Professional pearl-clutcher and self-hating slut-shamer Dawn Eden covers the story of a woman being asked to leave a Southwest airplane because one of the flight attendants deemed her outfit to be “inappropriate.” She was wearing a mini-skirt, a fitted tank-top and a sweater. Eden refers to the woman as an “epidermis exhibitionist” (so clever with the alliteration, Dawn!) and nick-names her “That Big-Chested, Long-Legged Hooters Hottie Who Almost Got Kicked Off a Plane.” Because of course, her place of employment is really crucial to the story. I’m sure if she worked as, say, a doctor or a supermarket cashier or a cable repair person, everyone from CNN to Dawn would have emphasized it. Right?
The woman is quoted as saying that she felt humiliated after being pulled aside and lectured about her slutty attire. Who wouldn’t be? But according to Dawn, she should be grateful that some dude on an airplane berated her because he was offended by her physical appearance:
That embarrassment is a gift, TBCLLHHWAGKOP. Instead of suing the airline, you should be paying it out of gratitude for showing you the truth of what you are doing every day — treating yourself as a walking commodity, and others as consumers.
As opposed to Dawn, who is totally not a walking commodity. She only wrote a book about the fact that she’s on the look-out for a husband, and even if her shit isn’t vacuum-sealed-fresh anymore, she’s refusing to give away the milk for free until someone buys the cow, if you will. Because, you know, the previous strategy failed in the husband-finding business. That’s self-respect, people.
Look, all I know is that if I don’t want to invite muggers, I don’t walk around flashing the contents of my wallet. I cover it up. Everybody knows I have one — it’s not something I have to advertise. Likewise, if I don’t want people to treat me like an object, I cover up.
Interesting. Mugging is a crime. What crime could one be protecting themselves from by covering up? What in the world could Dawn be referring to?
I’ve never heard a mugger defend himself by saying, “But the dude was flashing the contents of his wallet!” In fact, I have seen many, many men pull out their wallets to pay for something, and the contents become visible. I have seen many, many women walking around carrying handbags that cost more than my life is worth. I suppose they’re inviting mugging?
As a woman, I realize that I could be covered head-to-toe in a burkha and a man could still leer at me. I can’t prevent that. Some less-than-a-gentleman stared at me just the other day on the Metro when I was wearing an ensemble that would have made Phyllis Schlafly look like a trollop. But I can make an effort to show I am conscious that my body belongs to me — and no one else. That is true feminine power — not putting one’s body on display and then getting all humiliated and embarrassed when accused of crass commercialism.
In other words, when I get leered at, it’s the dude’s fault. If you get leered at, you’re a dirty slut.
Dawn realizes that women can’t win the dress-up game, but she’s more interested in humiliating other women in order to make herself look like a saint. It’s like watching a really fascinating, fucked-up psychological experiment in real time: To what lengths will Dawn Eden go to prove that she’s not like those other sluts?
And if “true feminine power” is the ability to put on a floor-length denim dress, you can have it. Your body is “on display” whether you like it or not — you walk around in it all day, and it’s pretty much just there. Your body doesn’t suddenly because less yours because your legs are visible. Are your hands suddenly commodities if you aren’t wearing gloves?
Dawn’s right that there is a pervasive view of the female body as public property. Anti-choice politicians and voters think they have the right to legislate women’s reproductive choices, as if everyone else has ownership over our uteruses. Women who survive rape are berated for “asking for it” by dressing in a certain way and going out in public. Because, after all, if your body is yours then there’s no question that other people don’t have a right to touch it, control it, or abuse it. Dawn intentionally feeds into the perception of women’s bodies as public property by arguing that women who dress in a particular way should be free of harassment, while women who dress in ways she doesn’t like should be publicly humiliated.
It’s also obvious that it wasn’t about the woman’s outfit. It was about her body. If I wore that outfit on a plane, I doubt anyone would say anything (especially if I was in my usual no-make-up, hair-pulled-back plane attire). Why? Because I’m short, slightly round, I have short legs, and small breasts. No one would ever look at me and go, Wow, boobies! I don’t put a whole lot of thought into purposely dressing modestly (although I hate my legs so I keep them covered up and I wear long sleeves because I get cold a lot, so who knows — maybe I’m a Modesty Warrior without even knowing it). I don’t put thought into it because I don’t have to. Yes, I live in a female body and so I get gawked at and commented on while I’m walking down the street, but that happens when I’m in sweatpants. That’s an issue of control of public space, not modesty-policing. I don’t get modesty-policed because I don’t have the kind of body that people think screams “sex.” I wear low-cut shirts when I go out pretty often. I have a series of really comfortable cotton dresses and halter tops that are cut all the way down between my boobs. I’ve worn them on planes. I’ve worn them walking around. Hell, I wore one to the Feministing party for Jessica’s book. No one has even given me a second look. It has never been a problem.
I guarantee if a bigger-chested woman wore that dress, it would be a problem.
This woman was targeted because she has big breasts, she’s young, she’s attractive, and she’s not hiding it. I suspect if she were middle-aged or otherwise more invisible, this wouldn’t have been an issue. If she had been flat-chested and plain-looking, it would have been less of an issue. The only way I can see that it would have been more of an issue would have been if she were fat and large-chested. Comments over at Dawn’s (and even at Feministing once the trolls show up) wade into “I don’t want to see that!” territory. Right now they’re more eye-roll-inducing than anything else. I can guarantee that if she were fat, they’d be a whole lot more sympathetic — who wants to see that?
So let’s not pretend that this is a modesty issue. I’ve never heard of a guy wearing one of those tank-tops with the huge armpit holes — where you can see nipple half the time — being berated for his lack of modesty. Imagine someone walking up to this dude and telling him that he’s advertising himself as a commodity, and that he’s basically asking to be raped. You’d sound like a crazy person.
Now I’m sure Dawn will argue that she isn’t a rape apologist — she’s just trying to help women by telling them that they’re stupid whores who should be embarrassed. She’s happy to tell them that they’re dressing like hookers (and everyone knows hookers deserve to be raped). So I wonder what Dawn is trying to advertise with how she dresses? How, exactly, does one put together an outfit that properly sends the message that you’re a self-righteous narcissistic prick?