Cleavages and the Dangers of Policing Breasts

Photo Cred:  Simbongile Ndlangisa

Photo Cred: Simbongile Ndlangisa

Uganda is again in a gender related blunder, if not for government official inciting violence against the LGBTI community it is a debate or an issuing of a statement really on how to police dress codes and the general work fashion etiquette for civil servants. How does the issue of cleavages bruise a society so much that government time and resources can be dedicated to ensuring that women do not come to work with their breasts hanging out? We can admit that many African societies have a strong stance on what they believe is appropriate for a woman to wear and we can thank Uganda for at least being vocal about theirs. In Swaziland for example, I remember being told to never go to a government office as a young woman wearing pants and luckily enough, I never needed to go to a government office in my two years in Swaziland. In Lesotho and more traditionalist and religious households, some in-laws demand of their daughters in law to never approach them wearing pants. 


What does the length of a woman's dress or skirt and/ how high their heels are have anything to do with their ability to perform their delegated tasks diligently and efficiently? Unless that is no longer the basis of someone's contribution in their employment.  Is this not the very same ill that makes it incredibly uncomfortable for women to breast feed their children in public because of the fear that they might offend someone and are we really comfortable with the idea of having sexualized the female  body so much that it could be a threat to the livelihood and comfort of her offspring?


Photo Cred: Simbongile Ndlangisa.

Photo Cred: Simbongile Ndlangisa.


In historical and some current African societies, young women have walked bare chests, breasts hanging and you can only imagine how absurd it would be for any man to claim indecent exposure and therefore demand that they cover up. Who here, in this very scenario would the problem lie with? Certainly not the women. It makes me beg to ask, what is so dangerous about the body of a 21st Century woman that men can gather in counsel and seek ways to contain it? Were our ancestors really primitive in their ideology regarding the  body of a woman and her right as a human being to walk freely and as they choose?  Are we evolving in our virtues and ideals or is policing the woman body far more important that the precedents we set on patriarchy? 


I went to a Catholic high school in Lesotho and I was once told to return home because my dress was too short and I was exposing my body indecently. I returned to school the next day and for the remainder of the year in the same dress and no one ever brought it up again. By imposing such rules on women and attaching sexuality to how we as women dress in a school or work environment creates an opportunity for abuse where I can be denied my right to education because of the length of what i am wearing. Our societies seem to be getting comfortable with turning subordinates out of women by exposing them to aggressive and abuse conversations on how inappropriately they are dressed and that has to stop. 


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