Image, Reality and Sexuality

What dangers lurk for girls and young women, and how do we help them, help all women, avoid them?

Aren’t we (to use a modern term) empowering girls when we teach them “private parts are private”? What greater gift can we give young women than to teach them the world holds dangers, and how to protect themselves? We talk about being “sexually empowered” and young women dress provocatively to demonstrate their “power,” yet they often are endangering themselves. But you tell them this, and they take on an attitude of righteous indignation, and accuse you of being out of touch, prim or sexist.

“Owning your sexuality” is a popular concept with a vast variance in definition from one woman to another. Owning it doesn’t necessarily mean dressing in the most provocative manner possible. Yes, you can dress like a woman, a sexy woman, without showing your nipples.

Female performers for decades have pushed the limits with their wardrobes, but remember, they’re performers. I don’t know what Beyoncé dresses like when she goes grocery shopping (as if she does that herself, but you get my point). She’s selling something on stage, and her sexuality is part of the package.

If, when going out on Saturday night, your average young woman dresses in the same manner as Beyoncé, she needs to be aware she, too, is promoting her sexuality, and there are those who are going to want a part of it. If you get unwanted attention or worse, I’m not saying “you asked for it” as in you deserve it; nobody deserves degrading or violent treatment. But it will happen.

It will happen if you dress like a nun, frankly, but be aware of the image you’re presenting and the varying degrees of belief in what kind of response you’re expecting. If you dress in a highly suggestive manner, others will assume you’re looking for sex. Maybe you’re simply looking for a compliment, an admiring glance, but that isn’t what your image is saying.

There does need to be a paradigm shift in how we view and treat women, but the pendulum tends to swing wide before we hit the appropriate middle ground. There is a center area of acceptable, appropriate behavior that flaunts our femininity and sexuality.

Push the limits, sure. That’s what you do when you’re young. “Acceptable, appropriate” sounds prudish, I know, but there are plenty of ways to look sexy. Consider this: how revealing does another woman’s dress have to be before you know she has a good body? In fact, some women have to work hard to hide their sexuality; they want you looking at their eyes first, not their boobs.

If you resent the fact that dressing the way you want to makes you a target, you are not alone. It’s been a frustration for women for a very long time. It’s painful to think the message you believe you’re sending (“I’m a powerful woman in charge of my own sexuality”) is being received differently. That’s communication, however. Know your audience.

Empowerment is internal. You won’t obtain it by the way you dress, and if you try to do so, chances are you’ll miss the target. If you do genuinely feel empowered, what you’re wearing will reflect it.

Some of you will agree with me, others won’t. I don’t claim to have a handle on absolute truth, and there are plenty of women (and men) who will vehemently disagree with part or all of what I’ve said.

So be it. I know my own truth. God bless you in finding yours.

Image Credit: ©artflare –

Fashion’s Foolish Rules — and Why I Follow This One

I used to wear dresses all the time. Not just when I was in grade school and it was required (yes, even in public school), but in my late 20s and early 30s when I just plain preferred it. I had some beautiful clothes, and worked a second job so I could keep up with the self-imposed demands of my wardrobe.

I had it all, the shoes, jewelry, scarves, whatever was required to dress for success, whatever I may have perceived that success to be. Today, sadly, my wardrobe holds few dresses, and I rarely wear them. Why? Pantyhose. They aren’t allowed anymore, and my legs fail the test without them.

They are pasty-pale, distracting and unpleasant to look at without proper cover, however sheer it may be. Yes, there are tanning products, but they are either too expensive or so incredibly time-consuming. To wear a dress on Sunday, I need to start preparing on Friday, or even Thursday, to ensure my legs are presentable. That takes too much effort.

This dress absolutely requires a black pair of nylons, right?

The only way I can get away with pantyhose is if I’m wearing a black pair. Then it looks like a style statement (and darn it, it is) and not the outdated fashion decision it apparently really has become.

To those of you who say, “who cares what you think your legs look like? Go ahead! Be a real woman and defy common sensibilities!” or “who cares if you wear pantyhose? Wear them anyhow!” I respond with this: my legs deserve better. So do I. Whoever made the decision to turn pantyhose into an outdated fashion accessory, go jump in the lake. That was a mean thing to do to those of who don’t fare well bare-legged.

This linen suit — circa 1987 — had everything — including some lace tights and light grey shoes.

I’m just thankful this turn in the fashion world didn’t take place 20 or 30 years ago. Then, it was considered unprofessional at work and a tad too casual for nice dresses anywhere else. And seriously, I’ve seen plenty of women who maybe should defy today’s fashion rules and slip on a pair of nylons.

So today I wear pants more often than not, and sigh when I look at the dresses. Of course these four-inch heels aren’t too appealing either. Whatever happened to fashionable low heels?

Photo Credit: © Klemen Petrič – Fotolia

Men, Pick Up Your Brooms!

