My friend’s son, too, likes wearing tutus and frilly skirts. Every time they go shopping for clothes, he heads to the girl’s section and picks out the frilliest outfit. At check out, invariably the cashier asks if the pretty outfit is for his sister and he confidently says it is for him. Often he wears these outfits to school. His confidence comes from his mother’s acceptance of him and her understanding of his gender expansiveness. It helps that she is a sociologist, but there is a constant pushback from society including from his peers at school who bully the little boy. But it is the constant support from his mother and family that allows him to remain confident and thrive whilst being different.
No two human bodies are alike, and our different bodies arouse curiosity. But our fascination for the aesthetics of the perfect human body has historically created a space within art, science and religion for the examination of the ‘abnormal’ and the ‘imperfect’. As a result, some bodies are normalised while others become oddities. Freak Shows, and to a large extent, circuses and even exhibits in medical or anthropological museums particularly stand out for dehumanising and objectifying these different anatomies, and oftentimes subjecting these bodies to violence and discrimination.
Attire and sexuality in the common imagination and approach as represented (and also as received) by the mainstream media tell us a lot about prevailing attitudes to both. Advertisements bombard us with all kinds of representations, negative and positive, of human sexuality, sexual expression and desire. In the creation and marketing of attire and fashion, there is a great awareness of sexual buy-in or rejection by the market – that’s us.
I recently watched North Country on Netflix, a movie based on a true story of a woman’s fight for equality at the workplace. It is based on the case, Jenson vs Eveleth Mines, in the United States in which Lois Jenson, fought for the right to work as a miner, and the right to work free of sexual harassment. She won the landmark 1984 lawsuit, which was the first class-action lawsuit on sexual harassment at the workplace in the United States and resulted in companies/organisations having to introduce sexual harassment policies at the workplace.
Because the Internet is an integral part of our daily lives, it is important that young people are given the right information so that they can explore the world around them, access information without violating legislations, know their rights in the virtual and physical world and have enjoyable and consensual relationships with whoever they choose.
Every Friday my organisation Red Dot Foundation hosts a SafeCircle, an online space for listening and for sharing experiences of sexual violence. Last Friday, as we were sharing stories, it suddenly dawned on me that many of us were still traumatised by some of the relationships and experiences we had when we were between 16…