My daughter was sent home from school with a note one of the last days of school. Along with the note, she was wearing her gym uniform t-shirt. Seems her bra strap was visible beneath her sleeveless top & so she was deemed unacceptably dressed & forced to wear the “more coverage providing” gym shirt. The note was a reminder of the high school’s dress code.
Now I’d seen my daughter dressed that morning when she left for school, and I assure you that she was decently dressed. I guess after a few hours of natural body movement, her bra strap peeked out from under the sleeveless top — a completely unnatural and non-come-hither thing, right ladies? I mean, name a summer top where at some point some movement you or your purse strap makes does not result in a bit of bra becoming visible. The only real way to avoid it is to wear a high-necked or longer sleeved shirt — something that is often uncomfortable due to high temperatures, which is why boys (but not girls!) are allowed to wear tank tops (including those with neck, back & arm holes down to their waists).
Curious, I called the school. Maybe I was missing something here… Maybe my daughter had done some clothing switcheroo at school — like the sort of thing you see in movies. No, she hadn’t.
So I asked what the problem was. And I patiently listened to the generic dress code prattle.
Then asked the counselor to tell me specifically why this less than 2 inch bit of less than 1/2 an inch wide a bit of ivory colored fabric beneath a red top should be such a problem.
The reason? It’s not fair to ask hormonal boys to concentrate on their tests & studies with such a thing so visible.
Umm, excuse me; whatever happened to the old school mantra “Keep your eyes on your own paper, son,” and just good old “Mind your own business.”
The counselor informed me that girls are present in the hallways etc. and, “you know boys & their hormones.”
“Yes,” I replied, “I sure do — and shouldn’t they be learning self-control along with arithmetic?”
“Certainly, b-b-but,” she began, far less comfortable talking with me.
“You just confirmed that my daughter was not dressed like Madonna in the 80’s,” I said, “so it’s not like she was dressed inappropriately for school.”
Uncomfortable silence from the counselor.
I just waited her out.
“The school’s policy is not to add distraction for the boys. I don’t make the policies…”
So I scheduled a meeting with the principals — yes, principals, because you know they have like a dozen of them per school now. The counselor was there too.
The meeting started like the phone conversation with the counselor had & I remained patient & bid my time. When we got to the cut & paste part of their script, the part designed to end the conversation, the “our policy is not to add distraction for the boys,” that’s when I dug my heels in.
“But my daughter was dressed according to policy — save for a bit of bra strap that by your own admission was neither purposefully, provocatively, slid off onto the shoulder, nor anything else other than a bit of material showing beneath a — again, perfectly acceptable in every other way — top. It was simply a small matter of normal movement.”
“Yes, that’s why she wasn’t sent home immediately.”
“But she was forced to change her clothing.”
“So as not to embarrass herself or distract other students.”
“Oh, I see,” I said, my voice rich in sarcasm, “So I’m assuming that all the female teachers & staff over an A-cup are wearing clothing that falls like big roomy tents from their chests, so that there’s no hint of breasts or female form, right?”
Sound of crickets chirping.
“I can’t tell… Is your silence confirmation that this is done or shock at such a stupid suggestion?“
A sputter of some sort. Some blushing. Followed by more crickets.
“I think we both know it is ridiculous & unfair to ask women of any age — in any situation — to dress to conceal their gender. Why are we teaching girls & young women to hide & be ashamed of their bodies? To be afraid of them, even? Even wearing a burka announces that a female form lies beneath it; you can’t control what these boys might think — they are the only ones who can do that. And that’s what the schools should be requiring — that the males learn to control their thoughts & actions.”
Before the crickets could become deafening, the principal spoke. “This policy is also for your daughter’s safety; to ensure nothing happens to her.”
“You think you are making her safe by teaching her to change her already appropriate dress? You think that the appropriate message here is that girls need to watch every little thing they do, including a purse strap that pulls on the shoulder of her top and exposes 2 inches of bra strap, in order to protect themselves from a probable or possible sexual assault? If you do, then you, by giving them the responsibility for what some male might do, are blaming victims. That is neither accurate nor fair; and it’s sexism. Because you are not holding the perpetrators or possible perpetrators responsible — and you are placing undue, illogical, restraints on one gender — and that gender the very one to be victimized. Nor are you communicating a no tolerance policy with regards to assaults on women. Frankly, you are giving away excuses for those who assault, rape, attack & abuse women — before anything has even happened. Such policies & attitudes condone & encourage such crimes.”
The principal, trying to regain control of the meeting, replies with, “I’m not sure what it is you’d like us to do at this point… Your daughter’s got nothing on her record… What specifically would you like us to do?”
“I’d like you & this school to start teaching young men self control, to stop making young women accountable & responsible for what males might do, and to make it absolutely clear that victims are not responsible in any way for the assaults, attacks & abuse. I want policies corrected & created to teach & enforce zero tolerance in these areas.”
I’d like to leave the post there — on an assertive note. But that’s not reality.
The reality is, they’ve “taken in & noted my concerns” and suggested I get involved with our local parent-teacher association as well as the school board. These things of course must wait until next year. And if I can’t seem to get “educated” people to understand the obvious, well, let’s just say I won’t be holding my breath.
And the whole thing has me really, really, pissed off.
What say you?