I am a firm believer that anyone should wear what they feel comfortable in. And of course that women should embrace their bodies, and should never be told how to dress. If you feel comfortable in a swimsuit or a burkini, then wear it! If you feel empowered by a hijab, or a buzzcut or long flowing hair, then go for it!
Now I am always the first to criticise my own body – especially if I’m feeling down that day. But I try not to let that stop me from wearing what I like. I hate that I’m not always confident with how I look, so I try to be brave and go for an outfit anyway.
But twice now, I have been made to feel awkward, unwelcome and ashamed for wearing a certain dress of mine and I just felt like it was time to talk about it on here.
So the first incident was while I was at a pub about a month ago, in the beautiful little town of Ulverston in the Lake District. While I was sat chatting and laughing with my boyfriend and his parents, the land lady shouted across the room at me to “please cover up, thank you”. Which you know, was super embarrassing, especially in front of my boyfriend’s lovely mum and step-dad. I could feel myself go bright red, and I began to get quite upset at the thought of all the people around the bar judging me. I felt too scared to go to the toilet, lest I be taken aside by the land lady, and sat quietly in the corner until we went home. It was suggested that we go to a different pub, but I didn’t want to make a fuss.
All I had done was wear a dress – a dress I thought was pretty and cute, and I’d come home feeling disgusting and gossiped about and embarrassed. My boyfriend, Ross, came and talked to me about it later that evening. He had been as shocked as I was when it happened, and he wished he’d done more at the time. I felt the same way. I’ve always been quite vocal about body shaming and how people should wear what they want. But when *I* had something said to me, I was so surprised that I just didn’t react in time. As well as all the horrible feelings from what had been said to me, I was also feeling guilt. Guilt for not having the balls to stand up for myself and be proud of my outfit.
So, with Ross’ encouragement, I decided I was going to carry on wearing my dress when I wanted to. There was nothing wrong with it, this was a weird blip and no one else in society is as rude as the land lady at the pub.
Ha, if only that was true. Just this Monday, at the Fresher’s Fayre of my university, I was helping out at the Blog Society stall and encouraging people to join us as members. That morning, I’d told myself I was being silly when I paused to put on my blue dress. Ross told me I looked beautiful and I left the house feeling confident but excited about the day to come.
I was by myself and talking to an interested student, when a middle-aged woman interrupted me. “I’m sorry, but your nudity… I can’t help staring at it and it’s making me uncomfortable. I just thought you should know.” Not wanting to be rude at a public event, and again feeling that numb shock at being essentially publicly humiliated in front of other students around me, I mumbled “Urm, okay.”
I have no idea what I was supposed to say, but felt my eyes pricking with tears. The student I had been talking to politely excused herself and left awkwardly. When I felt brave enough to look around me, I saw the lovely girl on the next stall, for “Sci Fi, Fantasy and Anime Society”. She met my eyes and gave me a “who the hell does she think she is?!” kinda look, and it made me feel a lot better. It took a lot to then chat to other students after the incident, I felt like everyone was judging me.
The trouble with comments like those I’ve received, is that they are a subtle way for people to completely tear down a woman’s confidence in her body and how she dresses. Maybe to some people, those comments were harmless. But when they are directed at you, especially in such a public way, all they serve to do is to shame and humiliate. And the people who say them must know this or they’d keep their opinions to themselves, or if they can’t possibly keep their mouth shut, they’d take you aside privately.
I guess I’m just sharing my experiences to help others who’ve suffered similar situations. Keep wearing that top that makes your cleavage look amazing if you want to, your legs do look great in that skirt and if you want to cover your hair, then you do that. Don’t let small minded people dictate to you how you look, because they have no right to. And I think I needed to write this post to remind myself of this too.