If it were socially acceptable to wear anything, what would you wear?
That’s what one woman who was shamed for wearing a pencil skirt to work, wants to know. The question was recently posted on Quora by a woman named Pia Sari who wrote, “I know it doesn’t sound like a big deal to see a girl wearing a pencil skirt. However in my experience, it does. I was once wearing pencil skirt to work. Little did I know that it would somehow bring me trouble.”
She added, “Since the beginning of the day, I can’t say how many eyes were staring at me, not to mention my ass. I even got tons of comments from co-workers (particularly men) saying that I’m seductive and looking sexy and have a nice butt.”
“I don’t know if this can be categorized as sexual harassment as I didn’t feel comfortable with it,” she wrote, “but I found myself crying in the office toilet realizing that I can’t even wear pencil skirt without comments from guys and glowering from girls.
She concluded with a plea: “I just want to wear pencil skirt, guys. Just a pencil skirt.”
Women’s wardrobes are often cited as the cause of sexual crimes from an Indian politician blaming a mass molestation on women wearing “Western clothing” to a Canadian police officer telling a group of law students, “Women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized,” and Donna Karan associating women’s clothing with the #MeToo movement. “Look at everything all over the world today and how women are dressing and what they are asking by just presenting themselves the way they do,” she told the Daily Mail in October. “What are they asking for? Trouble.”
Women also receive this message from a young age — across the country, teens are pushing back against the notion that school dress codes are necessary to divert male attention.
So, it’s not too surprising that some women who are victims of harassment or other types of sex crimes, second-guess their clothing, or in Sari’s case: “Little did I know that [the skirt] would somehow bring me trouble.”
The notion of “victim-blaming” was studied back in 1966, when two behavioral scientists at the University of Kentucky named Melvin Lerner and Carolyn H. Simmons published groundbreaking research on the need for humans to live in a “just world” by rationalizing that victims, even their own, were somehow deserving of their circumstances.
Per the study, “It seems obvious that most people cannot afford, for the sake of their own sanity, to believe in a world governed by a schedule of random reinforcements. To maintain the belief that there is an appropriate fit between effort and outcome, the person must construe this as a relatively “objective” belief—one that applies to everyone (Festinger, 19S4). If this is true, then the person who sees suffering or misfortune will be motivated to believe that the unfortunate victim in some sense merited his fate.”
In the same vein, if we can point to controllable, outside factors (such as, a skirt) as the reason for her assault, it makes us feel safer.
“We often see this with rape victims — often the first question they’ll ask is, ‘Why me?’ It stems from the human need to find an explanation for injustice and distance themselves from the feeling that life is random,” Sandra Shullman, Ph.D., a psychologist who specializes in harassment and hostile work environments, tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
“Women’s wardrobes have long been used as an excuse for sex crimes, however, when you look at the data on why people rape, that doesn’t hold up,” she says. “One study showed that rapists stated clothing as the reason for their crimes but their victims were wearing a range of outfits from revealing to snowsuits. These are arguments to transfer the responsibility of control and power from the perpetrator to the victim.
When it comes to sex crimes, Shullman says, “clothing just doesn’t matter.”
RELATED: Women who have come forward to say #metoo:
Women come forward with 'Me Too'
Women come forward with 'Me Too'
Samantha Hanahentzen, 17, poses for a #MeToo portrait in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. October 29, 2017. Picture taken October 29, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson??Hanahentzen said: "When I saw the #MeToo hashtag I was just coming to terms with my sexual assault. It happened when I was in middle school by one of my teachers. It took me a while to come forward with what had happened to me and then when I went to the administration I was told I didn't have enough evidence to prove anything and I should just keep quiet about it because I and the school could be sued for slander if I went public with my experience. It was really silencing because when I was being assaulted it was that stereotypical line of "let's keep this between me and you." And then when I found the courage to come out with out I was told again "let's keep this quiet." So for me too, it was a way to have a voice and it was a way for me to see that I'm not the only one that has gone through this and that women all around the world have all experienced the same thing. It was really unifying." TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY?
