Dress Codes Empower Sexism

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All around the country, women of all ages are talking about their frustrations about being reduced to sexual objects in both the workplace and in school.  It is a difficult balance that we as women have to consider not only dressing ourselves but dressing our daughters.  It’s not something we think about when dressing our boys.

I do understand that rules are meant to protect the whole population.  But this rule isn’t meant to keep the girls safe, it is pointing out that women are reduced to sexual objects. This isn’t building up or children, it is humiliating them.

Recently I had to call my daughter’s high school principal after there was a few incidents about the dress code. My daughter was being harassed at school for some of her outfits, not by other students, but by an older woman who worked in the lunch room.

At first when my daughter complained, I just thought that maybe the woman was looking out for her and my daughter might have innocently worn something too revealing that caused the woman to try to help her out before she was embarrassed. But after daily comments by the woman, my daughter grew more and more upset.

Now I do watch what my daughter wears, and she’s a beautiful girl and sometimes I have to think about her outfits as most parents do and consider modesty over comfort. But nothing she wore ever caused me alarm.

The woman at the school, Ms. B, would make snotty comments like she could see my daughter’s legs, arms, and that her parents should watch what she wears.

But it wasn’t that she was pointing out dress code errors, but making comments about my daughter personally, making her feel that she wasn’t pretty, wasn’t respectable, and made her feel bad about herself. It was strange to both my daughter and I that it wasn’t teenage boys making childish comments, it was a grown 60 something woman.

My last straw came when my daughter was dressed so pretty one morning in a lovely dress that reminded me of a 1940’s pinup girl in sailor colors. She was so proud of herself for her outfit, but called me from school so upset because Ms. B had embarrassed her in front of her friends and she was being told to call for new clothes or go home. The reason? The top part of her shoulders could be seen through the sweater she wore.. her back skin was visible. Ummmm… back skin?

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At this point I called the school and spoke with the temp. Principal because her regular principal was out. And for the first time, I heard my feminist voice raised in anger and outrage over the way that women are treated differently.

I complained that the boys were not being called out for taking their shirts off during sports, that women and girls should not be humiliated for being attractive.

The man said that girls showing off their arms and skin was distracting.

I asked if the parents of the boys were complaining about the test scores of their children being lowered because the boys were looking at the skin of the girls and unable to focus.

He said no, but it was distracting for the male teaching staff when the young girls were dressed to provocatively.

THIS drove me nuts, and I dared to address the fact that he just called his male teachers pedophiles and questioned the vetting of the school.

Why are our boys not taught that harassing women is not okay? Instead they prefer to tea our girls that they must cover themselves to be “successful” instead of smart, educated, and creative. No… just no.

Over and over for the next few days between conversations I pushed the point that no matter what women or girls wear, they are not to blame for the sexual violence that is a sick epidemic on this planet. I preached that no matter what they wear, this does not give anyone the right to harass or take advantage of them.

And when the other Principal called I reminded him that harassment isn’t just between adults and that other women are just as guilty of shaming other women as men and that sexual harassment is not okay in any form.

I heard my inner feminist rise up and fight not just for women’s rights, but for the prejudices to stop. And for the first time ever, I felt proud to be a strong woman standing up for women’s freedoms. I suddenly saw things differently.

When I used to just be indifferent over the breastfeeding wars, now I actually was outraged at the idea of calling out women who are doing what nature gave them. I agreed that women’s breasts aren’t sex tools and feeding their babies isn’t a shameful attack on morality and they shouldn’t be shamed for their bodies.

I actually almost agreed with *shutter* Mylie Cyrus when she bared her breasts and nipples in taking a stand in how women’s bodies are seen differently than men and held to a higher sense of morality which isn’t fair. Even though I am not sure most people were hearing her message and not just looking at her boobs.

But, I get the movement now. Not that I would feel comfortable baring my breasts to the world, but for those who are… their bodies are beautiful and the #FreeTheNipple campaign actually does make sense to me.

When the weather is hot and our schools do not have the funding to install air conditioning, it is absurd to think that women and girls should be forced to make sure their shoulders and knees are covered at all times.  This is sexism at it’s best and enough is enough.

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