“Ang sexy naman nito!”
(That person is so sexy!)
These are some of the comments I have read from the victims of catcalling due to the clothes they wear. Many would expect victims to wear revealing clothes like off shoulder tops and shorts. Surprisingly, many of them just wore “conservative” and everyday clothes.
Upon walking the halls of Gokongwei Lobby on a Thursday morning, I saw an exhibit by the USG called NOT MY FAULT – An Exhibit on Catcalling Victims of DLSU that displayed the clothes of catcalling victims and their stories. The Business College Government featured 19 Lasallians from an online survey who shared their experiences and comments related to this issue.
At first glance, these clothes look nothing inappropriate as anyone would see any student inside and outside campus wearing shirts, jeans, shorts, and even pajamas for those living nearby the University. But while I was reading their stories, I realized the scary reality that we live in. The fact that anyone can be sexually harassed regardless of what they wear explains the monsters lurking in the streets waiting to catch their next victim.
For years, women have been taught how to dress appropriately inside and outside campus not only to avoid harassment, but simply to look like the best version of yourself. Though women dress according to the dress code, they are still not free from the harassment—inside and outside the University.
In this case of harassment however, dressing up is no longer the issue. What remains to be the issue is the way the patriarchy perceives and treats women. It is no easy feat to make everyone completely understand why women should be free to wear their chosen clothes. How do we do that?
Learning is the first step. Everyone should keep an open mind as to why people wear clothes the way they do. Each outfit represents a certain style and function. Though many students on campus would take it for granted, it is something that is essential to how we live our lives.
As someone who loves to dress up whenever given the chance, I applaud those that can incorporate their personal style into what they wear whether inside or outside the campus. It is in their style that conveys a message about who they are and what kind of story they want to tell.
If there are people who see clothes as a medium for creativity and self-expression, there are many who would see them as a function. While many may not think about their style too on the other hand. But there’s no doubt that we wear clothes to feel comfortable.
Everyday before going to school, I usually pick out the clothes that are most suitable for the weather and for the activities I will do on that day. If it’s too hot, I would opt to wear light sleeveless shirt that matches a skirt, a light cardigan, or sandals.
Next step is behaving properly toward other people, treating others with respect. Everyone should be educated on how to respect around their relatives, friends, batchmates, or even schoolmates regardless of their gender. Making this a habit in the community is a great start to treating even strangers on the accordingly.
By practicing all these, it is possible to create safe spaces for everyone to feel comfortable with whatever they are wearing. It will allow those who walk or commute to and from the University to feel less worrisome about their trips. Slowly but surely, these acts may even open the discourse on victim blaming and address misconceptions involved with such twisted ideology.
Taking away the stereotype of victim blaming based on clothing may take forever, but slowly, it can make a whirlwind of a difference in our society. It doesn’t matter what clothes we wear. Rather, it is how we treat each other with equality and respect that would slowly change attitudes for the better.