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photo i took of a clothing rack in my bedroom with my clothes on it
photo i took of a clothing rack in my bedroom with my clothes on it
maggie kerrins

Does Dressing up To Go Out Perpetuate the Male Gaze?

My roommate recently walked out of her room and asked me, “Do I look hot?” just as I had asked her many times before. Of course she did, but this did not take away from the fact that she was willing to change her article of clothing based on others’ perception of her. As a result of this moment, I reflected on how I dress when I go out and the question arose: Does dressing up to draw male attention really comply with the ideals of feminism?

It seems, in recent years, women are finally coming to terms with their emancipation. Women are calling out “mansplaining,” wearing more “masculine” clothing, drawing more attention to sexual assault and even getting down on one knee in a proposal (gasp) to normalize the status quo. As females of the dating world in 2022, these small steps of progress are necessary for us in order to unlearn all of the generational brainwashing that has occurred in regards to gender norms. 

As a result of these successes, the way a woman dresses has fallen under even more scrutiny in an era where the young adults of the Millennial and Gen Z eras have embraced feminism and invented the “Girlboss” movement. The struggle to find a balance between dressing to impress and dressing to express is all too real for women on a day-to-day basis, but especially when dressing to go out. 

If you are a college student, it’s more than safe to assume that you have gone out at least once in the course of your college career. Whether you are at college as a full-time partier and part-time student or as a full-time student and part-time partier, almost every student at Florida State University (FSU) has experienced at least one night out on the town in an attempt to see what all the hype is about regarding going out at FSU. 

While there are no dress codes at the bars and clubs in Tallahassee, at most clubs it’s not so surprising to see a woman dressed in a tight dress and heels right next to a man dressed in sneakers and a dry-fit shirt. When I pointed this out to my friends, they all agreed glumly that they would like to see more balance between men and women in the fanciness of their attire worn at the clubs. Why, then, are we women still dressing up to the extent that we do? Feminism means equality, and dry-fit clothing in the same room as stilettos is the antithesis of equality. 

The disparity in dressing up is not just the fault of generational biases. Many female clothing websites have a “going out” section that only includes tiny pieces that do not cover up much, are made of cheap material and are not comfortable. 

In addition to the degrading clothing options, many clubs will do cheaper entry fees and more deals for women. This in itself objectifies women and makes it seem as if their only purpose at the function is to be present for their male counterparts. This inevitably leads to the subconscious idea of most girls that it is important to fulfill this desire of men and dress in an attractive way. 

What a woman wears, of course, should always be because of self-expression and the desire to feel good about the way that you look. Amplifying some parts of yourself can be a part of this self-expression if the comfort aspect of the outfit is not lost. Sofia Nogueira, 19, says “I dress up for myself. If I feel more attractive and beautiful, regardless of if men see me that way, I am happier. Dressing up to go out does that for me.” It is important to recognize the distinction between this ideology and the ideology of making one’s body look hot just to attract male attention. 

In short, how you dress up is less of an anti-feminist statement than it is a dismal view into the lackluster fashion most college males have. Men should raise their fashion standards so that the responsibility of looking good doesn’t just fall on the shoulders of women. The conclusion revolves around women realizing that we are in part responsible for perpetuating misogynistic standards for attractiveness. Why must I continue peeling my skinny jeans off myself at the end of the night? If you really want to dress for yourself, start dressing for the female gaze. When you dress with female ideals and culture in mind, you omit unwanted male attention. Girls should dress up to feel confident and beautiful, not attractive.

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Abby is a second-year at Florida State majoring in International Relations. When she isn't studying and writing, you can find her hiking, thrifting, watching movies, or reading a good book.
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