How the Dress Code Targets Young Black Girls

How the Dress Code Targets Young Black Girls

Stop over-sexualizing young Black bodies.
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Black girls can’t wear shorts, or at least that was the gist of the rules at the middle school I attended.

Hindsight is always 20/20, and at the time, I didn’t think anything of it. I went to a middle school in a Chicago suburb. Incidentally, the school also banned hugging at one point, but that’s a story on it’s own. The dress code consisted of two main rules: straps had to have an equal or greater width of three adult fingers, and shorts had to at least reach the tips of your fingers. Like any school with a similar dress code, the rules were set with girls in mind. No one cared about the boys who sagged their pants and let their underwear show, or the boys in tanks that were two adult fingers at best.

However, this isn’t the problem. These rules are at many schools across the nation and they’ve always had a sexist background. But I’m not going to discuss the over-sexualization of young girls and the men who leer at them before putting these rules in place. It’s the focus on Black girls that’s key, and the fetishization that corrupts their young age, even in their tween years.

At my middle school, there were three assistant principals — one for each grade. The assistant principal for my grade, who is still the assistant principal today, approached me and a couple of my friends. He directed one of them to go inside and change because her shorts came to her thumbs and not her longest finger. The protocol was that girls who broke the rules of the dress code had to change into their gym uniform. My friend came back out in her gym shorts, and we all sat around fuming about the situation as young girls do. But then we noticed one of the white students, a girl who was sitting a couple feet away from us, was wearing jogging short.

Yes. The jogging shorts that come mid-thigh at best. She had very long legs, and it was clear to anyone who can see that she had beyond surpassed breaking the dress code. So we got the assistant principal. Justice, it seemed to us, needed to be served. It was a youthful mentality — that if one suffered, we all had to. And in the eyes of the administration, it should have been a mentality that was upheld.

But it wasn’t.

“Well she’s talking to someone right now,” he told us.

But we had all been talking to each other when he approached our group, and he made our friend change regardless.

And then he said it. He told us that he didn’t really worry about girls like her — he emphasized “like her” so we’d know he meant white girls. He said that we, a group of young black girls who were still growing — developed differently than the white girls. He said that we grew up with a little “more,” and that made the rules necessary.

The more he was referring to was the curviness of the Black woman’s figure.

We all laughed at the time. We had already noticed that we had been developing a little faster than our white counterparts, and that our hips and curves were desirable. It had actually seemed like a compliment.

But hindsight is 20/20.

He had clearly and unapologetically told us that he only targeted Black girls when it came to the dress code because of the way they develop. That our bodies, in our tweens, had already been labeled as sexual and lust-worthy, and we needed more clothes than others, even other girls, to keep from becoming a distraction.

And to put it simply, that’s disgusting.

I purposely did not include the name of the assistant principal because this really isn’t about him. It’s about the ease that comes with sexualizing the young Black body, and how a person can feel so comfortable doing it that they’ll admit to it.

I sincerely hope that my middle school aims to uphold the dress code in all cases. If it is a rule, everyone should be held to it.

Cover Image Credit: Patch

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This Is How Your Same-Sex Marriage Affects Me As A Catholic Woman

I hear you over there, Bible Bob.
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It won't.

Wait, what?

I promise you did read that right. Not what you were expecting me to say, right? Who another person decides to marry will never in any way affect my own marriage whatsoever. Unless they try to marry the person that I want to, then we might have a few problems.

As a kid, I was raised, baptized, and confirmed into an old school Irish Catholic church in the middle of a small, midwestern town.

Not exactly a place that most people would consider to be very liberal or open-minded. Despite this I was taught to love and accept others as a child, to not cast judgment because the only person fit to judge was God. I learned this from my Grandpa, a man whose love of others was only rivaled by his love of sweets and spoiling his grandkids.

While I learned this at an early age, not everyone else in my hometown — or even within my own church — seemed to get the memo. When same-sex marriage was finally legalized country-wide, I cried tears of joy for some of my closest friends who happen to be members of the LGBTQ community.

I was happy while others I knew were disgusted and even enraged.

"That's not what it says in the bible! Marriage is between a man and a woman!"

"God made Adam and Eve for a reason! Man shall not lie with another man as he would a woman!"

"Homosexuality is a sin! It's bad enough that they're all going to hell, now we're letting them marry?"

Alright, Bible Bob, we get it, you don't agree with same-sex relationships. Honestly, that's not the issue. One of our civil liberties as United States citizens is the freedom of religion. If you believe your religion doesn't support homosexuality that's OK.

What isn't OK is thinking that your religious beliefs should dictate others lives.

What isn't OK is using your religion or your beliefs to take away rights from those who chose to live their life differently than you.

Some members of my church are still convinced that their marriage now means less because people are free to marry whoever they want to. Honestly, I wish I was kidding. Tell me again, Brenda how exactly do Steve and Jason's marriage affect yours and Tom's?

It doesn't. Really, it doesn't affect you at all.

Unless Tom suddenly starts having an affair with Steve their marriage has zero effect on you. You never know Brenda, you and Jason might become best friends by the end of the divorce. (And in that case, Brenda and Tom both need to go to church considering the bible also teaches against adultery and divorce.)

