Women all over the world use popular culture, especially fashion, to express themselves. What many women fail to realize, however, is just how much their clothing choices represent their culture. As much as the country doesn’t want to admit it, America is a patriarchy. Our country favors men and their dominance over women, and this can be particularly highlighted through college students’ dress practices. A recent TikTok trend has called out the patriarchic nonsense and given young women a platform to examine their fashion habits and put an end to dressing for the “male gaze.” The hashtag “male gaze” hit 211.5 million views on TikTok by October 28, 2021 and continues to gain more interest in college females.
The trend involves women first posting pictures of their old clothing choices and then comparing them to pictures of their new choices. The old pictures consist of women wearing clothing that shows off their body’s curves, which is meant to impress the “male gaze.” The clothing contains basic colors, low-cut tops, and tight jeans. The new pictures show clothing that is typically baggier and less revealing, which is meant to attract the “female gaze.” The clothing consists of patterns, mom jeans, and tops that don’t sculpt the body.
Many women on TikTok are stepping forward and suggesting that they never truly felt that they had a sense of style until they stopped dressing for the commonly sought-after validation from the male gaze. They point out that the male gaze is conditional and revolves around showing enough skin, whereas the female gaze is based on how clothing makes you feel rather than how you look.
I had never really considered the immense impact that my own culture had on my clothing choices until I got to college. After participating in the typical American college activities and seeing those around me, I soon grasped the concept of cultural identity through forms of popular culture. Most females that attend my university wear the same type of clothing. To parties, we wear tight and revealing clothing, trying everything possible to look sexy and fun. To athletic games, we wear tight jean shorts and crop tops, showing our curves and stomachs. On multiple occasions, I have found myself choosing to wear a specific outfit just to fit into the social norms, identities, and inclusion of college females.
Body politics also has emphasized the subordination of women in America. Young women are objectified. They unconsciously learn to read and assign meaning to their bodies based on signifiers and what our culture tells us they represent. Women should not be fat because that is labeled as ugly, but you shouldn’t be too skinny because people will think you have an eating disorder or a drug problem. Being muscular is too masculine but having too little muscle makes you look weak.
Society is to blame for all the objectivity. Our pathetic habit of seeking the male gaze and validation, social norms, and body politics has made young girls inferior to the male species from the very start. Even clothing stores and modeling agencies support the male gaze. Stores that I used to go for a collared shirt and plaid shorts to wear to middle school are now consumed with crop tops, short dresses, and tight jeans with holes in the upper thighs. Similarly, models must have a particular look to them and be as sexy and desirable as possible.
We have been okay with living in a society where women’s clothing is meant to be worn to represent women as sexual objects for the pleasure of heterosexual male viewers for entirely
too long. The TikTok trend is a small step in establishing a new standard in popular culture, and we should all be supporting it.