"Women Who Cover Up" Article From 'The New York Times' Assumes That Covering Up Is More Feminist Than Showing Skin
The New York Times article entitled, "Women Who Cover Up," is, on the surface, a trend piece on young Brooklynites who rock layered looks, including long pants and bulky sweaters, in the summer time. Women are apparently opting for socks and tights instead of typical summer styles like flowy dresses and cropped tanks. But there's also a strong undercurrent of sexism in this article, and one that implies the decision to cover up or show some skin isn't about the woman herself, but rather about men.
The piece stepped into sexist territory when the author chose to make the assumption that women show some skin for one reason: in order to attract or impress men.
The article says:
Many young women today choose not to dress for a man’s gaze, even when the weather seems to dictate the baring of skin. The reason are varied: the appeal of thrifting, a ’90s comeback, the end of workplace dress codes, the rising tide of fourth-wave feminism, a newfound combativeness toward street harassment, the current fluidity of gender — or some combination.
Um, excuse me? The baring of skin should never be equated to dressing for a "man's gaze." As a New Yorker myself, I understand that the city gets so hot you wish you could just sit in your underwear by the fan all day. But whenever I put on a tiny crop top or short shorts, it's never for a "man's gaze" — it's because it's hot outside. There's nothing wrong with dressing for attention from time to time, but I take offense at the idea that the only reason a woman would choose not to "cover up" is to have men look at her.
And I'm not the only one taken aback by this line of thought. Many readers took to The New York Times Facebook page to share their reactions, plenty of which were full of anger. "Newsflash: women do not necessarily bare skin to please men," Carrie La Seur commented.
Another reader, Emily Jane Nugent, writes, " I don't bare skin to please men. I do it because it's hot out. The women interviewed for this article don't seem to have an issue with this, so I'm not sure why the NYT invented this discussion — every feminist knows that women can wear whatever they want, whether that means more or less clothing."
Let's face it — many people have dressed up for a date to attract another. There's nothing wrong with that. But the first thing that goes through most minds when it's 90 degrees out is not, "I wonder what the men on the street will think of my outfit." Articles like this one simply perpetuate the idea that if a woman shows skin, she's somehow "asking for it."
In a society where many still find it hard to believe that women don't see catcalls as compliments, or that you can wear what you want and still be a feminist, it's sadly not surprising that this article was published. But take this as a reminder that women wear what they wear because they want to. Whether that means wearing a crop top in boiling heat or a sweater, so be it.
Skin or no skin, don't be afraid to rock whatever summer style speaks to you.