The Wits' end of Mo...
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The Wits' end of Moral Dressing

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Dressing is the striking part of culture that binds people of the same ideology, geographical location, values, and history — hence, it is a crucial element of culture. Beyond that, it is arguably believed that dressing says more about the individual's character or value. That perception remains a subject of debate and the research is inconclusive.

It is also believed that dressing shows socioeconomic status — rich, middle class or poor, educated or uneducated, etc.

Morality on the other hand is the recognition of the difference between good and evil/right and wrong. Moral dressing is, therefore, dressing in a manner that conforms to standards acceptable to the culture, tradition, or belief from which the individual belongs or dwells. Hence, moral dressing is highly subjective and limited to culture, place, belief system, etc.

Furthermore, "dressing" may be classified as an example of universal culture (everybody dresses), but "moral dressing" is not universal culture because we do not all dress alike (globally). The differences in style of dressing make every individual unique as much as their faces.

What then is the bone of contention? It is the view and advocacy that moral dressing should be universal culture. What the advocacy is about is not necessarily the same material, colour, design, etc. Although it may be dictated in the context of profession, events, schools, etc. It becomes a means of identification and differentiation at its best. The advocacy is really about "decent" dressing. A type of dressing that is regarded by its advocates as "unprovocative", it arguably tells a woman or girl to cover her body and little emphasis on a man or boy's appearance.

A fundamental flaw in the advocacy for moral or "decent" dressing is that it fails to recognize the mutual exclusivity of various dressing —cultural and historical differences. It also fails to acknowledge that humans are evolutionary beings, one that makes thriving hinges on change and adaptation.

The advocacy is also biased in essence because outward appearance cannot tell what goes on in the head or heart. A doctor can be known by her dressing (ward-coat), but a good or skillful doctor cannot be ascertained by the outward dressing, no matter how "decent" we may perceive such. What people need is objective viewing lenses — how people dress should not get in the way of who they are. It should not be a yardstick for judgement. Who we are is beyond skin deep. When appearance becomes the object of judgement, discrimination is inevitable.

Moral dressing is rooted in the idea of conformity. And conformity at its best is enslaving. Moral dressing is mostly biased against women and girls. It conditions them to appear in a stereotyped way to be accepted. The average religious book has thousand-and-one more rules for women dressing than men. What is sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander. But the reverse is the case with moral dressing. It subdues the freedom of expression of women and girls. Freedom of expression goes beyond speech. It encompasses every aspect of one's endowment – skills, speech, looks, ideas, etc. 

In conclusion, moral dressing remains a social construct carved to tame the female gender. It does not tell who we truly are, hence, deceptive. It remains a double standard. Every member of society must be able to express freedom in their endowments. We must therefore not limit individuals to appearance, because there is always more to them.

Victoria Olabisi

ANSA Nigeria