What to Wear

What to Wear May 16, 2014

OK, time for the teensiest bit of a rant, here. It starts with the fact that a girl named Jessica had her photo kept out of her high school yearbook because she was wearing a tuxedo. (Class pictures are required to be in either a tuxedo or a drape.) Or maybe it starts with the fact that a friend’s granddaughter was sanctioned at school because she was wearing a crop top and skirt that came half-way up her thighs.

And you know what I think? What the hell business of yours it is what someone else wears? Yeah, I get it that you’re going to browbeat your kid into wearing something proper for a wedding or a funeral, and I know in some places it’s a sin to wear white shoes past Labor Day, but really, and in general, what business is it of anyone’s what someone else chooses to put on their body?

I don’t know if Jessica, by her choice of clothing for the class photo, was trying to communicate that she identifies as trans, or that she’s lesbian, or bi, or countercultural, or just that she thought she would look cute in a tuxedo. (She does.) And you know what? Not only is it not any of my business, it isn’t her school’s business either. She is entitled to share or not share any of those identities, and no one is entitled to decide, based on what she’s wearing for a photo, which, if any, she might embrace.

I’m pretty sure that my friend’s daughter was just wearing what she thought was a cute, fun outfit on a warm day. (I saw the picture–it was.) And maybe some boys paid more attention to her than they would have if she were more covered up. And if so, maybe she enjoyed that attention, and maybe she didn’t. But if she liked the attention then she should be entirely free to flirt back, without having to worry that flirting would turn into assault. And if she didn’t like the attention she should be able to rebuff any advances without hard feelings or fear of repercussions.

Because she, like Jessica and like anyone else, should be able to wear what she wants because she’s the one wearing clothes on her very own body and she deserves to have say over what happens with that body.

Yes, I do think there are some limits on what teenagers should be allowed to wear to school. No clothes bearing racist, sexist, homophobic or other remarks that are designed to attack people as they walk by. Because no one deserves to be attacked.

And you know what? That rotund lady in the tight shirt and shorts doesn’t deserve to be attacked by disapproving glances or muttered comments either. Because it’s her body and her clothes, and who are you to say what she gets to wear? Maybe she feels cute and sexy and maybe it’s what she had clean at the moment, and what business is it of yours?

Look, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t set limits on teens, or that there is never a time when it might be reasonable to intervene in the behavior of a stranger on the street. If you see someone driving badly in a parking lot or kicking a dog, by all means, step in and I’ll applaud. But you know what? No one was ever run over by another person’s clothing. If you don’t like what someone else’s clothing says about you (like “I’m with stupid–>”) speak up. But if you don’t like what you imagine their clothing says about them, that is your problem and you should just get over it.

End of rant.

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