Women are not precious gemstones

Shelby Niehaus, Copy Editor

Several weeks ago, I came across a Facebook post that I have not quite forgotten.

It featured a photo of two women in short dresses and heels.

Below, the poster wrote a story– an old man, upon seeing two scantly-dressed women like the ones in the photo, took them aside and gently chided them for showing so much skin.

“Women’s bodies are precious,” this father-figure explained.

“And all precious things on earth are hard to find. Gold is under the crust of the earth; pearls are sheltered within oyster shells; gemstones are shrouded in rock and dust, away from prying eyes.”

He told the women that they should cover their precious bodies and save them for someone special who would be willing to work for their treasures.

At this point, I stopped reading in anger.

These condescending morality arguments are nothing new, but they never fail to make me mad.

They are well meaning, of course.

Women’s bodies are indeed precious.

Women are not, however, gemstones.

We are humans.

Furthermore, there is a worrying notion that women who do not cover up do not “respect” themselves.

Women who show skin are all too often viewed as meat by outside observers, and some assume that women view ourselves in the same way.

However, we dress the way we dress for the only people who will see us all day– ourselves.

I am not a rare resource to be mined by a worthy man.

I control my own body and my own fate, just as every other woman on earth.

Our worth comes from our humanity and self-determination, not our status as prizes.

Morality arguments concerning women’s bodies and how we use them are an infuriating leftover from a bygone era.

Respectable women do not have to cover themselves if they do not choose to.

Arguments to the contrary are based on the assumption that women are a status symbol for men’s use.

There is a theme in many morality arguments of women’s body politics and public personas being assigned, dictated and enforced by men.

By this I mean that, too often, women’s morality is left up to men’s judgment.

Women are very infrequently allowed to police their own bodies and morals.

When they do, it is generally in a manner that parrots the rules already enacted by male power structures.

When women do speak on our own moralities, we are often decried, and may be called anything from “shrill” to “feminazis,” depending on how harshly an opponent wants to delegitimize us.

Even more insulting than these pieces on the nature of women’s morality is the frequent lack of counterargument and backlash.

Too often we let these asinine arguments go, refusing or overlooking a chance to speak out and stand up against sexist hand-wringing.

I encourage Eastern’s student body to stand against body and morality policing arguments.


Shelby Niehaus is a junior English major. She can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]