In the eighth grade, a friend of mine asked our history teacher why the dress code was a necessity. My teacher's response is one I'll never forget: "it will distract boys from learning". In our middle school, wearing spaghetti straps or shorts that were not "fingertip length" constituted a young girl to be "a distraction".
My thirteen-year-old self-accepted this answer as truth, as I knew no different: it seemed to make sense at the time, and we didn't want to distract others from learning.
The boys were free to wear shirts with naked girls in provocative positions on their torso, but us girls were labeled "the distraction" if we wore anything even deemed slightly provocative. I distinctly remember a fellow classmate of mine wearing a shirt with a naked girl on it who went the entire day without being scolded by any teacher, but another classmate of mine was pulled out of class because she was wearing spaghetti straps.
As I have grown and matured in my thinking, I have come to the conclusion that this is absolutely one of the worst things you can do to young girls. I was an early bloomer and was constantly in fear that my clothes would be deemed inappropriate by the school. I would constantly be nitpicking at my outfit during the day out of fear that I would be a distraction.
There have been so many times that I have been ashamed of my body out of fear that what I am wearing is too revealing and I will get eyed down from strange men in public.
Young girls were taught at a young age that what they wore had to fall in line with what "wouldn't distract men". During summer, it was hard to find clothes that would be accepted by the dress code of our middle school.
I remember my first day of junior year at my new high school I wore a (modest) tank top- living in Florida is HOT, and there was no way I was going to wear a parka. However, I got yelled at by one of the school employees for breaking the dress code, and she sent me to the nurse's office and forced me to get a change of clothes. I missed the first twenty minutes of my first class on my first day at my NEW high school because my shirt was deemed a distraction.
I do not hold the teachers that enforced this rule accountable, because I understand that they are just doing their job. I think the entire principle needs to be amended, and we should stop shaming girls for wearing what makes them comfortable.
I understand that schools do not want to have 12-year-olds walking around with their cheeks hanging out of their shorts, but if we are going to make sure that girls "dress appropriately", we must make sure the boys dress appropriately too. The dress code is a one-sided, sexist rule that inherently teaches girls to be ashamed of their body.
Girls are taught to hide their bodies because of what men will think.
Girls are taught that men are animals that cannot control themselves, and therefore must change how we act and dress.
Girls are taught that it is their fault that they are sexualized.
Girls are asked, "Well, what were you wearing?" after an encounter that makes them uncomfortable.
Girls are told, "You shouldn't have had so much to drink" after a night out at the bar gone wrong.
We as a society refuse to hold men accountable because "boys will be boys".
I will stand for it no longer. Boys will be boys who should respect other women, and not just because, "they could be your mother, your daughter, your sister", but because they are human beings.
And human beings deserve respect, no matter who they are.