Oh boy. Are we really going to disagree on this one.
Because you know what I think is messed up? Dress codes. Treating girls’ bodies like something obscene or titillating. The constant pressure on young women to be modest, to cover up, to hide themselves because boys and men for some reason can’t control themselves.
But I have three problems with how dress code is handled:
First, it reinforces the idea that boys (and men) can’t control themselves. And this reinforces the idea that if a woman is assaulted and she was wearing a short skirt, she brought it upon herself. Which prevents rapists from getting prosecuted and convicted. And last I checked, guys think about sex all the time anyway, and can get erections from something as unsexy math. (Literally, math. Maybe they like the curves on number 8?) Shouldn’t the onus be on boys and men to control their impulses, Dad?
Second, it sexualizes children. Because that’s who we’re targeting with dress codes at schools. Some girls start developing in the fourth grade, long before they reach any sort of sexual maturity, and are shamed for having breasts, hips and thighs that look womanly. When we start singling girls out because their bodies are considered too sexual, we are reinforcing that women are bodies first, not people; that breasts are sexual organs, not food-producers; that butts are for ogling, not sitting. This is the same mentality that led to an adult catcalling me at age 15, and a man in his 40s propositioning me, even though he knew full well I was a child. I believed for years that I was at fault for both incidents. The problem here is NOT the girl. It is the society that sexualizes her.
The fabulous blogger at Controlled Chaos recently wrote about the first time she was called a slut, in the sixth grade, for being a cheerleader. She was shamed by her teacher for participating in sports, and told that she shouldn’t be “that girl.” The experience taught her that she is to blame for being sexualized:
That’s when I learned that it’s always going to be my fault. When a boy grabs my ass in between classes in eighth grade, it’s my fault for wearing tight pants. When a 40-year old man keeps circling my block on my walk home because he gets off on calling a fourteen year old sexy, it’s my fault for having boobs at a young age. When some dude shoves his hand up my dress in college, it’s my fault for not knowing that you shouldn’t wear dresses to a club. And when some douchebag asshole sexually assaults me, it’s my fault for being drunk.
Finally, which is more disruptive to an education, shorts or being dismissed from school for the day? On the one hand, a handful of boys who never learned to control themselves because they weren’t taught to have to deal with the arousal they feel dozens of times a day whether they’re looking at classmates or an art textbook. On the other hand, a girl is kicked out of school for the day and denied an education because she’s been objectified by her culture and school administrators. She can never get that day back.
Seems like the punishment is a little hypocritical.
As someone who has frequently been shamed for her body, regardless of my attire, I can get behind students protesting dress codes as misogynistic.
How about you?