Who are the gatekeepers of modesty in our society? By, Blossom Ozurumba
In the 8+ years of actively using a plethora of social media platforms, I have met several brilliant young people. In this period, I have engaged several of these brilliant minds on issues that I either agree with or vehemently disagree with whilst ensuring to glean as much knowledge as possible from the conversations.
A recent conversation I had was with Babangida Ruma, a Commonwealth Youth Ambassador for the Commonwealth Youth Council. He had shared a thought that was put forward by a certain Felix Ordue about the choices of women and girls to share what he termed as half-naked pictures of themselves doing sexy poses, showing off their boobs or lying seductively on their beds. The original poster summarized his thoughts to say that men whether rich or poor admire ladies who dress decently and respect themselves.
I salute the thought process showcased but I am however persuaded that we are all shaped differently and have varying points of view as regards issues of dressing and modesty. I am also persuaded that introducing the concept of self-respect with regard to the dressing choices made by a woman is at best an attempt to erode the confidence of the woman. I am further perplexed when I ruminate in my mind on issues bothering around who made some people the gatekeepers of modesty in conversations around dressing choices. I am yet to find a suitable response to this and I believe I will keep searching.
At a point in my life, either by reasons of the cultural influences around me or by way of religious sanctimonious messages that I was inundated with, I believe that the concept of dressing would have been interpreted by me with the lenses of self-respect. This may also be the defining reasons for why several people in an attempt to become social-justice warriors, unwittingly make themselves the gatekeepers of modesty and morality. This has also found itself firmly situated in the minds of several that unconsciously focus on what a woman wore or didn’t wear when conversations of rape, arise.
In a January 2013 polling conducted by NOI Polls Limited, it was revealed that 34% of respondents in Nigeria attributed the prevalent cause of rape to indecent dressing. This formed the majority of the thoughts on the subject with the remaining 64% attributing rape causes to unemployment, lack of moral values and the inability to control sexual urge, faulty upbringing, ungodliness, illiteracy about women rights and embracing bad company. In a Guardian Newspaper UK article, Amaka Okafor-Vanni, in defense of a woman’s choice for dressing wondered if the proponents of dressing as a cause of rape where advocating that if a woman’s body is visible, it ought to be available for sex or punished for this visibility.
In yet another polling conducted by NOI Polls Limited in July 2014 in partnership with the Stand to End Rape Initiative, it was revealed that an overall majority (67%) think that child rape (persons under 18 years) is prevalent in Nigeria. When asked what should be done to eradicate the incidence of child rape in Nigeria, a mere 2% of the polling population advocated for education in dressing value.
The significant interaction between the two polling activities outlined above is that while actively attributing the prevalent cause of rape to indecent dressing, in yet the same breathe, a majority of Nigerians do not believe that indecent dressing is responsible for child rape. I dare say that there are faulty lines in how we largely weigh in on issues. These lines become greatly defined with time and reinforced not by our individualistic thought processes but by what we think is the societally correct thing to think and say.
The thrust of my conversation is simply to reiterate that attempting to blame a female rape victim for the actions of a rapist by questioning her choice of dressing is wrong. Rape victims should not in any way be labeled and held responsible for the act that everyone agree that they are the victims. When this becomes the default action, it encourages a culture of silence which is even more dangerous as it allows rapists to roam about, unrestrained leaving several victims in their wake.
In a 2014 article I submitted to Bella Naija, I argued that the social implication of rape and the unending justification of vile offenders outweigh the clinical implications. The rape victim often becomes focused with trying to find answers to what people will say about her. This question erodes the victim of the right to stand up and speak against the offender. It is a sad reality and I dare say that the only way to disrupt this violent trend is for victims to stand up, damn the consequence and lend their voice to speak up against evil. The other way is for the individuals that make up our society to fully understand that there is no gatekeeper for modesty. This understanding is timely and salient.