Judge a book by its cover

June 27, 2007

You are what you wear. Like most cheap nerds I favor the “baggy jean & ratty t-shirt” ensemble. Other styles evoke stereotypes that I don’t wish to be associated with. Khakis for yuppies, tight dark jeans for hipsters, dress slacks for bankers, short sleeve polo shirt for frat boys (collars turned up), etc. By turning my nose at those fashions, I am choosing to be associated with nerd chic. Imagine if I went to a Google interview in a suit; or a Goldman Sachs interview in torn jeans. Both would assume I am not going to fit in because of the message my clothes send. We wear a uniform to communicate our group affiliation, like gang colors. That’s why these caricatures seem so familiar.

I’m surprised that many women seem oblivious to this fact. When you see a bottle blond dressed like Paris Hilton, she probably aspires to many of those same qualities. There’s a small chance she’s a physicist stuck at her bimbo sister’s house with nothing to wear because the airline lost her luggage, but I wouldn’t bet money on that. Even women respond to other women’s clothes (and men’s clothes). Women do not hesitate to label women dressed in microskirts and tiny tube tops as sluts. Since men assume that sluts are more likely to have sex, it’s no surprise that men will aggressively hit on those women. The sluts know this and purposely dress to draw attention. Obviously, these chicks are the extreme case, but there’s a sliding scale from slut to nun. If a woman is showing a lot of cleavage, odds are she wants male attention… and she’ll get it. If she’s dressed fashionably modest, she gets less attention. Also, body language speaks volumes.

Of course, a few men take a shotgun approach and hit on every woman within shouting distance. These men are an aberration and fare poorly anyway. Most men calculate from a girl’s clothes and demeanor the best approach to get in her pants (or microskirt). So, yes, to a large degree women are asking to get hit on when they dress provocatively. Women know men respond to skimpy clothes. More clothes means less male attention. FWIW, every woman I know (a self-selecting group, to be sure) absolutely agrees with this sentiment.

What motivated this post is the wailing on this feminist site about sexual harassment. The comments demand a society where women can wear anything without being judged. But in the real world we all know we will be judged and we dress accordingly. I bought a suit for weddings and funerals because my mom wouldn’t let me wear jeans. The disagreement, I think, comes because feminists are talking about the way the world ought to be (which I mostly agree with), whereas I’m talking about the messy unfair world that we live in today. People will judge others superficially. You can complain, but don’t act surprised.

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