That got your attention, right? Everyone likes to talk about sluts. But what about slut-shaming?
Earlier this week, my daughter, Dayah Dover, a junior in high school, addressed the Billings school board regarding changes to the dress code. Reading the nasty comments made not only directed to her-but to all women- in the comments of the Billings Gazette inspired my return to blogging after a year-long hiatus.
Across the country, middle and high schools are walking a very fine line between dress code enforcement and slut-shaming and increasingly our young women are getting an entirely different sort of education than they one we intended for them. Skyview High School in Billings recently amended the school’s dress code to address articles of clothing the administration believes are distracting to boys. Leggings, yoga pants, and jeggings are now banned unless they are worn with skirts, shorts or pants. I don’t deny that schools have the right to regulate the attire of students, but the justification of this policy smacks of slut-shaming. To suggest that the attire of high school girls is responsible for boys’ bad behavior is truly alarming. That school administrators would treat girls’ bodies as inherently distracting is an attitude deeply-rooted in rape culture and it is truly sad that Skyview Principal Deb Black, a female, continues to perpetuate this.
If boys are indeed unduly distracted by the presence of female curves, why aren’t we having discussions with our boys about respecting women and not objectifying them? This is like asking a rape victim what she was wearing, as if it contributed to her rape. We teach our girls to not get raped rather than teaching our boys to not rape. “Boys will be boys”, right? Let’s just ban the offending garments, sending the message to our young girls that the behavior of the boys is justified due to the girls’ clothing choices. We put the onus on our young women to not only assist in educating the boys but to also prevent themselves from being objectified. This is shameful. And what message are we sending our boys? That they are have no free will at all- they are all just latent rapists and girls should modify their behavior to avoid provoking their lust? Be honest. The articles of clothing aren’t distracting, young women’s bodies are.
The typically reasonable blogger, James Conners of Flathead Memo today wrote “I’m no fan of dress codes, but I’m also no fan of students’ wearing costumes that are intended to win, well, the agitated attention of the opposite sex. There’s a place for that, but it’s not in school. And those leggings clad lasses and their defenders know it.” What?? I don’t know any woman who ever puts on an article of clothing with the intention of winning the “agitated attention of the opposite sex”, I certainly don’t. Don’t flatter yourself, guys. I can assure you that the reason we are wearing leggings is much more likely because we have our period and are bloated and uncomfortable than because we are trying to impress you.
What is the problem here? Does nobody in Montana understand how these policies and the negative discussion surrounding them harms our teenagers? Our girls already face inordinate pressure to maintain impossible standards of beauty- teaching them their bodies are something to be ashamed of is permanently damaging to self-esteem. The teenage years are tough enough, why are school administrators contributing to such inherently negative ideas?
I’m sure there are students pushing dress code limits every day, that is what kids do, and that is why we set limits. But these limits should promote the education of all students, not just one gender or population. This isn’t about yoga pants, leggings or jeggings. This isn’t even about the dress code. This controversy underscores a serious societal problem that is being bolstered by sexist policies like Skyview’s and eliminating wardrobe items deemed too provocative or distracting addresses only a symptom, not the underlying issue. This is an affront to equality and panders to a culture of victim blaming and slut shaming. And is appalling. Dayah started a petition at change.org to “Unban Yoga Pants and Leggings” at Skyview. You can sign it here.