Okay, in my place I use a Swiffer. As long as you contribute to the household chores, broom, Swiffer, it doesn’t matter. (I take that back…use the Swiffer. It gets up more dirt. You should know that.)

Turns out women are making great strides in the workplace…but not at home. They still do the majority of the housework, despite working just as many hours, with just as great a commute, as their male counterparts.

Young man doing the laundry
Sexiest man alive, according to my friends, is the man who does the laundry.

What makes it worse, to me, is that men actually gain self-esteem when they help out at home. Guess why. Because they see themselves as good guys, they kind who help out their women. Not entirely sure I’m fond of that reasoning, but for the moment, I’ll go with it, if it helps turn the tide. Sometimes you have to use what’s working against you to get things to work for you.

My married friends tell me their husbands are never sexier than when they’re doing the dishes. Unless it’s when they’re doing the laundry.

If it’s so easy to make their wives happy, why don’t the men do it more often?

Well, part of the problem is, they believe they are doing just as much as their wives. Yet study after study shows it simply isn’t true.

Another problem? Old attitudes die hard, and I suppose sports programming gets in the way, too. Sometimes the women are at fault, because the men say, “I’ll do it after…” and their wives get tired of waiting. I say, wait it out.

Especially if it’s laundry. Let him wash his own darn underwear. Oh wait, I see the flaw(s) in my thinking…

I don’t know the answer to this problem. Either the man gets it or he doesn’t, it seems, and yet despite my light tone in this piece it is a serious problem. Women are tired and depressed, and getting some help with housework actually would make a difference.

Changes need to be made. It’s as simple as choosing to make a decision that will make your spouse happier, healthier and more relaxed. And it isn’t that difficult to do a load of laundry or three, but when it comes on top of a day at work, a nightmare commute, getting dinner on the table…and off…not to mention caring for the the kids, it can push you over the edge.

Yeah, the Swiffer’s better.

I’m not saying all men do nothing. I’m sure most contribute to the household in some way. But by and large, the burden still falls on the women.

Take an honest assessment. Don’t look at how much you’re contributing, look at the other person. If their hours start to tally faster than your minutes, do something about it.

Like pick up a broom, er, Swiffer. Those things aren’t just for sweeping, they work for mopping, too.

Photo Credit: © dandaman — Fotolia

Step It Up

A fellow blogger, Amy Punt, someone I follow for her thoughtful, outspoken, edgy viewpoint, spoke to the ongoing problem women have being heard when they speak out against powerful, popular men.

They’re readily dismissed as attention-seekers or worse, and it can take a lot of substantial evidence before we’re willing to give up our idyllic beliefs about our favorite celebrities. A lot of evidence about some really perverse things.

She also wrote about her hope the millennials will step up and take a stand against this behavior. It got me to thinking about my first job, age 18, at one of the top banks in the nation. (I won’t say the name because things have changed way too much since then, and what I’m about to describe certainly doesn’t reflect their standards today. They’d be sued to high heaven.)

AdobeStock_106268046 Young Woman Retro Sm
Fortunately not all women in the 60s and 70s just put up with their boss’s behavior.

My boss, the operations manager, would ask me over to his desk for trivial reasons, just so he could watch me walk away. He liked the way I walked, and made no secret of it. When I objected, the asst. operations manager, a woman, called me aside and had a long talk with me, telling me to “stop being so uptight” and “get over it.” I never did, but I did shut up.

This was 1978, the height of the women’s movement. A lot had changed, but obviously we had a long way to go. Eight years later the Supreme Court found sexual harassment to be illegal, and included “unwelcome conduct” or anything that “created an abusive working environment” as sexual harassment.

More importantly, most people today would consider my boss’s behavior unacceptable. There’s no undercurrent of thinking that the law or company policies (many which are more exacting than the law) are too strict. Yes, the men may like the way the women walk, but they’re smart enough to keep quiet about it, or tell only select others. We can’t stop the thoughts, but the actions can be controlled.

That’s not to say it’s perfect out there, I know. I hear plenty of stories about sexual harassment, some subtle, some blatant, in work places all around me. But it’s better, much, much better.

AdobeStock_52714204 Young Woman Sm
Think of the fight she fought — and where we might be if women didn’t have the vote today.

The 1960s and into the 70s was an era of activism, heavy-duty, life-altering, extreme activism. We haven’t really seen that sort of push for change in the decades since, although some change has come. With this new generation stepping up, maybe we’ll move forward in our thinking once again at the kind of radical level we saw once before.

No amount of persuasive talk is going to change some people’s minds about some things. However, sometimes all it takes is intelligent people speaking up and letting loose all the other smart people who think the same thing but believe they’re alone in their convictions. Keep it up, Amy, you’re smart and you have something to say. We’re listening.

Image Credits: (Retro Girl) © stadobaranova — Fotolia; (Vintage Girl) © — Fotolia

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