It’s 2018. Why on earth do people think it’s OK to brand Sophie Turner a “hooker”?
I get it, I really do: it’s fun to pore over celebrity wedding guests and comment on their outfits – particularly when they make a fashion misstep. It makes us feel a little better about ourselves. A little cooler, a little more put together, a little… savvier, I suppose.
The actress – who plays Harington’s ‘sister’, Sansa Stark, in Game of Thrones – donned a red blazer dress and thigh-high boots for her co-stars’ wedding. It was, objectively, short. It was a bold hue, too. And it was undeniably a very different style to that adopted by her fellow guests (Emilia Clarke opted for a Dior dress, Maisie Williams a black jumpsuit, and Malin Akerman an emerald silk shift).
Before too long, people began discussing fashion labels online. And online trolls began dropping labels of their own, too… albeit of the slut-shaming variety.
“What’s so impressive about not being able to shelve your ego long enough to show up to a suit and tie wedding not looking like a street-walker?” demanded one, presumably wringing their hands in despair.
Another, disgust all too palpable, tweeted: “Sophie Turner went to Kit Harington and Rose Leslie’s wedding as a hooker. Some people got no class.”
“No offence to Sophie Turner fans,” added another (because, yes, the feelings of Turner’s fans are more important than those of Turner herself. Obviously), “but either she forgot her trousers or is auditioning for Pretty Woman. Her red jacket and boots combo is not appropriate for a wedding.”
And still one more said: “Sophie Turner looks like a f**king slut.”
Yup. When the trolls crawl out from underneath their bridges nowadays, they don’t just gobble up the little goats trip-trapping over their bridge in their high-heeled boots: they annihilate their entire characters, too.
Firstly, it goes without saying that not liking someone’s outfit is fine. More than fine, if you choose to keep that information to yourself. However, using your displeasure to fuel a slut-shaming attack on another human being is a very different story. Not only does it suggest that a person’s worth is based entirely on how they explore fashion, but it also adds fuel to a fire that should have been left to die out a very, very long time ago.
I’m talking, of course, about this idea that women’s bodies (and body parts) are somehow dangerous, powerful and inherently sexualised.
We may no longer live in a society where a woman’s virtue is based on her virginity, but many people still act as if we do. They make assumptions about a woman’s sexual life based on the clothes she is wearing on a given day – and imply that the way she dresses controls the ongoing narrative around her body.
In its purest form, slut-shaming demonises female sexual agency, feeding into our society’s all too prevalent rape culture. A bare shoulder, for example, is “distracting”. A low-cut top? “Provocative”. And a short skirt or dress? “Asking for it”.
As Laura Bates, co-founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, told The Atlantic: “There’s a real culture being built up through some of these dress codes where girls are receiving very clear messages that male behaviour, male entitlement to your body in public space is socially acceptable, but you will be punished.”
It goes without saying that Turner is not the first woman to spark outrage with an “inappropriate” outfit. Amanda Holden’s Julien Macdonald designed dress, which she wore for a 2017 episode of Britain’s Got Talent, famously sparked a whopping 663 calls, emails and other messages to OFCOM as the public descended into absolute panic over the plunging gown. Delta Goodrem, similarly, kicked off a furore on social media when she donned an aubergine halter-neck gown for The Voice Australia.
Last year, Brie Larson was lambasted for wearing a V-neck on “daytime” TV (with ‘daytime’, in this instance, meaning a 7pm showing of The One Show). Elsewhere, we’ve seen women ordered to leave swimming pools for daring to wear bikinis, teenagers told to cover up their “distracting” collarbones at school, 12-year-old girls being banned from wearing vest tops in the height of summer, women being informed that their belly buttons should never be visible whilst at the gym, and so many more.
Men, on the other hand, can seemingly wear whatever the hell they like, whenever the hell they like.
As demonstrated by the extensive coverage of the World Cup, male footballers can whip their tops off on the pitch whenever they like, TV cameras be damned: apparently their nipples are the only kind of nipples that should be broadcast to the world. Simon Cowell’s shirt features a deeper V-neck (self-inflicted, due to the strategic skipping of certain buttons) than any woman in the public eye would be able to get away with. David Beckham is continually praised for stripping down to his underwear. And, whenever the thermostat reaches a certain level, the UK’s parks suddenly fill with men in ‘skimpy’ vests and shorts.
We might inwardly cringe at these men, but do we hold them up as temptresses? No, of course we bloody don’t: in fact, there isn’t a male equivalent of a ‘temptress’ that springs to mind. And that’s all too telling, to be honest.
So, while it might not seem like a big deal to criticise a woman for dressing “sluttily” at a wedding, we have to be aware that this language operates on a spectrum – and at the other end of that spectrum is this idea that wearing the “wrong kind of skirt” could trigger a sexual assault. That a rape case can be overturned because the alleged victim’s jeans were “too tight” for the accused to remove on his own. That an actress is advertising herself as a “prostitute” if she dares wear a thigh-high boot. And that, above all else, it’s OK to judge a woman solely on her appearance.
In short, we may not like a woman’s outfit, but we should defend her right to wear it until the cows come home – and we should speak out against anyone who dares do otherwise. What we definitely shouldn’t do is sit back and laugh over a series of slut-shaming memes and tweets about a popular actress.
We’re better than this, everyone. So let’s be better, already.