The School Dress Code Debate That We Shouldn't Be Having

The School Dress Code Debate That We Shouldn't Be Having

Dress codes are the real distraction.

A high school girl from Helena, Montana by the name of Kaitlyn gained some media attention when she organized a "No Bra Day" at her high school, after being reprimanded by an administrator for showing up to school without a bra, on the basis that it made male students and teachers "uncomfortable," and that they "don't want to see that." After the day gained traction, Kaitlyn penned an op-ed for The Guardian describing her experience and stating her intentions behind the day.

The story left me seething. I was appalled that school administrators would have the nerve to talk to high school girls the way those at this high school talked to Kaitlyn. I was even more appalled by the cruelty and blatant slut-shaming Kaitlyn received in the comments' sections, calling her a "whore" and an "attention-seeker," and telling her to take her own life. Most appalling to me was the general spectacle of how these administrators made such a fuss over a girl choosing not to wear a bra. I have to wonder: Why, in 2016, is whether a girl is wearing a bra or not such a big deal?

Sadly, this is not an isolated incident. This is part of a much bigger picture of how school dress codes throughout the country have been used to humiliate and objectify female students. Every once in awhile, I'll stumble upon some story about a local controversy over the dress codes of a particular school -- girls being sent home or forced to change because their shoulders were exposed, or their shorts or skirts were too short. Sometimes I'll hear about it because the way a dress code is enforced is especially cruel and humiliating, like one girl who was forced to wear a T-shirt and sweats that read "Dress Code Violation."

The public school system from which I graduated was no stranger to this controversy. In middle school, as the year would venture closer to summer, the principal would remind girls over a loudspeaker not to wear short shorts. I've also never forgotten one occasion in eighth grade gym class, in which the teacher called up about 7 or 8 girls, all in T-shirts and gym shorts, lined them up in front of the class, and told them all that their shorts were too short. I felt bad for those girls, and found it cruel to make an example of them like that.

I recall reading the dress code thoroughly, and in retrospect, there were policies that didn't make sense. The dress code forbade virtually any exposure of shoulders, which seems pointless because girls of all ages wear sleeveless shirts and tops all the time literally everywhere else, even to church. I don't find it overtly distracting because I'm so used to seeing girls dressing like that. It's so commonplace that it just isn't a big deal, so it seems counterintuitive to forbid such a common way of dressing.

Another major point of controversy is yoga pants and leggings. Again, girls wear them all the time, so they really shouldn't be a big deal. And once they get into college, the dress code will be significantly loosened, and girls will be free to go braless and wear leggings, sleeveless shirts, short shorts, or whatever else they want to class. And if they can't dress in those ways in high school, they'll dress like it everywhere else. By forbidding these very commonplace clothes, school administrators make distractions where there are none to begin with.

A common retort that I hear is, "Kids need to learn that the world has rules, and they need to follow them." This doesn't fly with me. To me, that's just a cop out when you don't have a better argument, and frankly, the condescension of it just annoys me. Following rules does not mean never questioning them, and that's what such a retort seems to be suggesting. Yes, sometimes you have to follow rules that you don't like, but that doesn't mean rules should exist for the sake of having them.

Another retort that I frequently hear is, "In the real world, jobs will have dress codes, and this is to prepare students for the real world." I find that a bit hard to swallow, because many of these same dress codes allow students to throw on a T-shirt and sweats and come to school. If schools aren't otherwise requiring students to dress "professional," that argument doesn't really hold up to me.

But the most problematic reasoning for these dress codes is the mindset that girls have to cover up so boys won't be distracted. That sends a litany of harmful messages to young, impressionable students. It's part of this bigger societal problem of sexualizing women's bodies. By telling them to cover up so boys aren't distracted, administrators perpetuate the message that women's bodies are inherently sexual, and contribute to women being sexually objectified in our culture.

Another way that this mindset is harmful is how it prioritizes boys' education over girls' education. By pulling girls out of class and forcing them to change, administrators waste girls' valuable class time, time they could have been using to do what they came to do--learn--simply because their clothes and bodies *distract* boys from their education. They put boys' supposed discomfort over the sight of a shoulder (or *gasp!* a braless shoulder!) over girls' comfort in their own bodies, and give no concern for how uncomfortable clothes might interfere with their ability to learn. Many women are going without bras because they find them uncomfortable, and that was Kaitlyn's only intention in not wearing a bra: personal and physical comfort. I also think of one female friend who finds jeans extremely uncomfortable, even painful, and is much more comfortable wearing leggings. Yet the administrators force girls to forgo their own personal comfort for that of boys, and within that is this subtle reinforcement of male privilege and entitlement.

And okay, let's talk about those helplessly hormonal teenage boys administrators are so worried about. I personally find that way of looking at boys and men incredibly insulting as a man myself. We have way more self-control than such a mindset gives us credit for; our sexual urges do not dictate our lives. The Helena principal's contention that Kaitlyn not wearing a bra would make boys "uncomfortable" is a questionable one. Half the time, I probably wouldn't even know whether a girl was wearing a bra, but even if I did, why the hell would I be uncomfortable with the absence of a strap the width of a finger? I will also mention again that women will dress in these forbidden manners everywhere else outside of high school, and will dress that way once they go to college, and we men do just fine, because we're so used to seeing it that it isn't a distraction to us.

