Nyma Bee

The problem with “respectability” politics is that a woman’s alleged vulgarity is often used to rationalize harassment and assault. Harassment, by definition, is unwanted attention. If a woman is behaving in a particular way in order to get a man’s attention then that, by definition, is not harassment so I don’t see that as the subject of this piece since this explicitly addresses harassment. A woman can, and should, expect that her clothing and actions will not be used as an excuse and justification for harassment. A woman has the right to wear what she wants and dance in any way that she wants. Period. We walk a very slippery slope when we suggest that a woman essentially “invited” harassment by something she did or did not do. Harassment is the fault of the perpetrator and no one else, certainly not the victim. A woman, like a man, should be able to walk around happily and freely without her clothing being indicted. Moreover, assault and rape are rampant in conservative cultures where women dress extremely modestly as well. So a long skirt will not protect a woman. Men can choose not to harass, even if a woman is standing in a bikini. We need to stop giving harassers a free pass by implying that they cannot help it. The men that choose to harass CAN help it. Harassment is a conscious decision, not a must. Indeed, there are many men who make the choice not to harass a woman. A woman’s safety, security and peace of mind should never be dependent on an arbitrary assessment of her respectability. A life free of harassment is every woman’s right. The way she dances or moves or dresses should never negate that. Ever.

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