Last week a man dressed as a bottle of Rohypnol (roofies, GHB, ketamine, date rape drug) walked into a Charleston bar. A photo of his costume was posted on social media and he was soon challenged by female patrons, who took turns explaining to him why his costume was offensive. Eventually, he was asked to leave.
City Paper wrote about this incident, praising the efforts of what we came to call Cutty’s Costume Crusaders — brave women who wouldn’t stand for the intolerance and insensitivity of this stranger’s outfit. I said stuff like, “Heck yeah, good for them!” I thought, “It’s great when women band together for a good cause.” I also thought, “I’m glad that guy got called out.”
Then I felt a little dishonest. That date rape drug costume was reprehensible: It perpetuates a culture of harming and degrading women. But hadn’t I done some of my own harming and degrading just a few days before? On Saturday night I’d stood in a bar, dressed in a hot dog hat and overalls, rolling my eyes at women dressed in revealing costumes. On Halloween weekend my sister and I raised our eyebrows at sexy fill-in-the-blank outfits.
When a man I’ve never met wore a date rape costume I jumped at the chance to call him out. So now I’m going to call myself out. On Saturday night, when I saw women in teeny tiny outfits I thought, in my head, “Sluts.”
And that’s not OK.
I hear ya — the thought police are coming, take cover! Think what you want, I know that I do. But it’s the moment you let those thoughts dictate your actions — even my seemingly harmless raised eyebrows, that you’re empowering that guy in the roofie costume. He probably thought his costume was funny because he’s an idiot and/or an asshole. Or maybe, just maybe, he thought some people would be in on the joke. Maybe he thought some women — the same ones he’d heard lambast celebrities, or super models, or the promiscous gal down the street — would laugh along with him.
We’ve all made fun of how Kim Kardashian dresses. We’ve talked shit about the proclivities of neighbor Becky, the woman who always has a different car in her driveway. We have been these women, too, but when we want to talk a little trash, we have goldfish memory of our own histories. Also, maybe, we just don’t care. They’re just words, right?
But some words stick around. And whether we want to admit it or not, as women, there’s a chance that we’re part of the problem. Should I really get mad at a guy for ogling my ass when I in turn snicker at a woman’s exposed cleavage? If he thinks, “slut,” and I do too, aren’t we both feeding into the idea that it’s OK to degrade women? And if it is OK to degrade them, why not hurt them too?
For the record, I don’t walk around slut-shaming chicks in low cut tops. I hope people don’t roll their eyes when I wear bootie shorts in the summer. But the thing is — I’d get it if they did. Maybe that’s what needs to change: Maybe I shouldn’t contribute to a conversation about my outfit or anyone else’s.
For the most part people rarely go around noticing anyone else — we’re far too focused on ourselves to care about others. But then someone does something we can’t ignore, like wear a costume that jokes about raping women.
How did we get here? We can name blame all we want, but we can only control our own actions. So start with this: stop inadvertently slut-shaming women. If someone’s actions or clothing or hair or whatever don’t hurt you, then there’s no need to voice words that could hurt them.
Stand up when something is wrong. But if what’s wrong is your own perception of how things should be, well, then follow the golden rule: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
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