Saturday, September 19, 2009

Dressed to Dazzle

Picture this: It’s 11:30 at night and cold outside. A 16-year-old girl is at Waterloo train station in London, England, clad in a low cut spaghetti-strapped dress, shorter than a pair of gym shorts, and stiletto heels that most of us wouldn’t even be able to stand up in, let alone walk in. Her thick make-up paints an impression of a woman much older, but her cute facial features and firm little body betray her age. Is she out to turn some tricks, to earn a few bucks? No, she is going out to party with her friends, and she could be your daughter. (Thanks for the great role modelling, Britney Spears!)

On our recent trip to London, this was a common sight. After a full day of sightseeing, we’d head to the train station late in the evening to take the train back to Windsor, where we were staying with friends. As we were making our way home, the youth were just coming out, like cats on a nocturnal mission. But that’s no surprise. The surprise was the number of young girls we saw who were dressed like tartlets of the night.

I can imagine them leaving their house in jeans and ponytails, giving their parents a hug, and telling them that they will try not to stay up too late at Susie’s sleepover. But instead of heading to Susie’s with a backpack containing pyjamas and a tooth brush, they go to the train station where they transform themselves into glitzy party girls. In their minds they are doing nothing wrong; they’re not breaking the law and they’re not hurting anyone. They simply want to have some fun. What’s wrong with that?

According to, a website that promotes Islam theology, a woman must wear clothing that covers the entire body, with only the hand and face remaining visible. Why? So that the woman is protected from man’s lustful gaze.

In Afghanistan and other Islamic countries, this law demonstrates how severely oppressed the women are in the Middle East. In addition, Afghani women have to contend with the new controversial ruling that “women cannot leave the house without their husbands' permission, that they can only seek work, education or visit the doctor with their husbands' permission, and that they cannot refuse their husband sex,” as stated in a UK Guardian article: Worse than the Taliban.

A woman in Sudan was recently arrested for wearing pants, God forbid! Her crime? Public indecency. The 43-year-old journalist decided not to pay the fine, but rather spend a month in prison to protest Sudan’s “draconian morality laws” states The Globe and Mail (Sept. 8). The other pants-wearing-women, who were arrested with her, accepted the punishment of forty lashes rather than speak out. But Ms. Hussein wants the law abolished because it defies human rights.

In the west, women are entitled to dress as they please; there is no law against mini-dresses and stilettos. But one fact remains true in all our cultures—men are lustful, and some men will not stop at gazing. I must admit, whenever I saw one of these young girls in London going out on the town, I was worried. Obviously, men are expected to control themselves, and it is incumbent upon them to behave. But what happens when they are rip-roaring drunk and their judgment goes out the window, as we all know it can. Sexy Susie may no longer be mere eye candy and she may land a lot more than a good time and the friendly attention of her ‘crush

Parenting expert Barbara Coloroso believes that parents should empower their children by letting them choose their own clothing. If the choice is neither life threatening, morally threatening, nor unhealthy, let the natural consequence of what the child wears give life to his/her learning, Coloroso asserts. So if Katie wants to wear her summer party dress to school in the wintertime, when all the other kids are wearing pants and sweatshirts, then let her. And if she feels out of place or a little chilly in the classroom, she’ll learn that maybe the party dress was not such a good idea.

However, if Katie chooses to wear a skimpy tight dress and stilettos to hit the bars on a cool September night when she is 16, this is not necessarily okay. According to Coloroso’s guidelines... Is this morally threatening? Perhaps not; Unhealthy? Probably; Life threatening? Could be.

Between Islam rigidity and Western lenience, there must be a middle ground which serves all. How about jeans and jackets for teenage girls, and curfews at midnight?

1 comment:

  1. I see the same "dress code" daily at the high school on my street Carla - not much left to the imagination - that's for sure. On the other hand, I flipped through an old photo album recently and saw a photo of myself at about 12 wearing low slung (at the waist) bell bottoms and a tube top with my belly button exposed. I do agree that today's fashion seems somewhat overly sexual but maybe we forget our own youthful "self-expression" at our present age. Each generation seems to present themselves in ways we don't understand and I for one will NEVER get the "crotch to the knees" look some of the boys are sporting today. Well said.