As summer sun soars on, girls across the country find comfort in tank tops and spaghetti straps. However, many of these young women are being punished at school for violating dress codes. It looks like such rules are a way to perpetuate systemic sexism, for both males and females.
Recently, at Labrador City’s Menihek High School, approximately 30 students were sent home from school for wearing inappropriate clothing, including mostly females with exposed bra straps, and two males wearing sleeveless shirts.
While the dress code appears to be non-gender biased, students have said otherwise. The Huffington Post quotes student Maddie Plynn saying that school officials said dress codes are in place to keep girls’ bodies from distracting boys. Some boys, she said, feel they are being made out to be “uncontrolled horny monsters.”
Another student, Danielle Matias, says that she was told girls can’t wear certain clothing, as “male students will take it the wrong way”
These rules are clearly unfair for both sexes. While women often deal with the confrontational side of this issue, males surely have difficulties reconciling a rule that makes them out to be dogmatic.
Recognizing that someone is attractive is natural and often uncontrollable. However, punishing a girl, either through embarrassment or sending her home, based on how she looks is unacceptable. What the girl is wearing should not be the focus of the issue. Instead, the focus should be on the staff and students who feel the need to target women for their attire.
Moreover, shaming young women for their bra straps is a destructive rule as it objectifies them and alienates them from their male counterparts. Perhaps not at this school, but certainly at others, and in general public, boys wear tanks, showing the exact same amount of skin as girls, yet never face similar punishment or criticism.
Bras are a female-specific garment that provide comfort and support. Sending girls home from school because of visible bra straps sends a message that sexualization is their fault and it’s up to them to not lead men on with what they wear. Teaching kids to shame bra straps is proof of work yet to be done in regards to sexual objectification.
Sadly, the explanations girls like Plynn and Matias receive regarding their summer attire are too commonly heard. Rather than a clothing crack-down, schools need more opportunities in place to educate both males and females about respecting the differences in their anatomies.
School boards and staff have argued that schools are a workplace and students should be dressed professionally. Schools need to be treated as more than strictly professional, though.
To kids, they’re so much more: they’re places of personal growth and socialization. It is in the best interest of schools to let students feel that a school is a safe place where they can express themselves freely without fear of judgment and humiliation. Perpetuating a taboo on bra straps does not serve society or schools well. Women should feel that how they present their bodies is up to them.
The core of this issue is going by unnoticed. Everyone has a right to wear comfortable clothing on hot summer days. School boards should not dictate what young girls find comfortable. A girl showing her shoulders or bra straps is not trying to provoke any attention, but rather stay cool and comfortable on hot days.
Teachers or parents sending girls home are out of line, and send damaging messages to children.