I was feeling so super good the other day. Like, so super good. And then I was told by a teacher, whom shall remain nameless, that, “maybe I should try to be more modest,” as she eyed my leggings. Or more specifically, my butt in my leggings. “We don’t want to be distracting, do we?” She asked as my mouth dropped in surprise.
Allow me to properly paint the scene for you. I was wearing my fabulous fur jacket, a turtleneck shirt, leggings and my new boots. In summary, I looked amazing. I also happened to be fully covered. But apparently me looking fly was distracting to my classmates. Apparently, me, and my big, black ass were too much for the poor, sheltered students at PHS to handle. Thank god that this teacher took the fate of the children into her own hands by giving me a great piece of advice.
Obviously this is ridiculous. Not only that, it is also infuriating. How dare someone, an adult especially, tell me to cover up? How could someone forty years my senior have the audacity to sexualize my body and then try to make me feel bad about it. She was so condescending, and so out of line.
The sad part is that this is a poor example of the sexualization of teenage girls’ bodies that happens every day, in schools across the country. This entire thing is minor in comparison to how other teachers regard girls and the way they dress. They are seen, not only by adults but also by their peers as sexual beings whether they want that type of attention or not. We are told to cover up, and to dress “appropriately,” with the underlying meaning of “do not flaunt your body, if you do, you run the risk of distracting boys, which is completely unacceptable.”
Telling girls and young women how to dress is only further perpetrating the male-dominated power structure which is today’s society. It is a perversion of nature which ought to be abolished, not promoted and nurtured as it so often is.
For me, and many other girls, it began in middle school. From the get-go, as soon as any girl started looking less like a fourth grader and more like an actual person, the aides would make a hobby out of constantly shaming her for the way she was dressed. The shorts were too short, the necklines too low, the dresses too tight, anything could serve as basis for being sent to the nurse where she too would berate you for dressing in a way which may be distracting to the other students. Of course, by other students they meant boys.
The number of times I was chastised for what I chose to wear is unfathomable. It is also disgusting. They so shamelessly promoted rape culture by way of telling me that the way I dressed defined me. And by pulling girls aside in the halls or making them change into their gym clothes half way through the day, they showed boys too, that the way a woman dresses defines her as well. It also showed them that if a girl is dressed in a way which displays her body and distracts them, it is her fault for being distracting. Not their fault for being distracted. Instilling that thought process at such young an age allows for it to develop into something dangerous and ugly. Such as, if a woman is dressed in a revealing way, then she is asking for sexual attention and it is her fault if she receives it. Not the perpetrator’s.
This mentality does not only exist at the institutional level but is also deeply engrained into our behavior at the social level. We, as a society have a problem if we see a girl’s bra strap. Or if she flaunts her physical attributes, whether it be too short a skirt or too tight a top. We call her a slut or an attention seeker if she displays her body. It is a toxic environment for all young women to grow and develop in.
We also encourage competition between girls. And not good competition either. Not competition in terms if academia or sport but instead for the attention of boys. It’s totally fine for a girl to call her peer a slut or a whore for wearing certain clothes or acting a certain way but very rarely do we see similar interactions between males. Women and girls use these self-deprecating terms to put other females down and make themselves look better for petty reasons. This is a societal norm and is encouraged in large groups of girls. Females are some of the biggest slut-shamers out there, which makes no sense. We’re just making ourselves look bad.
We need to raise boys and girls the same way to alleviate these issues. We need to stop telling girls that it’s their fault. We need to pull it together because it’s almost 2016, for christ’s sake. For all the adults reading this, next time you feel the need to tell a young lady how she should be dressing, don’t. And for the teenagers reading this, it’s your responsibility to stop perpetrating this male supremacy, and start practicing equality. Or else we’re all screwed.
There’s no gossip here. Just some things to think about.
Until next time,