Jill Marklin, 40, poses for a #MeToo portrait in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. October 29, 2017. Picture taken October 29, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson Marklin said: "I am a part of the #MeToo movement like every other woman that I know, whether they recognize it or not. I starting recognizing years ago that this is something I experience on an everyday basis, sometimes in very unconscious ways and there have been times in my life when it has been very conscious. I'm now able to talk about experiences that I didn't realize were happening at the time and I want to be vocal about it because I feel that when you bring those dark things out into the light they don't have any power anymore and that it will allow other people to bring that out too and to begin healing and to begin fighting back against those experiences. I was really lucky, if you want to call it lucky, that I never experienced rape, never experienced anything that violent. But it's everyday fear, walking in the streets, being called at, not wanting to be called at. I've had different guys, just being out, trying to force me to dance with them, to touch them. I've had men call me a bitch or I had one man stomp on my foot in LA when I said I didn't want to be around him, those are violent. Things that men never really have to think about but we, as women, are taught. When I was very young, my mom started telling me: "Be alert wherever you are. Make sure you carry your keys between your fingers?" As women, it's second nature now but it shouldn't have to be.\
Laura Chapman, 40, poses for a #MeToo portrait in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. October 29, 2017. Picture taken October 29, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson Chapman said: "I have been assaulted by men from a very young age and my #MeToo story is almost my entire life up until about 30 and then I started aging out of it. I feel like if we all talk about it, that's how we can end it. The voice gives us power.\
Jenna Kreider, 24, poses for a #MeToo portrait in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. October 29, 2017. Picture taken October 29, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson Kreider said: "I was sexually assaulted twice in college; once by a boyfriend, once by a friend and it wasn't something that I really talked about. I will talk about it if it's something people ask about but I'm generally not open with it. This #MeToo campaign really helped me to vocalize that with other people who I know have also gone through the same experience which is really great.\
Nancy Stalnaker, 35, poses for a #MeToo portrait in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. October 29, 2017. Picture taken October 29, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson Stalnaker said: "I think it is fantastic that women are deciding that the people who deserve the shame are not the victims of sexual assault but the perpetrators of sexual assault. The #MeToo campaign has really helped people to feel that they are not alone.\
Brenda Siegel, 40, poses for a #MeToo portrait in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. October 29, 2017. Picture taken October 29, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson Siegel said: "I've had several #MeToo experiences in my life but one was particularly difficult and aggressive in my relationship with my son's father. I never really spoke out about it until two weeks ago and I'm really grateful to have the opportunity to not be holding that inside my body anymore.\
Kadi McDonald, 30, wears a Rose McGowan "Rose's Army" scarf as she poses for a #MeToo portrait in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. October 29, 2017. Picture taken October 29, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson McDonald said: "I have been blessed with the courage to talk about my experiences and be able to talk about them and this campaign was really awesome to help others do that. The recognition from family and friends that it's happening to people that they love; it's happening to everyone. I'm the most basic person you'll ever meet and so to have something so atrocious occur is very surprising for people.\
Siyobin Blanco, 23, poses for a #MeToo portrait in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. October 29, 2017. Picture taken October 29, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson Blanco said: "I was sexually abused as a child and all the way growing up and it took me a really long time to recognize that so when I saw this campaign I thought that it was really important that other people know that that's something that exists, with children as well, so people can learn to recognize the signs and recognize it at a young age.\
Heather Latzko, 22, poses for a #MeToo portrait in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. October 29, 2017. Picture taken October 29, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson Latzko said: "I want to remind everyone that rape is not the only form of sexual assault and just because you're dating them or you're married to them does not mean that it is not sexual assault.\
Pam Akerstrom, 63, poses for a #MeToo portrait in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. October 29, 2017. Picture taken October 29, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson Akerstrom said: "I spent 20 years not telling anyone about it and I'm glad that there's an opportunity for people to speak today.\
Ashleigh Strange, 29, poses for a #MeToo portrait in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. October 29, 2017. Picture taken October 29, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson Strange said: "When I first saw the hashtags I didn't think that it applied to me because I realize now that it's easy to ignore when it's happening to others and it's almost easier to ignore when it's happening to you because it's just something that you don't think that you're big enough, you don't think you're strong enough. It's weird to say that having a hashtag behind you gives you strength but it does; it's weird but it does.\
Jennifer Childs, 39, poses for a #MeToo portrait in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. October 29, 2017. Picture taken October 29, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson Childs said: "When I was 30, I was sexually harassed by a boss. He was feeling me up in the car without my consent and it was one of those moments where I chose to speak up and it was really hard. I remember going to my female boss at the company and telling her about it and the only thing that they managed to do is that they took me off his team and then she proceeded to tell me that I was stupid for putting myself in that situation. Three years later he harassed somebody else and because there was a file they fired him.\
April Slusser, 24, poses for a #MeToo portrait in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. October 29, 2017. Picture taken October 29, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson Slusser said: "My #MeToo experience prompted me to get involved in local organizations to help disenfranchised women who have been sexually assaulted or victims of human trafficking or domestic violence.\
Maya Helferty, 25, poses for a #MeToo portrait in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. October 29, 2017. Picture taken October 29, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson Helferty said: "I've always been aware that most women, if not all, and tons of other people experience sexual harassment and assault. I've always been really open that I've had those experiences throughout my life. But I didn't realize how many other people didn't realize and were not aware that there was such a large community of us.\
Theresa Joy, 39, poses for a #MeToo portrait in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. October 29, 2017. Picture taken October 29, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson? ?Joy said: "Women have been taught that sexual harassment or anything sexual or abusive towards them is just a part of being a woman, it's just something that we live with, that we accept that we have to push through or push down and go on with as a part of life. The #MeToo movement is just another part of the women's movement that we're finally coming together and saying let's lift each other up instead of pushing each other down? I think it's changing the entire future for women that the younger generation are seeing this and saying "Wait. That guy shouldn't be talking to me like that. I'm not going to let that happen to me in the club. He shouldn't be touching me in this way?". My daughter is 19 and I'm proud of what's happening with the #MeToo movement because I feel that it's going to make her safer and stronger. Just to have that on a huge scale right now, that it's not okay to be harassed and raped and abused."?