How to stop dressing for the male gaze

This isn’t going to be the simple advice of wearing specific things, adhering to a specific form of modesty, or anything that implies the way a woman dresses is going to deter the male gaze. Men are going to check you out even on your worse days, when your hair is a wild, frizzy-curled mess and you haven’t showered in three days due to flat-out exhaustion.

The only way to fully stop the male gaze would be to change men overall. It’s not all men — but it’s definitely enough of them to create the problem that is expecting women to dress and act a certain way to avoid instigating unwanted behaviors from men.

We could wear a bodysuit covering everything and people would still creep on us.

Counteracting the male gaze from a personal perspective requires a bit of confidence and security in wearing what you want to wear. It’s not impossible and takes a bit of practice. Stop supporting the magazines featuring male gaze-worthy headlines on the cover. Email the media outlets to let them know you’re not putting up with their bullshit anymore.

Selfeet; candy corn-like pattern leggings, tennis shows, long blue jean top, black-and-white Madras flannel; on the ground are acorn pieces

1. Only wear what you wanna wear. Dress for yourself.

  • Do YOU like it?
  • Do YOU want to wear it?
  • Do YOU like how you look in it?
  • Does it make YOU feel a certain positive way?

If you answer yes to all of these, that’s all the matters.

2. Catch yourself wondering what guys would think.

There’s a cute mini skirt with low-key ruffles. It’s not entirely your style, but sparks something inside you that just loves it and wants to wear it.

Then your mind wanders elsewhere, thinking how much so-and-so guy would also like it, or how your relative says wearing shit like this would help you finally catch a man’s attention —

Pause. 🛑 That crap doesn’t matter. 🙅‍♀️ You’re not dressing for men, what men would like. You’re dressing for you and what you would like.

3. Don’t thank men who compliment you based on your looks/what you’re wearing (if you don’t want to).

If you were raised anything like me, it was to accept the compliments from men who told you you looked pretty and/or that those pants looked flattering on you.

I’ve realized thanking them is not required. People tell you you look pretty, and the expectation is to say thanks or you’re perceived as rude — man or woman. As if you can’t say, “I know,” without someone thinking you’re full of yourself.

And yet…I would not have chosen to buy these pants had I not also thought they accentuated my derrière.

Things I say instead:

  • Okay.
  • Why?
  • Yes, I know I look ____.
  • It’s actually my girlfriend’s.
  • My girlfriend thinks so, too!
  • Yeah? Then my life’s work is done.
  • What about this [clothing item] do you like?

There’s no key or secret. There will always be people out there who think you’re dressing for someone else, but all that matters is who you are dressing for.

I dress for myself, so I definitely wear what I want to wear. Mostly, that means 3XL men’s graphic tees that, when washed, shrink to size 2XL before it’s washed plus activewear pants with pockets — preferably shorts, but whatevs. For longewear, I’ll get some blue jean shorts when I can find them in stock again, but this is what works for me. I like it and am comfortable in it — that’s what matters most of all.

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