“It’s this ‘boys will be boys’ mentality, culture and attitude that condone sexual assault. You are telling them [men] that it’s okay for them to be sexually violent,” says Marion Mayer, a junior at Lakeland Senior high in Lakeland, Florida, after criticizing the phrase [boys will be boys] used by her principal to justify the sexist dress code.
For anyone living anywhere but under a rock, it’s evident that violations of the school dress code have become somewhat the center of attention in the news. These violations are occurring all around the world, but what puts this issue in a common place is the justification endorsed by principals and directors of these schools. What has become even a more common trend is students from all over the country, specifically girls, challenging these sexist dress codes. Of course, any act of rebellion against school policies is highly commended within the student body and teenagers of the like, but, even more so, the arguments condemning these sexist dress codes are completely justified.
A lot of people, whether it be those enforcing the dress code or the ones following it, fail to see the issue at hand. By calling a teenage girl [her outfit] a sexual distraction, you are not only promoting rape culture, by basically saying that it is the girl’s fault that some boys can’t control themselves – but you are also affirming that making sure a boy’s learning environment is free from distractions is more important than her own education. Some of you might already be rolling your eyes at the previous sentence, but bear with me. The reason why these dress codes affirm that a boy’s distraction-free learning environment is of utmost importance, rather than the girl’s education has less to do with the dress code itself, but more to do with how it is being enforced and how these violations are being addressed.
In various schools in the United States the punishment for violating school dress code is either a detention or being sent home. This would be good if it weren’t for the fact that these students, specifically girls seeing that 90% of more girls are called out for violating dress code than boys, are being pulled out of class, which is basically depriving them of their education, because they are considered a sexual distraction in schools. In fact, in 2014, 200 detentions were given in a Staten Island school in New York, and 30 girls were sent home because of their visible bra straps in Canada.
The double standard here is that often times, in these same schools, boys are allowed to wear muscle tank tops that expose their shoulders, chest, and arms, however as soon as a girl wears a tank top it is considered inappropriate and a distraction. This is sexism at its finest. In no way, shape or form, are bra straps, shoulders, thighs, and any other part of the natural human anatomy a sexual distraction seeing that these are not sexual parts. The over sexualization of the female anatomy is the problem here, not the fact that some girl’s shoulders were exposed because it’s currently 30 degrees outside.
On a more personal level however, I recently experienced an incidence with one of my teachers regarding this same issue. Seeing that we had an exposition coming up in which we had to dress formally, I was specifically asked not to dress up like a “slut.” When I asked how she defined “dressing up like a slut” she simply told me not to wear short dresses or expose too much shoulder/chest area. Of course this infuriated me, but then I realized that most people are conditioned to think that by showing skin you are automatically to be considered a prostitute and nothing more. This right here is sexualizing a sixteen year old girl and promoting slut shaming. Can you believe that? Our own teachers, the ones who are supposed to shape us into better adults, are the same ones perpetuating rape culture and slut shaming.
Here I will leave you with some food for thought…
Instead of teaching girls to cover themselves up, seeing that their human anatomy is considered disgusting, inappropriate, and a sexual object, why not teach boys, for lack of a better word, to simply keep it in their pants? Instead of shaming us girls for our bodies why not simply teach boys that we are not sexual objects?