Is it slut-shaming shade when someone “praises” women for keeping their clothes on?
Amber Rose, the face of America’s modern-day anti-slut-shaming movement, definitely seems to think so. She recently called out singer Pink over her Twitter post praising women who refuse to “cave” to pressures to use their bodies to get ahead.
Coinciding with Women’s History Month, the “Try” singer gave some encouragement to women who succeed based on their talents. “In the quiet moments, you will feel something deeper than fleeting excitement resulting from attention, you will feel something called pride and self-respect,” Pink wrote after warning against the apparent alternative: “It may not bring you as much ‘attention’ or bank notes as using your body, your sex, your tits and asses, but women like you don’t need that kind of ‘attention.’”
Many assumed that Pink’s comments were in response to an earlier post by Kim Kardashian, who shared yet another photo of her naked body on social media, prompting criticism. Rose, who likely rivals Kardashian in showing some skin on the regular, came to her defense.
“As a grown woman, let another woman live as she wishes,” said Rose, who accused Pink of downing the mother of two.
But in accusing Pink of shady slut-shaming, is Rose actually part of the problem?
Rose is free to flaunt her nearly naked form to whomever she likes, just as Pink—who doesn’t cover up much more onstage—has the right to encourage women to use their brains more than their behinds. Sometimes one woman’s statement celebrating not using her body to get ahead isn’t about you (or Kim Kardashian). But instead of things being taken at face value, everything devolves into #TeamClothed versus #TeamNaked, with #TeamClothed arguing that women should see themselves as more than objects of attraction and dress to suit that, while #TeamNaked shouts that it shouldn’t matter what women wear because clothes don’t make the woman.
The truth is that they’re both right, and instead of arguing back and forth on social media, #TeamClothed and #TeamNaked should be focused on a much more insidious problem: how overall society reduces all women to how they look and dress, causing these conflicts in the first place.
A woman might be a head of state or just your average Jane, but someone, somewhere, is going to comment on how she looks. If she’s attractive, people will talk about her attractiveness to the point where it obscures her other virtues. If she’s not conventionally pretty, she will be belittled and admonished over something over which she often has no real control. Clothes, or lack of clothes, become part of the game.
The idea that women shouldn’t have to conform to any preconceived notions of what’s appropriate attire is still a pretty novel one. As Rose’s appearance on OWN’s It’s Not You It’s Men demonstrated, there are still men out there who think a woman is inviting unwanted advances based on how she’s dressed.
But you don’t have to be a feminist to understand that a woman wearing the stereotypical fishnet stockings, heels and a “freak-’em” dress could just as likely be a CEO enjoying a girls’ night out or a student heading to the evening job that pays to put her through school.
That seems to be Rose’s message, as she consistently challenges those who expect a woman to dress a certain way to guarantee acceptance.
Rose’s argument is valid, but the truth is that many people assume one woman’s choice is a commentary on what other women do. Choosing to go naked is no more a condemnation of those covering up than covering up is a statement about those who like to play up their sex appeal. Pink and Rose should both be able to celebrate women and their choices without people making it seem as if their choice is the only choice. But instead of seeing their common foe, Rose, Pink and their #TeamClothed and #TeamNaked cohorts inadvertently place the burden on women to adapt, when it’s society’s need to categorize and stereotype women by their looks that should change.
While Rose encourages women to shake all their mothers gave them, it’s important to realize that not all women are comfortable doing such, and those women shouldn’t feel ashamed or marginalized because they prefer a more conservative route. And while Pink is talking about not using sex appeal to get ahead, she should take a moment to reflect on how she has at times also chosen to be clothing-averse in her career. Choosing to wear a low-cut top or take a revealing photo could be as easily about pride and self-acceptance as wearing a pair of slacks and a button-down is about comfort and style. Both can exist in the same time and space and have nothing to do with each other.
Instead of splitting the sisterhood into opposing sides of #TeamClothed and #TeamNaked, we should all work together with the common goal of creating a world where women can dress to their comfort without judgment. We should stop bickering among ourselves and get focused on #TeamUnity.