It’s not about modesty

If people really wanted to protect women from dishonour, then men themselves should respect women

Boo Su-Lyn, The Malay Mail Online

Perhaps the most disturbing thing about the strange incidents of men molesting the life-sized cardboard cutouts of a Shell petrol station supervisor was the way her so-called “modesty” was highlighted.

The standees of the 25-year-old woman showed her in a headscarf, long-sleeved shirt and trousers. Some men did funny stuff like posing beside the standee with her thumbs up; others did slightly icky things like kissing the cardboard cutout on the cheek. And then there was the downright disgusting grabbing of the standee’s chest and crotch.

There was the usual social media outrage, but curiously enough, many reports and Facebook users talked about how incredulous the lewd acts were since the model was “modestly” dressed.

The victim’s dress is always highlighted in incidents of sexual assault, or in this case, the “molest” of a woman’s likeness. Either she’s dressed skimpily (however that is defined), which to some people means she deserved what she got, or she’s totally covered up, to which people will either shrug or say, “How can she be sexually harassed when she’s dressed decently?”

By focusing on a woman’s clothing during sexual attacks, we give the impression that only “modest” women do not deserve the crime committed against them.

If the molested standee had been of a bikini model, would people still jump to her defence? I think not as many people would.

Society’s obsession with a woman’s dress and her related culpability in a sex crime sometimes makes us second-guess ourselves.

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