I was taught to wear “decent” clothes, to cover up my body, to not expose too much skin, and to dress like a child from a “home.” The need to wear decent clothing was rarely spoken by my Mom or Dad, yet it was still a norm that always lingered around my house, my community, and my country (Liberia). It was so real, you could feel it. It was apparent in the disdainful stares my friends received when they wore short pants or a low neckline blouse. You could even hear it in the not so subtle gossips that followed when someone who wore a “dig my back” or a crop top passed by. It was there, like an abstract norm- not be seen, but definitely felt.
I grew up meeting these set standards and living up to the status quo of my home and the society I found myself in. Eventually, I subconsciously mutated into a judgmental person. I constantly criticized everyone who dared to show some skin; it was not decent, it was not modest; it was simply unacceptable. I did not know that beneath all these criticisms was envy. I envied these daring women for how confident they were in their skin. I envied them because they could challenge an age-old perception and still emerge victorious- something that at that time, I could never muster the courage to do.
Moreover, what intensified the envy was a self-esteem issue; the fact that I did not feel beautiful like them. I was fighting my own battles with the spots on my skin, and the extra flesh hanging from my stomach. I knew that I was going to look like Winnie the Pooh in a crop top, lest to talk about a bikini. Every time I saw a thick girl show off some flesh, I hid behind the pretext that it was indecent and unacceptable for women to show off too much skin.
That lasted until I met Euphemia; she was a puzzle. Euphemia had her own set of rules that she lived by, and her confidence level was skyrocketing. She wore what she wanted to wear wherever she wanted to wear it. She looked comfortable in sweatpants, sexy in a bikini and even elegant in an official outfit. She gave me a new perspective on life. She helped me embrace my skin by complimenting a pair of trousers that I thought was too short and by hyping a blouse that I thought overexposed. Euphemia was the light that dispelled the darkness which was my belief that women ought to cover up; a belief that is common to the society I am a part of.
Now, I am proud to say that I have ascended above the hate, the criticism, and the envy. I can now admire women who flaunt their radiant and glowing skin without a trace of criticism anywhere in sight.
I have even made some progress too. I can now show off some skin, regardless of what is circulating in the grapevine. Although I have not reached the stage of wearing a bikini yet, I am trying. My self-confidence is gradually flourishing because of all these wonderful and brave women who are setting the pace.
As I have grown above criticising others, it is my ardent hope that this society (Liberia) does the same. I believe that our society should stop oppressing women with such archaic norms. Women should be allowed to wear what they feel comfortable wearing, without the fear that their choice of clothing would taint or demean their character. There should be no such thing as being too smart, too admired, too fat, too slim, too big or too small to wear the clothes you want to wear. We should desist from judging women by the clothes they wear or by the pictures they post on social media. There is more to a woman than the clothes that she chooses to wear, let us not be myopic by looking only at the surface; instead, let us go beyond the appearance and discover the potential, the woman. We can only achieve this by redefining words like “decency”, “modesty,” and not shaming or giving scant respect to women because they are confident enough to show off their glorious skin.
Do not get me wrong now. I am not saying that everyone should wear short pants, crop tops or bikinis. All I am saying is, women should be allowed to wear what they feel comfortable wearing without being judged or frowned at by society. If it is okay for a woman to wear a long dress and not be subjected to any form of condemnation, let it also be okay for another woman to wear a short dress and not receive condemning looks too. Additionally, women should be allowed to post what they want on their social media pages. This does not make women any less nor does it determine their worth or their intelligence. Clothes are nothing but mere covering; clothes should not be used by society to judge anyone’s values. This is a free and civilized world, let women wear what they feel comfortable wearing.
Authored by Nekellie
Featured picture by Elaina