I have been raised in an environment where self-respect equates to chastity and modesty in your dressing style. I have been told by quite a few adults, my teachers included, that my body is something that should be hidden behind what society deems as appropriate clothing.
The female body has been indicted to so much scrutiny that everything from our reproductive rights to what we chose to wear is being consciously regulated by what others think is right. Something as natural as breastfeeding is confined to dirty bathrooms because people are so actively repulsed by the sight of women’s breasts doing anything other than pleasing the male-gaze.
I remember quite clearly that once my teacher told us, a class of around seventeen young girls, that when women wear “provocative” clothing or anything revealing it only encourages men to turn into rapists. I have never heard anything more blatantly blaming the sexual assault victim than that statement. Rape culture thrives on people who think that sexual assault happens because of how the victim is dressed. It gives legitimacy to the rapist – and in my eyes there is no bigger crime than giving legitimacy to a person or a law that violates the body of another human being.
It is a mindset like this, which is very unfortunately embedded in majority of the Asian society, that makes the environment hostile for women and trans men. When you start thinking that respect is earned by how people choose to dress themselves, that is when you start viewing human beings as tools of an institution rather than individuals who have rights of their own.
The aggressive advocacy for covering up the female body through the society accompanied with the hyper-sexualization of the female body through the media only incites young girls to view their body as merely something that arouses men and nothing else.
It surprises me every time I come across a person or an institution that polices someone to dress “modestly” to earn self-respect. The idea of self-respect is that you respect yourself as a human being and I can do that just as well when I am naked like I can when I am fully clothed.
What adorns my body is my skin and not the society veiled under a cloth.