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A 'prude', a 'flirt' or 'asking for it'? Check your hemline, ladies

Ever see a woman on the street and make a judgment - silent or otherwise - about her? Does the length of her dress tell you anything about the depth of her character?

Well, no. But I admit: I've done this. Ladies in their 20s frequent ritzy bars in my neighbourhood, wearing little more than a long shirt as a dress - paired with impossibly, dangerously, are-you-freaking-kidding-this-is-January-in-Canada high heels.

They could all be lovely people - I'm sure some of them are - but my knee-jerk reaction? Self-respect is lacking.

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A photo called "Judgments" from Vancouver artist Rosea Lake has gone viral in its pursuit to push this very issue. The photo shows a woman's leg marked with handwritten labels every few inches: prudism, flirty, asking for it, and it just gets worse from there. Lake, an 18-year-old student, posted the photo on Tumblr and it's since received 289,000 shares.

So the more skin you show - on the Internet or on the street - the more attention you'll get. Shocked? Lake's objective - seemingly to push society to stop judging based on clothing - seems fruitless and misguided.

"I used to assume that all women who wore Hijabs were being oppressed, slut-shame, and look down on and judge any woman who didn't express her sexuality in a way that I found appropriate," writes Lake on Tumblr. "I'd like to think I'm more open now."

Agreed - this goes without saying, but no woman, now or in history, has ever "asked for it."

But asking society not to judge you based on the outfit you're wearing - and driving home that message in a leggy photo? Please.

We all should be able to dress to our personal tastes - and certainly there is something to be said for wearing what you want, flaunting what you've got and working it. But baring it all in public will undoubtedly get you attention (and perhaps not positive attention) - sorry, that's a matter of fact.

The message that women's hemlines don't tell you anything about who they are, their values or their personalities, deep down - is true, but idealist. We're all judging books by their covers hundreds of times a day.

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Lake says her photo is also a stand against rape culture, telling The Spec, "I don't think women in particular should have to worry about 'Am I going to be raped because of what I am wearing today?'"

"Ya I guess what you wear and how you wear it sends no message at all... wow! Just like the photos she takes they send no message at all right? What a stupid article. She is looking for 15 min of fame," a commenter called Good Grief wrote on the Spec story.

Another commenter called Indiscreet writes: "MEN: You need to get down off your pedestal as a man and realize the threat that women face every day going out in the world."

No, no girl or woman deserves to be physically attacked or assaulted because of what she's wearing - even if, as one offensive Toronto police officer said, she's dressed like "a slut."

Asking society not to judge you, however, or make assumptions about your sexuality when you're dressed in an over-the-top sexual manner? That's a little over the top.

People will judge you for what you look like - that's a societal fact. If I go grocery shopping in pajamas, or in to the office covered in dog hair - people judge. Sorry, ladies - if you go out in public looking like you forgot your pants, you may be judged unkindly.

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About the Author
Editor in the Opinion section

Amberly McAteer is an editor in the Opinion section at The Globe and Mail. She has been a homepage editor, online editor and community editor in Features - including Life, Travel, Style, Arts and Books. She's written columns about her quest to run a 10K and find the perfect dog. More


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