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This week in public… my friend was clapped at

We all know the part of the movie where the protagonist messes up and receives the three slow claps from their co-stars. One clap, two clap, three clap. All followed by a sarcastic pause.  The three claps that say, ‘we know what you did.’  That say, ‘we are not impressed.’ That say, ‘you messed up.’

The thing is that we do not live in the script of a soap opera. This fact, however, does not stop people from filling in the blanks, creating this narrative for us based on what they perceive. And so when my friend was walking down the street in a dress last week and received the three slow claps, I was confused. It was 11am, a hot day and she was in a dress. That was it. That was her ‘setting,’ her ‘costume,’ and her ‘script’. 

It was a group of builders that presented her the three claps, who had clearly thought up their own narrative for why she would be wearing such a garment so early. Apparently, women cannot wear a short dress at 11am because after she came home, mortified may I add, and we had a discussion about what they could have meant by the three slow claps, we came to the conclusion that the clapping must have been in response to a perceived walk of shame. The group of men saw a young girl in a short dress and thought ‘well there’s only one explanation for that…’ 

The interesting thing is, had she been wearing the same dress at 11pm, passing the same group of builders, she would likely have received a round of applause instead, perhaps with some whistling and whoops thrown in for good measure. 

I learned that morning that girls cannot wear what they want, when they want. Society has created these rules that suggest a short dress before 12pm means they must be fleeing an unsuccessful sleepover. A short dress after 12pm means they’re begging for attention, looking for a good night. Both apparently prompt a reaction. As females, the same street can go from feeling like a runway to a dark alleyway based solely on the position of the sun. 

I do ask myself though, whether my friend should have reacted. Perhaps said something or given a look. What would you have done? Let the builders keep the false narration in their heads? Or snapped them back to reality- letting them know that girls can wear a shirt dress when they want, simply because they want to.

Image via PIXNIO