for all’ whether children are from families that are rich or poor. I mean, as if children with shit uniform, shit shoes, shit bags, shit phones, shit haircuts, shit coats, dirty clothes, etc aren’t easily identifiable and targeted by bullies.

In fact, I happen to believe that uniforms just make it easier to identify anyone ‘different’ – not harder. But I digress, because, I’m not going off on one about uniforms in general… so, since they do exist in most schools in the UK, does it not make common sense for all children to wear a gender neutral uniform of trousers/leggings/shorts and t-shirts / polo shirts with trainers?

You know, nonrestrictive clothes and shoes that allow for physical activity without having to think about modesty and without the hyper sexualisation that often accompanies the so-called choices that girls have, particularly in secondary school.

And speaking of ‘choices’…I know that people might say let the child choose what they want to wear and what they feel most comfortable in. My response to that would be there is no real ‘choice’.  Girls know from infancy, that what they wear really matters and that the more feminine they are, the more they’re liked.


So, bearing that it mind, let’s look at so called ‘choice’ when it comes to school uniform.

When they start nursery / school, boys are expected to wear trousers that come in one style, a shirt and jumper or blazer – again, all one standard style. The only real decisions to be made are the shoes – however, of the styles available to choose from, you can be pretty sure that they’ll be sturdy and comfortable.

Girls, on the other hand, have all kinds of ‘choices’ – skirts with or without pleats, long or short, tight fitting or ‘A’ line, pinafore dress, plain blouse, blouse with fancy collars or puffed sleeves, plain ankle socks, tights, frilly ankle socks, tight or loose trousers, high waisted or low, jumper or cardigan… and then the shoes – patent, matt, slip on, buckles, laces, gems, sequins, secret little glitter emblems on the soles… all kinds of stereotyped and wholly unnecessary embellishments. Girls shoes are shit. They break and they don’t make running or climbing easy.

So what message are we giving to girls? The tired old message that what they look like matters more than what they do. The shitty message that it’s a good use of time to think about clothes and appearance when in actual fact, their time could be better spent thinking of anything BUT!

The message that boys are more active, more boisterous whereas girls are passive and less physical. Well, apart from all of the other ways that girls are oppressed to conform to these stereotypes, clothes play a big part. It’s not rocket science to understand that it’s easier to act on the desire to be active when your clothes and shoes aren’t restrictive.

Like I said at the beginning, this isn’t about fashion or hating on feminine clothes – it’s literally just about wanting girls to be equal to boys when it comes to feeling comfortable, confident and safe in their skin. It would just be nice for parents to think for a second about what restrictions the clothes they dress their children in have. A pair of leggings or shorts under a dress or skirt would help. One piece bathers for girl children, rather than bikinis as though they have reason to specifically cover their chests. Trainers instead of flimsy impractical shoes that fall off or cause girls to slip when they run. Jeans, shorts, leggings, jeggings – nonrestrictive and practical.

And as for school uniforms – I really am at a complete loss trying to understand why dresses and skirts are still a thing for schools. Especially when we’re trying to promote physical activity in children, which skirts, dresses and shit shoes restrict. It makes no sense to me and I have yet to hear a single rational argument as to why girls should wear a skirt to school, so if you have one, tell me – I’m all ears.



Stop asking me ‘what about men?’ 

Everyone who follows my blog knows that my best work is written in rage, or port. But Christmas has gone now so no more port.
Well, at least I still have rage. So back to that.

Recently I have been getting increasingly frustrated with ‘whataboutery’ every single time I write or speak about women or girls.
For those of you who don’t know what that word means, ‘whataboutery’ is when someone responds to a difficult issue or question with a counter issue or question that completely derails the conversation.

Mai: My research focussed on the murder of women in Yemen
Randomer: uh, this is a bit sexist. What about the murder of men in Yemen? Don’t you care about men?

Example 2:
Pam: I’m really upset with you for stealing from my purse
Mel: What about that time you stole from the local shop? You’re not innocent…

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Not Guilty. But Not Guiltless…

Oh how the Belfast rape trial has thrown up feelings of dejavu of the Ched Evans trial.

Of course, all of the men I’m referring to in this blog are ‘not guilty’ of rape and I accept this based on the verdict reached. Obviously I wasn’t there the night the woman alleged she was raped and nor was I in court for the trial.

Ok, so they may not be convicted rapists, but these ‘men’ who ‘spitroasted’ a 19 year old woman, who caused bruising and internal injury to her, who left her bleeding through her clothes and crying inconsolably in the taxi home are most definitely entitled, misogynistic predators with a questionable understanding of consent.

