The Case for Indecent Dressing

by Damola Awoyokun

Too much of sheep: the need to prostrate before an idea, to one vision of perfection, to get addicted to a programmed way of life is the bequest of the Islam and Christianity, gripping us till date. The Hellenistic Greeks, like native Africans, perceived life as a complex canvas, strove to extract all possibilities therein to expand the mind, and serve pleasures to body and soul.

DSTV culture didn’t turn us on to ‘skimpy dressing’. The practice had been laid down in the traditions of Africa. At the first contact of Arabs and Europeans with Africa, these invaders saw our defiant show of ‘indecencies’ they had to submit it as vital to our ‘primitiveness’. See, for instance, the pre-Arabic Fulani girls gracing our ten naira notes. See the hem dangling below their succulent breasts. What now informs our fanatic disdain for skimpy wears despite our tropical climate? It is the oversexualization of minds plus religion-sponsored repressed guilt.

I once made a trip to a village down south for a burial. I marvelled at the revealing way the maidens kept dressing. In the evenings when they were out to fetch water, swim in the rivers, we behold the full explosion of erotic glamour. To them, and others doing one or two things by the rivers, everything seemed usual. We, dirty city guests were ones reading meanings, comparing all with carnal references. Using the respect of ‘the enlightened, the superior’ the villagers granted us, I could have turned myself to a missionary like those of yore and lecture them about sexual immoralities hence infecting them with the dirtiness of my mind. Rather, I chose to quietly bury my preconceived notions and began to formulate theories. According to the pre-Christian Jesus in his landmark judgement, ‘he who looks at a woman lustfully has committed adultery with her in his heart’ (Mathew 5:28). Christ is not bothered by ‘indecency’ of the woman’s wear, he just inferred: the blame of sexual sins belongs to the observer not the observed.

The Nude Maja and The Clothed Maja are two of Goya’s master paintings. They report the same lady defiantly herself reclining in the same pose, only that the clothed painting is much more erotically charging than the nude one. Oh yes to some, promise is more fulfilling than delivery. It is all about the mind. Some people may get activated by skimpily dressed ladies, others by the hijab-clad women because they represent ‘perfections of decency’ or because they exact more curiosity and imagination. Nothing would stop a mind that wants to be excited. Hence, no attempt should be made by a police force to impose on a society of diverse peoples only one taste, one sensibility.

In history, the introduction of new varieties in women’s fashion has always been considered outrageous, standing insults, offence against ‘public’ decency before they become fully regularized. Take trousers, T-shirt, body hug. Take the bra. Unlike corset made with exorbitance of its material, bra went straight to the point. When it first came out to replace the corset in the early part of last century it’s scantiness was called indecent, introducing promiscuity and general decadence. Yet the bra was an internal garment. Recall the claim used to justify butchering a more internal, god-given clitoris and labia called female circumcision. Forces against women always insisted on identical, old worn-out clichés. Permitted, these forces would ban women driving no matter how decent their clothes are, because once seated, they run the safety belts across their chests… it is really a sinful idea, driving. When would women be free, when would they be allowed to release their potentials? Yet we all know: public proclamations against ‘indecencies’ are indirect methods of voiding our pent-up feelings of unresolved desires and complicity. Stories of Jesus and the adulterous woman (John 8), Hester Prynne in Harthworthe’s Scarlet Letter, disgraced Pastor Ezeugo King all come to mind.

So when some condemn ‘immoral’ necklines of clothes worn by little children, calling for advertisements to be removed, it goes to show that in their nose for dirt and spreading their toxic mindsets, they truly mean business.

Reason is been driven out through the perversity of religious stupidities. And the lacks contained in poverty have transformed the whole country into a green field of sheep. When thought is lost dependence ensues.

We need a dissenting society of goats: Can’t we have a conception of the body, of sexuality free of the clichés of moralism: dirtiness, sinfulness, and aim for its aesthetic glamour and intellectual goals? Can’t we be mature in mind? Can’t we guide our energies along rational, purposive lines? Uche James Iroha, Nigeria’s best photographic artist in his exhibition, Indices reports a model completely naked save for red ‘L’ sign on cars that hangs over the pubic secrets. From these photos: the nude body is a mix between sensuousness and learning. In bravely, accepting the apple, the naked Eve embodied a bare and openness of mind, the desire to be filled knowledge, cloaked with wisdom, and gain wider experience. This is what intellectual curiosity is about, the foundation of progress and social development. God that cursed Eve had to later reverse himself lamenting: ‘my people perish for lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6). That is: his people are not open, not desirous, not edgy.

In AIESEC the university social club for future leaders that I belonged, we had practical aspects of training seminars on creative resourcefulness, teambuilding. Males and females are mixed in a group of 7. For each, a small circle is drawn on the floor and we are asked to occupy with no one left out. I marvelled: the well-endowed, self-respecting girls who beforehand would not even allow guys to hold hands with them were already offering their backs and fronts to be tightly hugged and their shoulders for another to stand on. All in the spirit of teambuilding to achieve a goal. If we didn’t rise above sleazy, religious perspectives, no one would offer their bodies; the goal is lost. Ditto for society. Once we over-sexualise, we will never bond nor get diverse. We will give in to repression and talibanize the society. We will not achieve anything except grow the self-congratulatory opium of being highly religious.

Yet every religious system of iron pieties like the pant conceals and heats things up for its repressive ends while reasoning like the bra, uplifts, secures, and confers self-confidence. It even attempts to bridge the cleavage between faith and reason all the way down. How can there be knowledge, new information if there is no freedom and the means to test its limits? This is what edgy clothes do. And this is why we must not concede to the neckline police, either of fashion or of the guillotine. It is no coincidence that free societies are economically prosperous, socially progressive, with high human development index.

The pre-Christian Jesus changed the Old Testament repressive atmosphere of Thou-shalt-nots to Blessed-art-thous because he knew that a society that doesn’t aspire to despotism must do without punitive rigidity of rules. We need not be antichrists by bringing back the conformity of moral dress codes. How do we think some societies arrived at gushing rivers of blood because of cartoons? How do they find it normal to raze down sovereignty of archives, libraries and timeless pieces of arts? How do you think others got used to passing down black sentences of death on writers and intellectuals or lynching women? The Anschluss is coming. Only the dissidence and the offensiveness of goats can prevent this.

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