Discrimination evident in policies
I was in my ninth-grade math class when I felt my cheeks get hot — almost as hot as the tears of embarrassment running down my face. I had been asked to step out of class: I was showing too much shoulder skin and had to go change into an old gym shirt, or I would have to be sent home. At that moment, I felt as if my receiving an education was not as important as making sure others were not distracted by the skin on my shoulders. I was a piece of flesh, not a person.
Sexist school dress code policies — those that oversexualize young women by prohibiting certain types of clothing, like shorter-length skirts, spaghetti straps, ripped jeans, and crop tops — cause deep rooted self-esteem issues and warped self-images. When a student is made to feel that the fact that they are showing too much skin is more important than their education, it can make them feel like an object.
In a 2014 New York Times article, Peggy Orenstein wrote, “In its landmark 2007 report on the sexualization of girlhood, the American Psychological Association linked self-objectification to poor self-esteem, depression, body dissatisfaction and compromised cognitive function.”
Do we really want our teenagers to stand in front of a mirror and hate themselves?
We are sending negative messages to young women when we place too much focus and attention on what they wear. Girls are constantly scrutinized and told that if they dress inappropriately, they are distracting.
When female students are told that their bodies are distracting we are also sending a negative message to male students. We are teaching young boys that the female body is meant to be covered up and that preventing them from being distracted is of far more importance than a girl’s education.
School dress codes are implemented to ensure a safe learning environment, not a “distraction”-free one.
There have been many reported cases of females being targeted far more than their male peers. Teachers are sending girls home for not wearing bras. Try and imagine the embarrassment that a developing and impressionable young girl would feel when she is reprimanded for not wearing an optional undergarment.
Women should be celebrated for their different body types but instead, sexist dress codes objectify girls of all shapes and sizes, which sends a horribly toxic message to our youth.
Morgan Trapper is a Buffalo resident.