I was fourteen years old when I first discovered that my shoulders were distracting. Clearly, arms are one of the most sexual parts of the human body. I didn’t even realize that boys couldn’t focus on their work, because they were too busy dreaming about my shoulders. Nonetheless, it is completely understandable why I was sent to the office my freshman year of high school and asked to change into a more appropriate shirt.
Our society has created a ridiculous mindset that leads women to feel uncomfortable in their own bodies. When I first entered high school, I learned all too quickly that the dress codes target women. Many schools prohibit girls from wearing shorts, leggings, tank tops, and god forbid a bra strap is showing. On the other hand, boys aren’t scrutinized for the amount of skin they show. They are free to wear shorts, or muscle t-shirts that practically expose their entire upper bodies. Recently, this inequality has become a popular topic of conversation. As seen below, many turned to twitter to express how they interpreted high school dress codes.
While these tweets gained the attention of the younger generation, they unfortunetly were not enough to create an impacting difference.
Before I state how we must change, it is necessary to understand how schools have the ability to enforce such unjust rules in the first place.
After multiple court cases, including Bethel School District v. Fraser and Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, schools were granted to right to ban clothing that distracts from the “basic educational mission.” That means it is completely under the school’s discretion what clothing can be worn. According to Educational Horizons, an academic journal, dress codes may be enforced based on societal norms. However, these norms inhibit gender equality.
Everything from girls’ shoulders to their ankles have been sexualized by society today. There is an unsaid expectation that women must cover up in order to be respectable; the male mind would get distracted otherwise. If girls don’t follow these norms, the school punishes them. Teachers and administration force these students to leave the classroom to change, or in many cases, they are sent home. This implies that a male’s education is more important than a female’s. Time in the classroom is taken away in order to cover up something as innocent as shoulders.
These students are our daughters, friends, future mothers, and wives. We cannot treat them like their education is second best to boys’. High school students, especially, are very impressionable. They are in the process of figuring themselves out. If you tell them to feel insecure about their bodies, more than likely, they will. If you show girls that their education is not as important, they will certainly begin to treat it that way.
Although it may seem like we are making great strides in gender-based issues, there are underlying problems that we still must face. It is time to stop ignoring the fact that our education system has the ability of sexualizing women’s bodies. It is the school’s job to teach our children academic information. I can assure you, no shoulder, thigh, or knee will distract from that purpose. Aside from the school system, parents are responsible for changing the societal norm that is currently in place. It is necessary to teach children that dressing respectably isn’t about covering your entire body, but rather, being confident in your own skin.
Showing shoulders isn’t a sin, but sexualizing the human body is.
Watch this video for more information about gender inequality: