I don’t remember much of middle school, which is not only 100 percent intentional, but also something I’m thankful for each and every day. But one thing I do remember is the day our vice principal dismissed all the boys from the cafeteria so she could talk to the girls about dress code. At my school, the dress code was pretty simple: no hats and no sagging pants. Actually, I remember once in sixth grade, this one kid wore a shirt that said, “FBI: Female Body Inspector,” and when the principal caught wind, he made the kid turn it inside out for the rest of the day. So I take that back: no hats, sagging pants, or words/symbols that could be considered inappropriate. Before I start on the regulations for girls, are you comfortable? Get a hot drink or a snack, and settle in before reading any further because this is quite the list!
Tank top straps must have been, at minimum, the width of three fingers. Shorts and skirts must not fall higher than your fingertips when you pressed your arms against your sides. Leggings and other tight pants were prohibited unless worn under a dress or a shirt long enough to cover the butt. No low necklines, no visible undergarments (read: bra straps), and no visible midriffs. And, like boys, no hats or lewd designs. So as we, some hundred-odd prepubescent girls, sat in the cafeteria and listened to our vice principal rattle off this list and remind us that anyone in violation of the dress code would be sent home to change or sent to the in-school suspension (ISS) room for the day, we (understandably) got angry. I remember one girl protesting, saying that it was unfair that her shorts had to be longer than her best friend’s since she was taller and her arms came down further. Another girl explained that dressing in shorts, tank tops, and dresses with spaghetti straps was the best way to stay comfortable in our non-air-conditioned school. Our vice principal—who was a woman herself, by the way—had an awesome response to both of these girls: "Yeah, well, that’s the way it is.”
Boys just had to remove their hats or pull up their pants, but girls had to put on a sweatshirt on a 90-degree day or call their parents for a change of clothes or a ride home. I remember on the last day of school, there were a ton of girls in the library for ISS because of the length of their shorts. The type of message that policies like the aforementioned send to young, impressionable girls is nothing but negative. Think about it: By interrupting the education of female students to correct their clothing and regulate their bodies, schools are essentially telling girls that their bodies are more important than their education. They're saying that we can’t let girls dress comfortably for the heat because it could be “distracting” to boys and could be perceived as “asking for attention.” But is it the fault of a girl that her outfit may “distract” boys? No. Is a girl “asking for attention” by wearing a sleeveless dress to a building where she must sit for seven hours of her day without air-conditioning while temperatures hit triple digits? No. Now say it louder for the people in the back!
Something as simple as being practical and comfortable is being shut down because the sight of a shoulder or a pair of knees will cause a 13-year old boy to not only become distracted from his school work, but to deliver frequently unwanted and often inappropriate attention to his female classmates. But hey, boys will be boys, right? No, they most certainly will not. Boys will not be boys. Boys will be held accountable for their actions like everyone else. “Boys will be boys” is an acceptable excuse for when they leave the toilet seat up or forget to call their mother when they stay out past dinner. It is not at all acceptable as rationale for why it is OK for a girl’s body to be objectified.
It's 2016 now. Isn’t it time we stop blaming women for their bodies and start blaming those who sexualize them?