I’ve grown up in a world that is over-sensitized to bodies.
As a young girl, I was exposed to billboards over which sprawled airbrushed women in lingerie, commercials featuring flawless goddesses in sensual attire and magazines rife with models sporting the newest trend — each somehow more revealing than the last.
I was taught by television, movies and the lyrics on the radio that in order to get the boys I wanted and the friends I needed, I had to dress like everyone else and flaunt my body. I was taught that physical beauty was just as important — and sometimes even more important — than the things in my head or in my heart. I, along with a million other girls, was a slave to a world that told us we had to undress to be respected, despite what irony might have to say on the matter.
You can imagine the conflict I felt when our institutions — schools, dance studios, extracurricular activities — began to crack down and tell us that the things the media had taught us to put on our bodies as clothing were too provocative, too distracting and too inappropriate. “Sure,” I thought to myself, “but wasn’t that the point?”
There is already a list of problems rooted in the way we are told to clothe and present our bodies, such as eating disorders, depression and low self-worth. Schools telling us that the way we present ourselves is distracting to our male peers, as if we are a band of inherent sexual threats that needed to be tamed, only adds to it.
While we were being yanked out of class and sent home beacuase of the shortness of our shorts in the sweltering late summer months, boys were being given the OK to wear pants with waistbands that hung below their butts and muscle tees which exposed much of their midsections.
Something rang incredibly true in those elementary school days, and it still does now: there is an extreme double standard when it comes to what students are permitted to wear in schools. Dress codes attack and scrutinize young women, but they do not do the same to young men.
Middle and high school girls all over the nation are being oppressed by ridiculous dress codes, and many of them are going public with their stories. One features a girl in Indiana, who was suspended two days for the “crime” of having tight pants. A girl in Texas was sent home because she wore yoga pants and a shirt that covered her entire backside. A Kentucky girl was sent home because the shirt she was wearing exposed her collarbone; a ridiculous fact on its own which is only worsened by the fact that when the girl’s mother brought her a scarf, the outfit was still deemed inappropriate.
Shouldn’t teachers and administrators have better things to do than tear down the courage of our young women?
They should and they do.
Education in this modern age, one filled with hate, judgement, crime and despair, should instruct our children to use their intelligence, compassion and kindness to bring positive solutions to a broken world — not add them to the list of things standing in our way to success.
By telling girls to change their clothes or else others will objectify their bodies, teachers and administrators have already done the crime — the inspection of a girl’s outfit in itself is a method of objectifying them, and this judgement does nothing to help their self esteem. In fact, it’s likely that their self-worth is already crippled because of this judgement on their wardrobes and choices in a world which puts physical beauty on such a high pedestal.
Female students should be just as free as their male counterparts to dress as they please and to do so without scrutinization from peers and higher-ups. Instead of telling our girls that they are a distraction to men, we need to tell our boys not to objectify the bodies of women.
Instead of telling girls to go home and change their clothes, we need to applaud their individuality and encourage them to express themselves the way they see fit.
Dress codes were put in place to protect students from judgement, but instead they have become a powerful method of judgement themselves. It’s time to allow our children to blossom in the ways they want to and to get rid of rules which restrict one of the only freedoms they have at their age. It’s time to crack dress codes and encourage our young women to reflect their inner beauty in whatever way they see fit. They deserve it.