Are you being CONTROLLED LIKE ME?
WOMAN - UK|January 31, 2022
Alexandra Zagalsky had her wardrobe sabotaged by her boyfriend, but it was just the start of his coercive behaviour
ALEXANDRA ZAGALSK

My aversion to kitten heels, twinsets and maxi skirts has nothing to do with style choices. Rather, my dislike of these clothes is rooted in memory association – they symbolise a toxic relationship I had in my early 20s with a jealous partner who policed my wardrobe.

During this time, sexy stilettos were outlawed, low-cut necklines were deemed scandalous and miniskirts were acceptable only on holiday, effectively verboten if I wasn’t near a beach.

By contrast, kitten heels, twinsets and maxi skirts were happily encouraged as conspicuously modest staples, and the ‘correct’ way for a woman to dress.

I wasn’t exactly forced to button up and swap my heels for flats, but I was made to feel that I was being disrespectful if I didn’t comply with my boyfriend’s suggestions.

I was young and easily led, but now that I’m older and at least a little bit wiser, I’m also more forgiving of my younger self. No woman should ever be made to feel that her personal style is engineered to attract an objectifying male gaze, and the concept of ‘restyling’ a woman should never be undertaken by a man under the pretext of concern when, in fact, it’s being used as a weapon against her.

Calling out abuse

Twenty years ago, there was far less discussion about emotional abuse and coercive control than there is today. After years of campaigning, a law against coercive and controlling behaviour was finally introduced in 2015, and by March 2020, police in England and Wales had recorded 24,856 offences.

Meanwhile the me-too movement has empowered more women to call out abusive behaviour, and charity Women’s Aid recently highlighted with a series of powerful fashion-like adverts how wardrobe choices can be one of the most telling signs of coercive control. All the women’s style choices were credited as ‘by model’s partner’.

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