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Attacked for a skirt: "In Western history, female clothing had to be open, referring to sexual availability"

2020-09-24T16:03:23.515Z

INTERVIEW - In a few days, three young girls were violently attacked in France on the grounds that they were wearing a skirt. Historian Christine Bard gives us the rambling story of this piece of fabric with unsuspected power.



Two young women of twenty were assaulted Wednesday, September 23 in Mulhouse by an 18-year-old man who allegedly reproached them for their

"too short"

skirts

,

according to the first elements of the investigation.

An assault which sadly echoes that of a 22-year-old student in Strasbourg last Friday, also for this reason.

To read also: Assaults of young women in a skirt: Isabelle Adjani's cry of anger

Beyond the visibly sexist nature of these attacks, the pretext given invites reflection.

Today sometimes assimilated to indecent or provocative clothing, the skirt was formerly, on the contrary, an adornment "imposed" on women, even a vector of male domination.

Later, it will become, like the pants, a real means of female emancipation, tells us the feminist historian Christine Bard (1).

LE FIGARO.

- The skirt has not always been equated with indecency or provocation.

On the contrary, in your book on the skirt, you explain how much this garment has for a long time been a vector of male domination.

In what way?

Christine Bard.

-

In the history of our Western societies, female clothing had to be open, like the skirt, unlike male clothing, closed, like the panties and then the pants.

It is this difference in dress which marks the difference between the sexes and also the hierarchy of the sexes, as well as their respective roles.

The skirt is also a very sexualizing garment, which in general has a function of eroticization, and this by weakening women.

Indeed, the opening of the garment links to sexual availability, facilitates access to the female sex.

Note that for a long time, women did not have closed bottoms.

This maintained a female vulnerability.

It is also a less comfortable garment than pants in many activities.

The opening of the garment links to sexual availability, facilitates access to the female sex.

This maintained a female vulnerability.

Christine Bard, feminist historian and author of

What raises the skirt

, (Autrement, 2010).

Read also: The attack of a student in a skirt in Strasbourg raises indignation

Monotheistic religions, for their part, defend a strong sartorial differentiation, and consider cross-dressing as a problem.

They insist on modesty for women, which will come into contradiction with another function of clothing: adornment, which will become, especially in the 19th century, a feminine privilege, a “poisoned gift” in a way.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, skirts that were too narrow and too short were banned, as well as all clothing that revealed too much the female body, which remained that of the tempting and sinful Eve.

At the time, it was then more the pants that were pointed out when a woman dared to wear them.

It wasn't even until the end of the 1970s that women were allowed to come to the National Assembly in pants.

How to explain it?

The pants are seen as an exclusively male garment.

Wanting to wear it is to covet power - vested in men - and that appears to be transgressive.

The story of the conquest of pants tells in its own way the emancipation of women.

One of the first to take the risk, in 1972, was Michèle Alliot-Marie, then a young political advisor.

She is refused entry to the Assembly because of her pants.

She retorts tit for tat:

"If it's my pants that bothers you, I'll take them off as soon as possible

.

"

The bailiff finally allows it to pass, in fact relaxing the rules in force ...

“In 1972, is Michèle Alliot-Marie, then a young political advisor.

She is refused entry to the Assembly because of her pants.

She retorts tit for tat: 'If it's my pants that bothers you, I'll take them off as soon as possible.

"

Christine Bard, feminist historian.

Note that it will be necessary to wait for a declaration by Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, in 2013, for the decree of the Paris police headquarters, dated 1800, which prohibited women from wearing trousers in public transport, to be considered as repealed. streets of the capital.

Read also: Will pants ever be legal for women in Paris?

At the same time, the Labor Code still allows an employer to impose the skirt if he clearly justifies the reasons (sales assistants, flight attendants, etc.).

However, the emancipation of women does not only go through the pants, it also goes through the freedom to wear a skirt in the shape and size of her choice ...

Yes, moreover, the legitimization of pants in the 1960s also corresponds to the success of the miniskirt.

It then corresponds to the desire for a sexual revolution of young women attentive to fashion.

You can now show your legs.

Modesty recedes, yes, but it is not a question of hypersexualization.

It is an eroticization, but tempered by wearing panties (panties covering the navel and going down to the thighs) or opaque tights.

The miniskirt thus accompanies a new fashionable body, skinny, in motion, far from the maternal function, which has long led to the enhancement of fuller shapes and curves.

How did we come to this current contradiction, where the skirt, once imposed on women, is now singled out and equated with indecency or hypersexualization?

There was a turning point in the 2000s, when the skirt became a more exceptional item of clothing, while retaining its function of adornment.

Once compulsory, the skirt now exists in many forms, including ultrashort skirts, while the pants are worn in a massive way by women.

Read also: Day of the skirt: originally, a spontaneous movement of high school girls

Moreover, street sexism is still very present.

The insult or aggression takes the pretext of wearing a skirt, but it could be for a word, a gesture or another item of clothing.

In any case, it is still women who remain today targeted by clothing regulations, for example in colleges where the wearing of short skirts or shorts is prohibited.

Their bodies in public space pose a problem.

Diversity remains something of recent date.

There has been no support since.

It is still women who remain today targeted by clothing regulations, for example in colleges where the wearing of short skirts or shorts is prohibited.

Their bodies in public space pose a problem.

Christine Bard, feminist historian.

The “days of the skirt”, organized from 2006, brought us out of the cliché according to which sexism only concerned the suburbs.

In reality, it is quite transversal.

But this does concern an age group: it is above all in college, a key moment in the discovery of sexuality, of the affirmation of virility for some boys, which involves violent, verbal domination, and thus through stigmatization of girls who wear skirts ...

Read also: “Republican” outfit at school: the Minister for Gender Equality dissociates itself from Blanquer

What response to these drifts?

In my opinion, the correct answer is not to say, as the Minister of Education Jean-Michel Blanquer did, to “wear republican clothing” which does not exist

(the minister was reacting to the movement of the 14 September launched by high school girls, claiming the right to dress as they wish, without being seen as a sexual object, Editor's note),

nor to look in the rearview mirror when returning to uniforms.

On the other hand, we could accompany the students with lectures on the history of clothing and the history of the genre.

In any case educate, dialogue, without stigmatizing young girls.

(1) Christine Bard is a professor at the University of Angers, author of

A political history of pants

(Seuil 2012),

Ce that raises the skirt

, (Autrement, 2010) and

Feminisms, 150 years of received ideas

( The Blue Rider, 2020).

Source: lefigaro

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