I have tried to keep my blog politics-free so far, (which is a challenge because I am studying political science for those of you who don’t know) but I simply can’t manage to keep my mouth shut when it comes to this particular movement: A woman does not, and should not have to be be modest in order to be respected.
In fourth grade I wasn’t allowed inside my school’s chapel because I was wearing a dress that “exposed too much shoulder.” My teacher made me sit outside while I waited for my mom to drop off a sweater or change of clothes. At the time I didn’t question this incident too much; I was ten and was used to a strict dress code in church, so I hardly understood the larger problem that was at play.
In eighth grade my history teacher made me leave class, and again call my mom to bring me a change of clothes, because my skirt was too short, and “it was a distraction”. My skirt was a few inches past my knees when this happened, this time at age 13. I was old enough to recognize that my calves weren’t exactly provocative, but still too young to see the unfairness in forcing women to cater to men’s supposedly uncontrollable sexual urges.
In tenth grade I realized school dress codes were geared entirely towards women. Every girl I knew had been dress coded at least once for wearing clothing attire distracting to the learning environment. I also realized “the learning environment” was code for men. Teachers, whom I was expected to look up to and respect, thought that the distraction my shoulders and legs caused to boys, was more pressing an issue than my education.
In twelfth grade I realized that the hypersexualization of women was a problem larger than school dress codes. I watched rape victims in court get questioned viciously by defense attorneys determined to prove that a woman’s choice of clothing could serve as consent to sex; the victim “was asking for it” because she was wearing a short skirt. The victim had “slept around” so she “must have been asking for it.” People acted as though men were animals who physically could not control themselves when they saw a shoulder. Women were expected to dress a certain way in order to avoid being raped.
When I got to college I thought this couldn’t possibly be the society I lived in: a society that taught women how not to get raped, instead of teaching men not to rape women. I watched sexual abuse survivors come out against their attackers, and saw how unevenly the scales were tipped. It took hundreds of rape victims to bring down ONE powerful man in some cases. Harvey Weinstein, Larry Nassar, Kevin Spacey, Bill Cosby, do I dare go on.
Women are supposed to be equal to men, yet we are subjected to sexist microaggressions the instant we enter school as kids. While dress codes may not seem like a big deal in themselves- it’s the principle; we are drilling the justification “boys will be boys” into the minds of our youth. Boys will be boys, so instead of teaching them self control, we make women dress to entertain the idea.
To put it as gently as I can, this is absolute bullshit. Education should not be sacrificed for the sake of covering shoulders. A rape victims outfit should have absolutely zero relevance in a courtroom. The idea that women claim sexual assault for attention is insulting and absurd; IT SHOULD ONLY TAKE ONE SEXUAL ABUSE VICTIM TO RAISE CONCERN.
I wanted to write this post because I have driven myself insane trying to understand how it’s 2018, and yet women are still subjected to inferior treatment than men. Looking back on my childhood experiences, the education system alone was enough to bring clarity to the subject. School is supposed to be a place where education, respect, and preparation for the real world are fostered. By endorsing sexist dress codes we are teaching future generations that a woman’s worth is only valid when she is clothed “appropriately.”
It is time for women and men alike to stop body shaming women in the name of respect. A huge thank you to women like Aly Raisman, Emily Ratajkowski, Nina Agdal, and many more for paving the way. It is time to take action against sexism in its many forms, beginning by abolishing the notion that a woman’s outfit equates to how much respect she should be treated with. A woman does not have to be modest in order to be respected, and if you think otherwise, YOU are the problem.