Newsy Nibbles // Women wearing clothes: the language of intent, and how the Daily Mail perpetuates rape culture

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You’d think we live in a nudist nation by the way the Daily Mail constantly reports WOMEN WEARING CLOTHES as breaking news. But there’s something particularly interesting about the way the Daily Fail reports on WOMEN WEARING CLOTHES; they don’t simply offer up the information like, “Hey, look at this cool dress on Draya Michele”, or “Britney has a new bikini”. Nope. We aren’t looking at these women getting dressed through a fashiony lens. Instead, there is something much more sinister about the words the Mail chooses, and the undertones of meaning lurking barely below the surface… 

Check out some of the little snippets above, for example. This is just a small collection of the WOMEN WEARING CLOTHES 'news' features on the Mail’s website today (24th June 2019). There were plenty more where these came from, but, well, I lost the will to live after a little while.  It felt like scrolling into armageddon.  Here's a summary:

Mel C flaunts her incredible abs

Khloe Kardashian flaunts her toned tummy

Rebekah Vardy flaunts her gym-honed physique

Draya Michele flaunts her womanly curves

Leigh-Anne Pinnock puts on a daring display

Marnie Simpson displays her blossoming baby bump

Kayleigh Morris displays her incredible bikini body

Priyanka Chopra displays her cleavage

Olivia Buckland puts on a racy display

Elizabeth Hurley… showcases her ample assets

Lindsay Lohan shows plenty of cleavage

Ashley Graham exhibits her jaw-dropping curves

Do you notice a theme emerging? Here’s what the language is telling us:

Women are not simply wearing clothes, like all people do, every day. They are flaunting, displaying, showcasing and exhibiting their bodies. By getting dressed, the Daily Mail is implying that these women have chosen to become moving mannequins in Amsterdam windows, trussing up their flesh for consumption by hungry punters. The clothes are not practical beachwear, comfy clothes, or celebratory awards garb, and they aren’t things to keep warm, fit a professional image, or just look stylish. Their clothes are consciously chosen to present their bodies on a silver platter for people to look at and become aroused by. By putting on these clothes, women are apparently inviting their audiences’ responses and actions regarding their bodies.

If you think about the kind of verbs used here, each one requires an audience.  In neutral terms, a person can wear clothes.  'Wear' does not require or imply an audience.  But once you start using verbs like 'showcases', 'exhibits', 'flaunts', and 'displays', the audience is clearly integral to the intention.Perhaps you raised an eyebrow at the mention of rape culture in the headline for this blog post? Well, this is just one of the ways that rape culture manifests and gets perpetuated. If massive publications like the Mail use salacious language suggesting that by simply wearing clothes, women’s intentions are to invite sexual attention, then they’re encouraging the dogged “she was in a short skirt so she was asking for it” camp.  And lord knows, they don't need any help.

FYI, Mail journos, here are some other reasons women might wear a short skirt:

  • Because it goes well with the top

  • Because it’s the fashion

  • Because it’s a great skirt (fabric, colour, cut, pattern)

  • Because she wants to tan her legs

  • Because it fits like a glove

  • Because it’s hot outside, so she doesn’t want to wear a full, Victorian bodysuit

  • Because it’s comfy

  • Because she’s going somewhere with a dress code

  • Because she likes having a marked difference between workwear and personal style

  • Because she wants to

  • Because she wants to

  • Because she wants to

  • Because she wants to

  • Because she wants to

So, Daily Mail - if you insist on reporting on the clothes women are wearing every day, instead of, y’know, actual news, perhaps you could focus on the clothes themselves, rather than your own sinister assumptions that a woman has volunteered her body for public ownership?

How about these alternatives…

Marnie Simpson proves that fun maternity wear is actually possible!

Britney’s yellow bikini is a sunny summer essential...

Draya Michele’s red carpet LBD is angular, asymmetric, and dramatic as fuck.

Olivia Buckland looks cool in coral drainpipes.

And less of the SHE DISPLAYS, SHE FLAUNTS, SHE SHOWCASES, and SHE EXHIBITS, please.  I'm asking on behalf of womankind. 

Becky Kleanthous

Freelance writer for hire / UK copywriter

 If you want to hire an engaging, fun and fast writer who won't perpetuate rape culture, give me a click :)