Girls’ dress choices do not invite disrespect

Jada Fitzpatrick
Queens, N.Y.

Illustration by Jeannie Regidor

Illustration by Jeannie Regidor

I’m proud of the girls who have respect enough not to dress inappropriately and to follow the dress code as the warm weather approaches.”

This is a statement that may sound familiar to many high school students. In fact, this is something my principal said recently.

I did not have an immediate reaction, but as I sat and thought about the words my principal had uttered, my blood began to boil. Respect? It was as if wearing shorts and revealing my belly button equated to a lack of self-respect.

What was even more horrifying was the fact that my guidance counselor said she agreed with my principal’s perspective. She implied that wearing a crop top or similar clothes attracts negative attention and girls who dress inappropriately contribute to the possibility of their rape. She’s a woman, by the way.

This is not just restricted to my school. Take, for example, Minnetonka High School in Minnesota. Girls were banned from wearing leggings because, according to The Star Tribune, the principal said that leggings made their butts “too closely defined.”

In Georgia, the mother of a 6-year-old was told that her daughter’s skirt was “inappropriate and a distraction to other students,” according to WSB-TV. It was only a few inches above the knee, paired with thick white leggings and a pink and black long-sleeved Hello Kitty top. The child was a kindergartner. These are only a couple of examples of how slut shaming and the hyper-sexualization of the female body begin at such a young age.

Last year, when I wore a racerback tank top with thick straps on a humid first day of school, my high school counselor said it was unprofessional. I was told to wear a long-sleeved cardigan. Girls are told that showing too much skin will distract boys. The list of reasons why some school dress codes promote hyper-sexualization of the female body is quite obvious and ridiculous.

On behalf of myself and the thousands of other girls who are oppressed, slut-shamed, or judged for what we’re wearing: 

1. We do not dress for boys’ attention but instead to feel confident, beautiful, and most importantly, comfortable with ourselves.

2. Our outfit is not our consent. Consent is a clear “yes,” and the lack of an answer is not a “yes,” nor is a “no” a shy code word for “yes.”

3. When girls are sent home to change their outfits because it is distracting to other students, they lose valuable instruction time. This in turn teaches girls that their education is secondary in terms of importance and that it is their goal to make others feel comfortable before themselves.

4. Rape is NEVER the victim’s fault. It is the result of the rapist’s lack of self-control and desire to overpower another individual.

I understand why some may feel that clothing illustrates a woman’s level of self-respect, but they are only looking at the surface. There are certain situations, like job interviews, in which specific articles of clothing would not be appropriate, but school and business professionalism are two different things.   School should be a more relaxed environment that focuses on the advancement of our education and not our attire.

Please leave the body policing to the owner of said body in question. Stop shaming a girl’s or woman’s body and sexualizing it. An individual’s choice of clothing does not equate to a lack of self-worth, but instead gives girls freedom to express themselves.

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