When I was in middle school back in the olden days (hint: it was just after leg warmers went out and hypercolor shirts came in), I had this t-shirt that had a cartoon duck on it. It said “Tall, Duck and Handsome.” I’d done some growing, so it was a little short – it skimmed the top of my jeans, and like an inch of belly was exposed when I raised my arms. This was too much for the puritans of our local school district, who pulled me out of class, called my mom, and told her that such skimpy clothing was not allowed on awkward prepubescent girls.
My mother, who was something of a warrior, read them the riot act. She belted them with facts: we were still little kids. The shirt was cute and funny, not sexy. The shirt covered pretty much everything unless I raised my arms overhead, and if they couldn’t handle that little bit of skin, that was their problem. She had them quaking by the end of her tirade. I think they were about to give up and send me back to class, but she pulled me out of school and took me to have either ice cream or lunch – unfortunately, my memory fades on that point. We had a nice mother-daughter day, and I knew from then onward that my mom would always have my back in battles over dress codes. When they divorced, my dad took over the not giving a shit and expecting other people to accept my sartorial choices. When people would ask him how he could possibly let me wear x, y, or z, he’d calmly explain to them that I was comfortable and creative, and if they had a problem, they’d have to deal with it their own damn selves.
I grew up thinking this was how things should be. But I have discovered that we’ve gone rather backwards. Women’s clothing choices have always been policed, but when schools send girls home for dressing like this:
and the principal explains that the boys may get distracted by this tiniest amount of visible collar bone, then we know we have gone right round the bend.
I am so very tired of this shit.
When will we as a society learn that it’s not up to girls and women to control the actions of boys and men? When will we start demanding sexual harassers be held accountable for their actions?
This is the bullshit excuse the principal gives for that creepy-restrictive dress code that demands girls cover even their collar bones:
“In the documentary, Principal Akers cites removing distraction as a motivating factor behind dress codes, though he adds he was not at Woodford County High School when this particular policy was implemented during the 2004-05 school year. In his past experience as an administrator, he says, “issues with sexual harassment” among students prompted stricter dress codes.
“‘Certain outfits that [female students] wore created this situation where guys would make inappropriate statements, and there was a distraction to the learning environment based on what some of the folks were wearing at school,’ he says in the film.”
You know who was causing the distractions, Principal Akers? Hint: IT WASN’T THE GIRLS. Do you know who should have been taught to change their behavior and conform it to reasonable standards for an academic environment? Hint: IT WASN’T THE GIRLS.
You men and boys really need to start handling your own damn issues. Grow up. Get your pants-feels under control, and if you can’t do that, stay home. Stop expecting female-presenting people to make themselves invisible so as not to distract you. We’re no longer living in a world where you’re the supposed default lords and masters. You’re going to have to learn how to behave appropriately around cis and trans women. And if you can’t do that, if that’s really beyond your abilities, then it’s obviously you that needs to be removed from the situation.
My mom and dad expected the people around me, even the kids, to be mature enough to handle themselves no matter what I was wearing. Throughout my high school career, I wore what I wanted, whether that was ripped-up jeans and studded jackets, my black cloak, or pretty skirts and tops. And remarkably enough, the boys and men around me were able to behave themselves no matter what I had on. (Well, aside from that time the school bully decided I couldn’t fight back in a skirt, but I put the fear of Dana in him and we were fine after he got over being terrified of me.) Point is, the vast majority of the people I spent my days with did not use my clothing as an excuse to act like raging jackasses, because no one sent them a message saying, “Hey, boys! If she’s showing some shoulder, you can totes get away with harassing her! And you won’t get in trouble – she will!”
You may think you’re doing your students a favor by having your girls cover up more and more, but that’s not how this works. You tell a boy he can’t control himself around an inch of flesh, he’ll act out if he can see so much as a fraction. You haven’t taught anyone anything other than how to act like an asshole and get someone else punished for it. Keep going down this road, and soon the girls will be in shapeless sacks head to toe, and you’ll still have out-of-control boys, because they won’t have been taught how to comport themselves.
On the other hand, if you firmly expect the boys to behave even if the girls walk in buck naked, and make the boys bear the consequences for their own actions when they act like fools, then you’ll soon have boys who can concentrate just fine no matter how much skin they’re exposed to.
And I’m sorry, Mr. Principal, if your society didn’t raise you right. I’m sorry if you lose all self-control in the face of a little flesh. If that’s the case, you should probably find a job working by yourself in the middle of nowhere, because you are not fit for civilization. You sure as shit need to get away from children.
Same goes for the women who enable this fuckery believing men have no self-control. It’s time you start expecting more from the men, and stop enforcing this patriarchal bullshit on girls. Are we clear?