Trigger warning: discussion of rape
I was disappointed to see some prominent feminists joining in the Target girls clothing debate using silencing tactics against other women. I’m not going to name them or link to them, if you are on Twitter there is a good chance you know who I’m talking about. But even if you don’t the point still stands, using silencing tactics on other women is not a cool thing for a feminist to do, especially ones with high media profiles. I am cherrypicking this bit of their argument. It was more nuanced than this, but this bit really rankled and I think their statements could have stood without it.
Some background: A mother complained on Facebook about Target’s clothing in the girls 7-14 size range making girls look ‘trampy’. Clementine Ford, who is not one of the feminists discussed above, chimed in with a really good article on it not being the clothing but the attitude to the clothes. More on this later. I have a real issue with the word ‘trampy’ being used to describe girls and women too. Sometimes you dress to attract attention. This is not a bad thing.
The other prominent feminists said that we shouldn’t be worrying about Target’s range of girls clothes, we should be worrying about retailers who stock clothing made with child labour. While I abhor child labour and do want it to be stamped out, I can worry about more than one thing at once and I don’t appreciate women being told that their concerns are minor or secondary to this other really important thing that you aren’t doing anything about (even if it is a really important thing). We don’t accept this from people who take the time to tell us to stop worrying about X and worry about women in Middle Eastern countries – as if we are incapable of worrying about them and as if they are incapable of doing anything for themselves, plus all the other privilege loaded things inherent in this statement. So why should we take it from women who call themselves feminist? Sure disagree with the concerns, but don’t belittle the parents voicing the concerns. Afterall it is the parents who are going to be judged by what their child wears.
This is where Clementine Ford’s argument really rang true for me. Clothes don’t sexualise children, we do. We sure do. [trigger] In worst case scenarios this leads to cases like the 12 year old girl who was pack raped by men and boys from her community, yet she was blamed for the attack. [/trigger] I’m not saying that this is going to happen if kids wear short shorts, but I think the stigma of dressing ‘trampy’ which obviously stikes a chord with many still, will stay with a child when she reaches adolescence. It’s a fucked system, but it’s still the system we live in.
My concern with the Target short denim shorts was that they might show the bottom of the bottom cheeks (or “tharse”) which is a feature not a bug for many teenagers and women but not necessarily something that I want in clothing for my 6 year old. Having now seen them in Target I think that the cut is a lot more generous than it first appeared and my fears are probably groundless. I think my daughter would look pretty cute in them. More to the point right next to the short denim shorts were a pair that would have reached to mid thigh, so it’s not like Target aren’t providing choices for parents. I would prefer a wider range of choice but then I’m the consumer not the person who has to justify their purchasing decisions to management. Also I have never worked in that side of retail so I don’t know if you are locked into particular buying patterns regarding sizes and styles etc. Also Target has to cater to young girls needing larger sizes and older petite girls needing smaller sizes (thanks to Mimbles for pointing this out).
So I don’t want clothing that makes people think my child looks ‘trampy’ nor do I want to buy clothing made with child labour. I’m happy to avoid retailers that sell clothing that is possibly made with child labour (this accusation has not been made of Target, but another upmarket fashion line). I can worry about two things at once, often more. I just wish that prominient feminists would respect this.