Give Germaine a break. When did we women want go back to being all prissy and needing protection?
In my day, very slightly after that of Germaine Greer, we females fought hard for some control over our decisions about clothing. We no longer wanted to have to wear white gloves or else the school prefects patrolling trains would put us on detention. We did not want to be told we could not wear slacks to dinner or out of our University dormitories (what a multitude of sins an academic gown fortunately covered). We were disgusted that we had to wear hats in court or we could not appear for our clients or to sport high heeled shoes on formal occasions. Even well into the eighties we could not wear trousers if teaching in schools.
Through being very outspoken and, at times obstinately flouting convention, we became able to choose to ignore these strictures and, like men, to dress comfortably and exactly as we liked most of the time. Work places can still and should be able to demand a uniform or a certain level of respect in employees’ clothing if they deal with the public as long as these demands are gender neutral, but in our private lives we are on our own.
But this certainly does not mean that what men and women choose to wear does not send messages and that no one can comment on these messages. Even my dog knows that when I put on sneakers I am going for a walk and, when I wear certain clothes, I am going out.
If we wear a burqa we may expect to be treated as if we do not wish to have too much intimate conversation with people with whom we are unfamiliar. If we show a lot of spare flesh we may expect people to think we want to look extremely sexual or even perhaps a “slut”. If we are men and dress in braces and bow ties we may expect people to imagine we may be very extroverted and if men have their stubbies so low as to show “bum cracks” we might expect some people to be mildly nauseated at their tastes. But we can still dress like this. We can cop on the chin what people say about it. I often comment on the ridiculousness of the male tie as a clothing accessory.
If a woman wears, on a suit coat, an addition called in the “old days” a “peplum”, one can assume that she thinks her bottom is too large and needs to be concealed.
Like Germaine Greer, I think this attitude is germane to our opinion of a Prime Minister. I do not want my Prime Minister, or any of her “minders” for that matter, to be focused on her appearance or to think it is part of the bigger picture. What matters is what comes out of her mouth and what decisions she makes.
But more importantly, I think every one can already see this fear of hers. What is wrong about saying it publicly? As long as we have the freedom to dress as we like within the bounds of unoffensiveness, we must also have the freedom to comment on what we draw from others’ choices, also within similar bounds of unoffensiveness.