The Helena principal contends that female students can't go braless because male students and teachers "don't want to see that." First of all, teachers? I don't even want to go there. Second, who gives a sh*t? It doesn't matter whether boys want to see it or not, because Kaitlyn and her friends didn't dress for them; they dressed for themselves, and for their own personal comfort. And that's all that should matter. Girls shouldn't feel the need to dress solely based on what boys might think, and definitely not based on what adult male teachers and administrators might think. Girls should feel free to choose their clothes based on what is comfortable for them, and only them. It's that simple.

It's time to stop acting like women's bodies and clothing choices are up for public debate. That's a bigger distraction than a braless shoulder ever will be.

Cover Image Credit: theguardian.com

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When Your Enough Just Isn't Enough

Do what you can, and God will do what you can't.

Have you ever felt like your enough just isn’t… enough? I feel like often times, even in smaller situations, we belittle the greatness that we can achieve because of our own personal thoughts or what others lead us to believe. It’s like, yeah, I wrote this paper, but did I really put my all into it? Or, yeah, I did my Bible study, but was my heart really into it?

It’s times like this when I must sit back and remember that God is God and He knows every depth and shallow I’ve been through! Lately I’ve found myself wondering if I’ve been doing enough to follow my calling properly, or even if I’ve done enough to please God. Sometimes doing what you want to do for God can be disheartening because rejection and a whole lotta “no”s come along with it. The outcome will always be pleasurable, but the journey to reach out to someone’s heart can be difficult. 

Hebrews 10:36 (NIV) says “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.” 

To me, this verse is saying, “Do what YOU can, and God will do what you can’t.” 

Is that not amazing to think about? We have the honor of having a God that will never leave our side. Receiving your calling and attempting to do the best to please God can be difficult – there’s no doubt about it. God never said it would be easy, but He did reassure us that He wasn’t going to leave us behind. Whether your passion for God is to sing, minister, be a missionary, or absolutely anything, do what you can and God will do the rest – with your drive, of course. 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve backed out of opportunities or denied my calling to others, just because of how selfish I am about it. I felt like my enough wasn’t enough! But, if we’re doing what God wants, under Him and for Him, He will be pleased. That’s the beauty of it all!

So next time you feel like you’re not doing enough, take a step back and look at what’s in front of you. 

Are you doing what you can so that God can do what you can’t? 

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Black British Viewpoint On The H&M Ad

Why his mother is unbothered? And why South African Protestors are?

You've seen it everywhere. A photo of this beautiful Black Boy wearing a sweater (aka Jumper) stating "cutest monkey in the jungle". Now many people immediately expressed outrage about the entire situation but when I saw this, my original response was as follows:

And it seems that the boys mother agrees with me:

“[I] am the mum, and this is one of hundreds of outfits my son has modeled. Stop crying wolf all the time, [it’s] an unnecessary issue here. Get over it.. That’s my son, [I’ve] been to all photoshoots and this was not an exception. Everyone is entitled to their opinion about this… I really don’t understand but not [because I’m] choosing not to, but because it’s not my way of thinking. Sorry.

THE AFRICAN AMERICAN EXPERIENCE IS DIFFERENT TO THE AFRO CARIBBEAN EXPERIENCE

A fellow Brit writes:


Like this commenter mentioned, I've heard white and black parents in the UK refer to their kids as a cheeky monkey. You see before moving to the USA, I use to say all the time "racism DOES NOT exist". Yeah don't get me wrong I'd experience two moments that I remember, that had a slight racial bias attached to it. But it was two separate incidents in the twenty-something years of my life. It was really nothing. Scrap that maybe three. After all my family is multiracial. Many family members includng my uncle, brother in law, cousins in law are white and my lineage is mixed. I could go to a pub meet a white person or a person of any other race, and have a deep meaningful conversation about a plethora of issues with no judgment and feel like there really is a deep connection and acceptance. Heck, I could have that conversation at a bus stop.

My family member writes:


It's not the same in the USA. It's a constant barrage of judgment, of questioning everything and every experience. From the moment you walk out of your door, you could be subjected to multiple incidences of racist bias that leave you raw and unable to know how to process or to cope. ou leave your house and if in an affluent neighborhood, your neighbors can make you feel like you don't belong.Y You walk into your nearby Krogers, where until you are labeled as ok, you could be followed all around the store on a daily basis. You see your neighbors who do not acknowledge and often do things that let you know, you are un-welcomed (you don't belong) in your very own neighborhood. You go to work, where you are isolated and made to feel that it was not designed for you. Where you micromanaged and made to feel less than in so many ways. You drive home from work where if you are a black man, one false move could be the end of your life.

You see, the African American experience is one that dehumanizes you. It has become so polarized that it's difficult to even know which way to look. I mean my daughter was subjected to bullying with a racial element, at the age of 4. FOUR years old. It's heart-wrenching and just unacceptable. I can go to an event be it a birthday party or a school led event where everyone knows me, but many if not all at times, choose to not speak to me. It's a brutal experience.


Opposing views


Another view:


HERE'S MY POINT

The experiences are so different that I honestly can relate why for the Swedish black Mum took no issue with the sweater/jumper or the ad. But I also being black in America where it is common to dehumanize black people, and where this subjection is daily and constant can understand why there is such outrage and why many people take offense. There is a school of thought out there that believe H&M did this on purpose. That this was an opportunity to gain free publicity. I truly hope not. Either way I shout You Cannot Define Me, I am Beautiful, Learned, Adorable, Capable a King (aka BLACK) for that little boy. I also understand why those in South Africa protested to the point that H&M has had to close its door.

The divisive nature of the country, nay, the world needs to get on a better track if we are truly to move forward. When will we learn?I really and truly just don't get it. Let me know your thoughts?

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Cover Image Credit: YouTube

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