The numbers are awful. One in four women will be the victim of domestic violence in her lifetime. That means if your book group includes seven other women, two of them might suffer. If you’ve got three besties, one of the four of you could end up seriously hurt or worse. And your daughter’s cheerleading squad of 12? You do the math.
Why then, when domestic violence is so prevalent, are women so okay with calling a popular piece of clothing a “wife beater”?
You know the piece I mean. It’s a man’s sleeveless, tight, white ribbed undershirt, also known as an A-shirt or muscle shirt. It looks great on men who are in shape and sexy on women who wear it with cut-offs or jeans. It’s not the garment I have the problem with. It’s the name.
Because the shirt is so often found on macho, violent characters in movies and books, it’s become associated with that “type” of man — often a rough, uneducated brute who kicks the dog and gives his wife a black eye when his dinner isn’t on the table on time. In short, a wife beater. The man and, as a result, the shirt.
Bad, right? But you know what’s worse? The fact that women — young women, especially — have no problem in referring to the shirt by this name. I’ve been to photo shoots where the direction is to “put the model in the wife beater;” I’ve heard a friend’s teenage daughter say that she was going to wear a “wife beater” to school once the weather warmed up; and I’ve seen young-women’s mags mention “wife beaters” in their fashion section as a way to look hot.
I’ve got to believe that all these girls and women aren’t thinking about what they’re saying. Not realizing how demeaning the name “wife beater” is. Not comprehending that the name speaks ill of any man who might wear the shirt, to say nothing of sending a message that wife beating is so unimportant that trivializing it as the name of an undershirt is okay.
Hey, it’s not okay. Find another name for the shirt. Pay more attention to the words. Be prouder and more protective of being a woman. And never let anyone minimize how important you are.
Put that on your t-shirt.
© 2013 Claudia Grossman