From New Jersey to Georgia to Louisiana, citizens are taking decency into their own hands, some drafting legislation that would make it a criminal offense to wear baggy clothes that show one’s boxers and/or backside.
Benetta Standly, statewide organizer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, says singling out a person based on baggy dress (most common among young African-American males) is a form of racial profiling and unfairly promotes an association between dress and crime. One could fairly argue that the association was already there, what with the look of baggy clothes having originated in prisons, not boardrooms.
It’s nice to see some taking a stronger stance against the indecently clothed – and the indecently speaking and indecently behaved. To turn the tide on indecency, though, we don’t need laws. We need a society that refuses to accommodate the indecent.
There was a time, recently at that, when showing a stripper’s share of cleavage meant not getting into a family diner. I speak not just of tiny towns, but also of big cities with a respectable (and respectably dressed) customer base. Any community can elicit more of what it wants by rewarding the self-respectful (you may enter my business) and shunning those showing little or no self-respect (you may not enter my business).
As an option, dress codes and codes of conduct are not limited to the snootiest of establishments. But only the snootiest have maintained and still insist upon a code of decency. It is the rest of society that has, for some strange reason, put the “pig” in Pygmalion.
Those who would assert a violation of civil rights when patrons are barred from entering Harriet’s Diner or Vickerson’s Deli with their boxers or bustier showing and/or their mouths spewing all manner of obscenities need only refer to the fact that the snooty business’s codes are legally established and enforceable. It’s not against the law, it’s not discrimination, and it’s not a violation of anyone’s civil rights to refuse a person who doesn’t meet that business’s definition of “customer.”
Society has confused the ability to look and sound like trash with the law. The law says no one can be legally denied housing, employment or entry into a business based on race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age, or disability. The law does not say a landlord or employer must give you the keys or the job when someone else, equal to you in all other respects, showed up in clothes that fit. The law does not allow for your protection in the event that you attempt to enter a business looking or sounding contrary to that business’s code of conduct and dress.
Too, the line has been blurred between what is individual creative expression (is it still “individual” if so many are doing it?) and what is as crass as Redneck Christmas Lights.
Society (it takes a village to raise a child, and all that) has come to tolerate people wandering around looking like convicts and whores and sounding like uneducated boofs without so much as a wince. This is the same derailed sociology that says it’s okay to carry on a cell phone conversation at the dinner table or while doing business with another person.
What one wears and how one conducts oneself has nothing to do with real civil rights. Nowhere is it written that anyone has the civil right to enter the Metropolitan Opera while dressed like a tramp and rattling off lyrics from 50 Cent’s latest album.
If, as is often the case with the uninspired among us, one aspires no higher and no better in life than to go where one’s taste in the most casual of wear and verbiage will take one, then more power to one’s self-inflicted mediocrity. If, however, one expects the rest of society to assist in one’s quest for better, whilst one refuses to assume higher standards, then one is delusional.
You don’t have to wear a belt; and I don’t have to let you in the door.