Are School Dress Codes Slut Shaming Our Daughters?

are-school-dress-codes-slut-shaming-our-daughters“Shorts that distract” “Skirts that distract” “Inappropriate”  Are these really words we are using to describe young girl’s clothing? The word “distract” makes my entire body cringe. Who exactly are we worried about distracting? And before you think I am exaggerating, these are words pulled directly from the AISD dress code for elementary school students.

And yes, I concede. This language is applied to both boys and girls clothing; however, I have yet to run across a news story of a boy being sent home for short shorts that “distract” in elementary school.  There are a few categories that appear more gender neutral in the school dress code: muscle shirts, elongated arm holes, baggy pants, gang associated clothing, gym shorts (high school only), and pajamas (high school only). While other forbidden clothing appear to be intended for youth identifying as female: shorts that distract, skirts that distract, bare midriffs, fake nails and makeup, halter tops, low cut neckline, see through clothing, spaghetti straps, strapless tops, and visible undergarments. Lastly, “administration has the final decision as to what is inappropriate or distracting.”

I agree. There are certain standards of dress that should be adhered to in a learning environment for any child. However, have we gone too far? Are we causing more damage than harm with the implications of the language used in these school dress codes?

Are we so concerned that an 8-year-old girl will be wearing clothing so “distracting” that our mindless boys will not be able to learn? Let’s give our girls and boys a little more credit than that. Are we worried about childhood predators? Let’s work on policies that encourage safety as opposed to trying to physically hide our young girls. Simple clothing is not going to “encourage” a childhood predator. The problem lies much deeper than that.

I hold  many oppositions to the sexism found in schools’ dress code policies, from the archaic language to the discretionary vague “appropriateness” rendered by faculty and administration.  Girls are being sent home for leggings for crying out loud. Leggings — my personal bread and butter of clothing.  And please, no debating  whether leggings constitute fashionable pants. They prove practical for this work from home busy mamma as well as for school-age girls. Why are we forbidding our girls to wear movement-oriented pants?

The thing is, this seemingly innocuous policy causes a heavy trickle down effect when it comes to our daughters’ body images and society’s view on female sexuality. This language implies that it is up to a child to be covered in a way as to not feel shame, thereby implying a girl’s body is something to be ashamed of. It suggests that if a girl or woman dresses in a certain way, a boy or man cannot help but look, stare, and be “distracted.”

Moreover, it is this language that sets the tone for a world where young girls are sexualized and objectified, then told it is their fault. If someone is objectifying a woman or sexualizing a child’s body, it is they who should feel shame, not our daughters.

We do not need to teach our girls how to be “proper” ladies so as NOT to invite unwanted sexual advances. NO. We need to teach our girls how strong and amazing the female body is, all that it can do, and let them take ownership of what society seems dead set on stealing.

When a young girl is embarrassed and sent home from school because of a “suggestive” outfit, we are failing our daughters.

As we blame girls for wearing shorts and skirts that “distract,” we are slut shaming our daughters.

Deeming sportswear leggings and biker shorts as inappropriate, we are then denying the functionality of a girl’s body.

When we embarrass our daughters for the clothes they wear, we are teaching them body shame.

Language perpetuates action, and we set a dangerous tone for our children with current dress code policies.

Let’s flip the switch on how we talk about our daughter’s clothing and bodies.

 

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One Response to Are School Dress Codes Slut Shaming Our Daughters?

  1. Claudia Goldman November 10, 2016 at 7:46 am #

    This is so wonderfully said. Thank you ! Krista.
    Young women need to be able to empower their being. Their bodies are just a shell for who they are…I find it so sad that the body becomes the first description of a girl or woman. We are so much more.

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