I AM NOT A DISTRACTION

Sources: Google Images

Sources: Google Images

Jordan Pyle, Editor

For thousands of years, women’s appearances and trends have been dictated by the male gaze. Though we have come a long way from the scandalous ankles of the Tudor and Elizabethan eras, every societal and school rule dedicated to regulating what we wear targets women and feminine presenting people.

 

Every school I have ever been to has had at least one rule that only applies to women. My elementary school would not allow earrings that were not studs because of safety—boys would apparently rip them out of our ears if they were not studs. Our sleeves had to be at least three inches wide so we did not show our shoulders. On Wednesdays and Fridays, we had to wear skirts, but we got in trouble for wearing shorts underneath to make us more comfortable.

 

But we are told to cover up.

 

At my middle school orientation, the administration explained the dress code to us. All of the boys checked out of the conversation because they knew it would not affect what they wore. They told the girls that the neckline of our shirts could not be more than three fingers below our collarbone. Despite the fact that the rule unfairly targets certain body types, the real issue I had with this rule was their explanation. Our principal stood in front of my entire class and told us that we had to follow this rule so we did not distract our male classmates and teachers. We could not wear jeans with holes and leggings in them for the same reason. If your staff are at all distracted by the nonsexual body parts of minors, hire new staff.

 

Even at Connersville High School, we have this issue. Rules are in place to make the school a safe learning environment, to make it distraction free. If my body can be considered a distraction, then why is it not a distraction when male staff members stare at me inappropriately as I walk down the hallway? Why is it not a distraction when the same male teacher frequently and obviously ogles at girls in his classes? Many of my friends fall into this category, as well. We dress code dozens of times every semester for something as simple as an exposed shoulder, but nothing is done when we have someone report this teacher for sexual harassment on multiple accounts and for various people. All we get in response is a simple, “Would you like to talk to him about it?”

 

But we are the problem.

 

I know every single female presenting student in America has, on some level, heard someone tell them or someone they know that their outfit will distract male students and keep them from doing their work. What part of our outfit? The slightly exposed collarbone? The barely visible sliver of back or stomach? Which parts of our bodies are going to prevent male students from learning?

 

My shoulders are not a distraction. My collarbone is not a distraction. My belly button is not a distraction. My legs are not a distraction. My body is not a distraction. Stop turning women’s clothing into a war against the ability of men to learn. We have just as much right to exist and learn in the same space, regardless of our appearance. The only thing you teach us when you pull us out of class, send us home, and ridicule us for wearing what the clothing industry markets is that we do not deserve the same education as men if we do not dress like we just stepped out of a 1920s etiquette class.

 

Our dress codes are a direct response to the oversexualization of young women and girls, and no matter what we do, we are ridiculed for it. We cover up because they call us sluts, whores, and because they tell us we are asking for whatever someone decides to do to us. We reveal more because they call us prudish, stuck-up, nuns, and the cycle starts all over again. The clothing industry does nothing but exacerbate the issue. The only clothes they heavily market are clothes that we would be dress coded for.

 

However, what really frustrates me is that there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of videos on TikTok, Youtube, etc. of male students wearing the exact same thing as their female friends. Predictably, their friends get dress coded or written up, and the guy receives no punishment. I saw one recently where the male student was wearing a more revealing outfit than his friends, and he was the only one who did not get dress coded.

 

Make it make sense. When men wear crop tops, they are respectable, but women are not? If schools are going to continue this oversexualization of women and further perpetuate a massive double standard, they should at least admit that their real issue is with the existence of women and their bodies. Maybe it is subconscious. Maybe they do not realize the harmful standards they perpetuate.

 

But that does not mean they cannot change.