Audra Williams has a really great question":
I said at a Mediawatch board meeting this weekend that I feel like it's impossible to get upset with young girls dressing in revealing clothing without also signing onto the notion that it's possible to dress as if you are sexually available. I would like to talk about this, because I feel like most people disagree with me but I can't find a way to separate those two streams of thought.
What I mean is, I feel like people around the table believed that girls were dressing as if they are sexually available, and I don't think it's POSSIBLE to dress as if you are sexually available.
I don't understand how the same feminist women who fought for the idea that the way someone dresses is NEVER a green light for sex can now say that teenage girls are "dressing like skanks" or use terms like "prosti-tots"?
I think the point she's making is a really good one. It's one thing to talk about the range of clothing available to girls, it is quite another to make any sort of comment about the girls that wear them.
But I actually want to take this off in a slightly different direction. One of the comments on my recent post about the Buffy comic books talked about the artist 'sexualising' Willow. I really object to that language. The character of Willow was sexual - she once spent an entire episode in bed (and not in a bad way like Buffy and Riley). Giving someone larger breasts and an impractical garment doesn't sexualise them - it objectifies them, and being sexual and being an object of desire are not the same thing.
Of course this conflation is hardly rare. There are many, many different ways women are taught that for us being sexual is being desired, rather than desiring. It is very hard to shake this idea off entirely. Women who do not fit the conventional idea of what is desirable have no way to be sexual.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to be wanted, and I imagine most people find being found sexually attractive a turn on. The problem is that women's sexuality is reduced to our desirability, and the extent to which we conform to a code of desireability, defines whether or not we're seuxal.
Women can't fight this by changing what we look like and particularly not by criticising what other women look like. Instead we need to reject any analysis which buys into the idea that women's sexuality and appearance are one and the same and to talk about women's desires and sexual agency, so that the next generation of girls knows that what they want matters.