On Sunday, March 12, pop star Ciara attended the Vanity Fair Oscars party with her husband Russell Wilson, and she was wearing a gorgeous crosshatched gown by Dundas with a pair of Santoni high-heeled shoes. The dress was made of black sheer material and studded with jewels, hugging to every curve it didn’t reveal.
The sheer look has been quite popular on the red carpet and fashion runways this year, and in fact quite a few people wore similar styles to the event. Alessandra Ambrosio wore another sheer Dundas gown, for example:
Aside from see-through looks, there were some other daring barely there styles, like a two-piece on Hunter Schafer by Ann Demeulemeeste.
Though some of these stunners were applauded for their style, none seemed to cause the controversy Ciara’s dress did. Her name was quickly trending on social media and she seemed to receive a great deal of criticism for flaunting her amazing physique.
On Thursday, the singer responded to the fervor around her dress with a jokey TikTok about the situation. Along to a soundtrack that sounded like paparazzi calling for her attention, she walked an imaginary red carpet while wrapped in a white bed sheet, swirling it around and striking a pose for the “cameras.”
“Selective outrage,” she captioned the funny video.
Her husband seemed to have no issue with how his wife was dressed on the real red carpet, and even went shirtless underneath his black suit for the evening. Not that what Wilson has to say about her style matters as much as Ciara’s own clothing choices — but it’s good to have a husband who is also your biggest fan.
What’s the Issue?
Ok, so Ciara, 37, rocked a thong-baring, low-back, crystal-studded sheer gown designed by Peter Dundas.
Once pictures of the barely-there dress hit the internet, social media users wasted no time sharing their thoughts on the allegedly immodest outfit choice, which some found especially offensive due to her being a wife and mother.
The shaming was noted as misogynistic by culture writer Tiwa Adebayo. Partly because it tied Ciara’s worth to her role as a wife, even while her husband, Russell Wilson, a Denver Broncos quarterback, who accompanied her to the festivities, took pictures with her on the red carpet. It was also unfair. Models Emily Ratajkowski and Alessandra Ambrosio, as well as actress Hunter Schafer, all wore similarly revealing dresses, but their wardrobe pickings did not seem to cause the same upset.
But why was Ciara subjected to such hate for her outfit choice?
Adebayo, who has dissected the overall policing of Black women during awards ceremonies, tells Yahoo Life that a lot of the vitriol targeting Ciara exists at the pointed intersection of misogyny and racism, sometimes dubbed misogynoir.
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“It looks like the biggest group criticizing her, especially on Twitter, is actually Black men,” says Adebayo, explaining that many people are likely projecting their own preconceived notions of how a wife and mother should present themselves onto her.
“It speaks to respectability politics, specifically as they’ve extrapolated the sheerness of her dress and perceived ‘sluttiness,'” she adds. “And they’ve taken that and applied it to her husband, Russell Wilson, implying he doesn’t have control over his woman in quite a damaging way.”
And even though Russell appeared to admire his wife’s display of her goodies, experts say it is important to remember that Ciara has the right to choose what she wears, regardless.
“Some may think it is a show of solidarity to mention that her husband appeared to be OK with it, but we have to remember that Ciara’s body belongs to her. She gets to choose how she will dress and adorn that body. Her husband is her partner, not her owner,” Donna Oriowo, a race, sex and gender therapist, tells Yahoo Life.
“Too often we equate love with ownership, and maleness with dominance over a wife. When we see things in a true partnership, we stop acting as if her wardrobe choices are meant to shame her husband but rather a choice she, very likely, made for herself,” explains Oriowo.
This also extends to her role as a mother.
“Some people believe that a mother’s body is also owned by her children. The person that a woman is before she is a wife or a mother no longer matters, so we expect her to only dress in accordance with her role as mother or wife as the systems of power have defined it,” Oriowo adds.
In terms of selective outrage, Adebayo says there seems to be a pile-on effect once the internet has honed in on a target for the day, and Black women often wind up in the bullseye at exacerbated rates.
“With the algorithm function, it very easily becomes an echo chamber and you hear people kind of start to agree with you and that amplifies your view. As it pertains to Black women, if women in general are often the subject of internet hate for the day, it’s going to happen to Black women at a much faster rate,” she says.
Ultimately, Adebayo says, the dialogue surrounding Ciara’s dress is a smaller part of a larger conversation on the general policing of women’s bodies.
“It’s symptomatic of a wider trend of having contradictory high standards for Black women,” says Adebayo.