The concern for overly exposed young bodies may be well-intentioned. With society fetishizing girls at younger and younger ages, girls are instructed to self-objectify and see themselves as sexual objects, something to be looked at. A laundry list of problems can come from obsessing over one’s appearance: eating disorders, depression, low self-worth. Who wouldn’t want to spare her daughter from these struggles?
But these dress codes fall short of being legitimately helpful. What we fail to consider when enforcing restrictions on skirt-length and the tightness of pants is the girls themselves—not just their clothes, but their thoughts, emotions, budding sexuality and self-image.
Instead, these restrictions are executed with distracted boys in mind, casting girls as inherent sexual threats needing to be tamed. Dress restrictions in schools contribute to the very problem they aim to solve: the objectification of young girls. When you tell a girl what to wear (or force her to cover up with an oversized T-shirt), you control her body. When you control a girl’s body—even if it is ostensibly for her “own good”—you take away her agency. You tell her that her body is not her own.
When you deem a girl’s dress “inappropriate,” you’re also telling her, “Because your body may distract boys, your body is inappropriate. Cover it up.” You recontextualize her body; she now exists through the male gaze.
“As a child I was taught that to tell the truth was often painful. As an adult I have learned that not to tell the truth is more painful, and that the fear of telling the truth — whatever the truth may be — that fear is the most painful sensation of a moral life.”—June Jordan (via purplebuddhaproject)
“I have always lived in a world in which I’m just a spot in history. My life is not the important point. I’m just part of the continuum, and that continuum, to me, is a marvelous thing. The history of life, and the history of the planet, should go on and on and on and on. I cannot conceive of anything in the universe that has more meaning than that.”—Sheri S. Tepper (via purplebuddhaproject)