A View From Within: High Schooler Michelle Vargas Speaks
High School student Michelle Vargas was asked to speak about society's interpretation of the way women dress and the comments that Chef Ayesha Curry made in December regarding the way women dress "nowadays".
As Ayesha Curry became the #1 trending topic on Twitter, I was not involved with the buzz until the following day. I respect her opinion in the sense that if she is comfortable with the way she dresses, that’s amazing. But, her opinion and security should not involve placing herself above others by subliminally shaming other women.
My position is simple: if you’re feeling confident, go for it. There shouldn’t be a reason to preface your security on anyone else’s acceptance. If you live by those standards you would be hiding your identity. As it is Curry's individual opinion and she is expressing her values, I agree that I prefer my own style than what’s trending but I do not agree with the shade. Fashion is a form of expression. Likewise for her to speak out on what she believes in, everyone else has the right to wear what they want and feel beautiful in it.
Q. What are the implications of women’s attire being a societal issue?
A. The implications of women’s attire being a social issue can be learned from the simplest, “you’re not cold wearing that?” to “who are you looking cute for?” At a glance, it might not seem like a big deal but where is it written in the book of womanhood [Editor's note: there is not an actual book of womanhood, though that would be quite an interesting read], that in order to feel beautiful and confident, one needs to dress up for someone to satisfy their ideal appeal? If a woman has to be questioned about why she chooses the style she does, why she loves heels and is forcefully given suggestions like, “you would look better if you did this...” there is an automatic sign that women’s attire specifically, regardless of sexuality, is policed by society.
I will easily, without hesitation, switch up from wearing black jeans, my black Timberland boots and Nike hoodie to a nice burgundy dress from Forever 21 and strut in my heels because it is my body and my happiness and I have a right to my freedoms.
Q. What factors play a role in these decisions?
If I were to be quite honest, I strongly believe that religion plays a significant role in how women's attire is policed in society. Generally, how women are portrayed in society. But, the way they are policed [as it regards to] attire goes back to when man’s standard of beautiful overruled the body of a woman--a man being given all authority. A husband would control what the wife said, did, and wore--patriarchy at its finest. Until this day, that mentality lives on. Numerous times I have heard, “my boyfriend doesn’t allow me to wear crop tops”. Excuse me? According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 3,
“Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person”
This applies to how you express yourself. Therefore, you are allowed to live your life by wearing a crop top of your choice, you have the liberty to wear your crop top, and as a human, you should not fear what your partner thinks because your body does not belong to anyone else. It is your temple.
This can connect to the fact that a lot of young women are taught from a young age that they need to satisfy their man. This could be relatable to a lot of young females, such as myself, who was told I need to learn how to cook, clean, and satisfy my “future” husband. If I were to wear an outfit that wasn’t appealing to a relative, I would possibly hear, “you won’t get a man with something tight like that.” And again, I’d have to clap back that “I do not need approval”.
Q: What role do you think social media plays?
A. In the example of social media, I’d like to use two very popular Instagramers: Amber Rose and Nicki Minaj. Two of Instagram’s popular accounts and in my opinion, powerful women who are constantly slut shamed because of their attire. Amber Rose, facilitator of SlutWalk, a walk for women's equality, is continuously referred to as a “whore”, “dirty stripper”, and “fat slut” and then told that reasons such as what I just stated are why her past partners “left her skank ass”. A simple picture of Ms. Muva in a dress causes controversy that is targeted to her self-representation and parenting skills because society does not approve of her body or style. Nicki Minaj, a Hip-Hop icon, is constantly called out because her appeal is “too sexual”. Her image, outfits, and representation would seriously be the reason why someone states that she is “one of the worst rappers of all time”. With music that empowers other women. Just being one of the highest selling woman rappers of all time, all Instagram would focus on is “Why does she wear tight clothing? #AttentionWhore”. There’s this stigma that feeling “sexy” deducts all other values for a woman. Why when I feel sexy, is it only acceptable if the whole world accepts it?
Q: How should women dress? What is appropriate?
A. When people try to argue that something is “not appropriate” it is because they feel offended or uncomfortable. One’s appearance is not another’s property. In the words I once heard on Vh1, “Don’t come for me unless I send for you” and my outfit is definitely not it.
The key to success is to uplift one another. Let’s enlighten one another. Let’s love each other. What fun is it to shame someone for what they’re confident in? It’s more fun to learn about one another and grow. We, as individuals, will never know how one truly feels about themselves. As humans, let’s accept each other’s true colors and as women, we need to stunt together and this applies to everything in life. Because c’mon, we really do run this world.
Q. What makes Black Girls fly?
A. The empowerment in our sisterhood not only expresses determination, knowledge, and unity, but within our eloquent voices, the world knows that we as one art not to be messed with. Our presence is essential to the movement. We're a masterpiece that cannot be retouched. Black girls are fly, because we never gave up.
Michelle Stephanie Vargas was born and raised in Brooklyn and identifies as a "Mexidorian" combining her Mexican and Salvadorian roots. She also identifies as a "Brooklyn Latina". She is extremely passionate about love and genuinely believes love is the key to bring healing amongst the negative surroundings one faces daily. She believes love is a medium to understand, learn, and grow as a community full of diversity.