What this latest trial of ‘promising and talented sportsmen’ has done is launch a resurgence of the terrifying culture of victim blaming that cases of this nature have thrown under the spotlight over the last few years. I mean, victim blaming in general. Regardless of the innocence or guilt in this specific case, having read and heard some of the beliefs that people hold about consent and the contempt that’s held against women is as bleak as it gets.

The usual hate campaign by supporters of the accused that we see in high profile rape trials has been active all over social media. And, as usual the vitriol spouted isn’t confined to the woman in question but is extended to women in general. It’s a disturbing demonstration of the blatant disrespect towards women; of the sense of entitlement these men have towards women; of the internalised misogyny of women against other women, and of the belief that false rape claims are a common response by women who just regret having sex with someone.

Even though the not guilty verdict doesn’t actually mean that the accusation is false or that the rape didn’t happen.  Even though reporting rape is a horrible, drawn out process that involves going over what happened again and again, undergoing humiliating examinations and having photographs taken of your genitals. Even though reporting rape means taking a gamble and starting at a disadvantage because unless the rape took place in a dark alleyway by a stranger with a knife, the default response to an allegation is disbelief. And all this is long before any trial.

We all know that rape cases are notoriously difficult because, often there are no witnesses which means it’s one person’s word against another. Therefore, those defending the accused in rape cases tend to look at any way in which they can discredit the complainant, especially if she’s working class and not a virgin. And, oh my days, if the circumstances of the rape also include alcohol, high profile alleged perpetrators and a situation where a woman voluntarily goes to a party / hotel / home with the alleged perpetrators, then it’s game on!

In this particular trial the woman’s blood stained underwear was passed around the court. The photographs of the injury to her vagina and of the inside of her vagina full of blood was on the verge of being shown to the jury when, thankfully, the medical examiners came to a conclusion amongst themselves, sparing her that humiliation.

The woman was cross examined by the defence for 8 days. Each of the accused took the stand only for either half a day or a day, which begs the question who exactly was on trial here?

The evidence included whats app messages between the men in a group chat describing the night of the alleged rape which was full of vile, misogynistic language.

Here are some examples:

“Pumped a girl with Jacko on Monday. Roasted her. Then another on Tuesday night”  

“She was very very loose.”

“Any sluts get fucked?”

“We’re all top shaggers”

“There was a bit of spit roasting going on last night fellas.”

“There was a lot of spit roast last night.”

“It was like a merry go round at the carnival.”

“Boys, did you pass spit roast brasses? Why are we all such legends?”

“Aye, just threw her home then went back to mine.”

Oh, but the misogyny didn’t stop there, it wasn’t the sole territory of the accused. Those defending these men in court demonstrated that they, too, are disgusting chauvinistic creatures. Like the defence barrister who said that the messages were “banter and immature boasting” and called the vile messages “a titillating sideshow” with no evidential value.

And then there were the questions that a defence barrister thought the police should have asked the woman, but didn’t – “Why did she not say no? Why did she open her mouth? Why didn’t she scream? A lot of very middle-class girls were downstairs; they were not going to tolerate a rape or anything like that. Why didn’t she scream the house down?” (I don’t even know where to begin with that one!)

This woman believed that she had been raped. She did not consent to what happened on the night in question. She was left bleeding and inconsolable. She was not going to report it because she didn’t want to ‘take on the Ulster rugby team’ but eventually made the decision to go to the police about  what had happened.

The fact that the case was taken to trial in the first place suggests that there was sufficient evidence to support her complaint. The evidentiary bar for rape cases is very high and often there are rape cases that don’t meet this which means they don’t get taken to trial, but which doesn’t mean the crimes didn’t happen.

The fact that the accused were not convicted is not, in itself, proof of innocence. It simply means that the jury did not believe beyond reasonable doubt that the men raped the woman.  And this is the way our justice system works, to minimise the risk of miscarriages of justice which is the way it should be, of course. But equally, it means that people are acquitted who probably committed the offences they’re accused of because ‘probably’ isn’t enough to convict. Again – this is the way it should be, but it does not always mean the alleged offences did not happen.

Some of the responses to the verdict from the supporters of the defendants are almost unbelievable. Many of them focused on a perceived ‘epidemic’ of false allegations, even though the vast majority of rapes go unreported to the police. And, even though there is no evidence to suggest that false rape allegations happen any more than false allegations of any other offences.

The way that these ‘men’ spoke about the woman in question, and the reaction to the verdict by their supporters are filled with threats of violence. Some high profile sportsmen have called for her to be killed. And this is all just the tip of the iceberg, beneath which lies male power, privilege & entitlement; misogyny; sexual violence in pornography; victim blaming; rape jokes and lads ‘banter’; domestic abuse; rape culture; the objectification of women and sexualisation of girls…

…and a deafening silence from the people whose voices deserve to be heard.