I was disturbed when I was researching online a few years ago, and Eve Ensler called for short skirts by women all over the world in the commemoration of V-day that year. I understood how third wave feminism called for women's 'rights over their own bodies' etc. but I thought that the idea of short skirts everywhere challenged a personal moral code in the universe somewhere. That it was directly linked to the over-sexualization of women and I couldn't understand why an act that seemed in sync with how women are objectified everyday was being taken as revolutionary action. It just didn't sit comfortably with me.
Fast forward to now. I have a friend who wears dresses everyday (usually with heels) and believes that it is her own statement of feminism, that it is her experience of liberation as a woman. We have just spent the last six months battling the frigid zone here in New York, and my cupboard now has a number of short skirts stashed in its corners somewhere, despite that it has still been too cold to use them. I know now however that these skirts carry context.
In Trinidad, I would never wear a short skirt or pant outside of my neighborhood. In our understanding of things short (I mean here anything more than an inch or two above the knee cap) it's a game of thing association. It is a sexual display, that a woman is trying to get the attention of men, that she is probably 'loose', that she is a potential 'bad ting', that it serves as an invitation for lustful thinking. I have observed how my thinking has shifted. Ryan suggested it may be a more white western concept of liberalism at work in these metropolitan areas.
Whereas if a white woman was to walk the street on a hot day in a bikini, it would be more easily acceptable than if your mother (of colour) was to do this...anywhere in the world. As black people there has always been a conservative in our thinking, which could have been derived from a number of historical places. That being said, I think this is the culture of this society, and just because a woman is wearing clothes above the knee doesn't guarantee that an American man is going to look at her twice. It is just the way things are here.
I must also inject here at this point that my morality has not changed. I still define for my own purposes and personality and beliefs what would be considered as too short for me as woman to wear in public. What has changed however, is that I am now less quick to criticize women, based upon the length of their clothes. In a Christian or wider religious context yes, by all means, wear a longer skirt, 'modesty' has to be maintained; but in terms of women who do not share my Christian world-view, I am less quick to judge them as overly-sexualized beings looking for the attention of eyes everywhere. It just might be the heat, just as in that Aesop fable with the Sun and the Wind.