I'll say it one more time for the people in the back: same-sex marriage does not affect you even if you or your religion does not support it. If you don't agree with same-sex marriage then do not marry someone of the same sex. Really, it's a simple concept.

It amazes me that I still actually have to discuss this with some people in 2017. And it amazes me that people use God as a reason to hinder the lives of others.

As a proud young Catholic woman, I wholeheartedly support the LGBTQ community with my entire being.

My God taught me to not hold hate so close to my heart. He told me not to judge and to accept others with open arms. My God taught me to love and I hope yours teaches you the same.

Disclaimer - This article in no way is meant to be an insult to the Bible or religion or the LGBTQ community.

Cover Image Credit: Sushiesque / Flickr

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To The Girl Who Believes That Feminism Is A Lost Cause: It's Unfortunate You Can't See How Infinitely Capable Women Are

You said I am being too hopeful. You said that there is no point. I say you're wrong.
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It was a seemingly boring day. Most of us had just finished our state-based EOC's, but there were bigger fish to fry: Advanced Placement Exams would be starting the following week. These exams would determine whether we got the college credits for the college courses we had been straggling through all year. A group of my female classmates and I were taking a five minute break from studying in our AP U.S. History class when we got into a deep conversation about the Indian culture.

One of my classmates was asking simple questions about what the Indian culture was like; things like marriages, different societal expectations and other cultural differences came about into the conversation.

The conversation eventually moved to focus on education and dream colleges. The girl sitting behind me asked another one of my classmates if she had heard anything from the Emory Summer Program. They started talking about certain residencies they planned on doing, and I tuned out of the conversation.

That was until I heard this: "Did you know they don't bring girls down to see surgery? Only guys."

I turned around, and scoffed.

"Are you serious? Why would they do that?"

They both explained to me that something had happened in which Emory had brought a girl and a guy down to a surgery, but both of them fainted — or at least that's what they heard. The girl sitting behind me went on to say "girls are just more prone to fainting."

What? Listen, I may not be a biology major, but —

"I thought you said the guy fainted too?" I countered. She shrugged her shoulders, and said one sentence:

"It's not like girls can become surgeons anyways."

Seriously? I took a deep breath and said slowly,

"I think girls and guys can both become surgeons regardless of sex. They're both just as capable."

She argued with me that "statistically" guys had more of a chance to become a surgeon. That girls have no chance because universities looked for guys. That not many girls even tried to go the surgery field. She said there was a reason why she chose to not become a surgeon. Again and again, she said that girls had no chance in a male-dominated field.

She insisted that I was being too hopeful. That "realistically" changes in women's rights would not come in our generation but rather in our children's generation. That there was a reason why in history, men were better known than women. That there was a reason why men and women had separate events in athletic competitions.

I couldn't believe what I was hearing. But then again, it made sense, right? The reasons why women still have to fight so hard for things such as equal pay — it's because thoughts like these still plague our society.

I was left speechless. My APUSH teacher appeared from behind me almost two seconds later. He asked her:

"Have you ever heard the story of Billie Jean King? The famous female tennis player who beat a man — I can't remember his name — but he said awful things about women and how weak they were."

She shook her head and stuttered out a "no," and he simply replied,

"It's a really impressive story," before walking away.

So, "statistically," sure, men may dominate the field of surgery. But they also dominate the fields of business (did you know there are only 27 women on the Fortune 500 list?) law enforcement, criminal law, the military or any STEM careers, etc.

This does not mean women are not capable of doing those jobs; it's the part of society that still believes we live in the stone age who thinks women are not capable of arguing in front of a judge or saving someone's life in the ER.

My all-time favorite quote is something my mother said two years ago when Trump won the presidency:

"It's not the women who are not ready for America; it's America who's not ready for the women."

And yes, I am hopeful. I am optimistic. Because so much has changed, but there's still a lot more to do for women. You say that that change cannot come in our generation but rather our children's — that mindset is the reason why we still fall behind today. But let me tell you why you are also wrong. Change has been happening throughout all the generations whether you like it not.

Change occurred in 1800s during Elizabeth Cady Stanton's time when she and hundreds of other women published the "Declaration of the Rights of Woman and of the Female Citizen."

Change occurred in the 1900s when Susan B. Anthony and thousands of women fought tirelessly for women's suffrage and won with the passage of the 19th Amendment.

Change has occurred with the recent #MeToo movement, exposing years and years of sexual harassment and rape perpetrators, not just in Hollywood, but in other industries as well.

We can't keep pushing saying that "it's not my issue" or "it'll happen later." We can't keep ignoring the issue; we have to face it and fix it . You said to me that, living in John's Creek, you have never faced sexism in your life, and I envy you for that. That does not mean sexism does not exist.

I pity you for the fact that you remain so close minded about the future of women. Though currently the field of surgery may be male-dominated, there are still women who work in that field. There are women who ignore that fact, study their butts off and work, successfully, as surgeons.

Eventually it comes down to this: you can hide and ignore the issues that beset our community, or you can stand up for yourself and the women around you. Your choice.

But know this: feminism is not a lost cause. I am a woman. I can, and I will.

Cover Image Credit: YouTube

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