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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Texas chapter.

After this year’s release of Barbie, the reality of feminism has come into sharp focus. The film underscores the message that women face judgment when they make choices about their attire or express their opinions, leaving them feeling scrutinized in virtually every aspect of their lives. As someone with eyes and as a woman, I’m well aware of the attention I receive when I opt for an open-chested top or wear shorts to cope with the scorching Texas heat. This tendency is a common trend among all genders, and I understand the societal influences at play. Personally, I believe that the idea of ‘girls are asking for it’ is often perpetuated during high school and college, through our upbringing, and even by the media. 

It often seemed like a common trend in high schools that showing shoulders was deemed ‘distracting.’ But I couldn’t help but wonder, distracting to whom? How is it a woman’s responsibility if the boy behind her is getting distracted by her shoulders when she’s simply trying to focus on her education? Moreover, it’s not fair for boys to blame women for their own distractions. During my senior year, I worked as an office aide, and I witnessed numerous bright and dedicated girls, often more academically advanced than me, being called into the office for wearing a simple tank top to school. It left me questioning the fairness and rationale behind such strict dress codes.

Starting college, a time when everyone can feel vulnerable, I found myself in a big city as a woman walking alone at night. I was adjusting to this new lifestyle while encountering numerous people who stared at my chest, leaving me undeniably unsettled. On a day when I was feeling particularly confident and wanted to show a little skin in the sweltering weather, I felt the stares. People’s eyes would move down to my chest, signaling me to cover up. I felt judged and disappointed by my choice on a day when I should have felt confident. How was this my fault? 

Growing up, I was taught that it was my responsibility to cover up. I was raised in a Pakistani family, and while I love my parents to death, their thinking was somewhat conservative. My friends used to have pajama sets that included shorts, and when I asked my mom for the same pajamas, I was told it would make the male members of our household uncomfortable. As I grew older, my peers would criticize my style, deeming it not trendy or acceptable for my age group. I yearned to explore my own style, but when my parents took me to the mall to do so, my choices never seemed to satisfy them. If I picked a tank top, my mom would say it wasn’t suited for my body type, and if I wanted to wear it, I’d have to work for it. I’d often be guilt-tripped into thinking that I was the problem. But was I? 

As I gradually learned that I had the right to choose my attire, their mindset started to shift. However, external influences like the media didn’t make this transition any easier. Movies, television shows, magazine covers, music videos, and more continuously perpetuate gender stereotypes. They captivate audiences by featuring women as objects of desire, often portraying them as vulnerable damsels in distress or sexualizing them, especially in certain scenarios.

In navigating these complexities, I’ve come to realize that women often bear an undue burden while striving to pursue their aspirations and life goals. My own experiences have taught me how to overcome these challenges, but the fact that such adversities exist in the first place is entirely unnecessary. We should never have been manipulated into believing that our self-worth was the problem. This constant scrutiny takes a toll on our mental health and self-perception. Through personal growth and self-discovery, I’ve learned to assert my rights and reject the idea that I am at fault. I now understand that I never was, and no one should ever be made to feel that way

Hi my name is Ashna Haiderali! I am a second year psychology student. I am a passionate writer and advocate for mental health, which is the main reason why I joined HerCampus this year. I want everyone to know that there is someone always in their corner (me!) even if they don't know it. My passion for writing stems from being a reporter on my high school newspaper. My time on that staff allowed me to discipline my writing skills and improve as a writer, which I wish to continue to do through HerCampus!