“If someone’s wearing it, it’ll get around.” So says a student at North Dakota’s Devils Lake High School (no, I didn’t make up that name).
We’re back to — rather, we never left — blaming the victim (specifically females) yet again. Remember that teen who was asked to leave her prom because her dress was too distracting to the chaperone dads? Well, here we go again. In a bizarre (and ignorant) judgement call, principal Ryan Hanson not only banned female students from wearing yoga pants, leggings, jeggings and skinny jeans (basically any form-fitting legwear), an assembly was held, and movie clips shown to demonstrate “inappropriate” and “appropriate” dress. Now read these next words slowly and carefully, because otherwise you’ll probably have to go over them several times, thinking there must be some mistake, or possibly you’re in the middle of having a brain aneurysm: In order to demonstrate how girls should and should not dress for school, clips from Pretty Woman were shown, and a teacher told the female students that when they wear leggings, they look like “prostitutes walking the streets.” (The DLHS assistant principal admitted the teacher probably shouldn’t have said that.)
Rationalizing showing the movie clips to students, Hanson described “…two small clips, one where Julia Roberts is scantily clad and walks into a store and they basically admonish her and say this probably isn’t the store for you. The next clip showed her after a makeover, dressed to the nines really looking appropriate. She goes into the same store and they treat her much differently.” Phyllis Kadrmas, the teacher who showed the clips, seemed nonplussed (it’s the media’s fault) by public reaction: “It was a stressful thing and I’ve taught a long time and been through a lot of battles…We just wanted a visual example of the way you dress is - how people perceive you. “
Can this really be happening? Are the people running our schools really this stupid? Don’t answer that.
The principal further explained “Basically, it’s kind of like boys a few years ago wore pants really low, to see their underwear.” Um, no. It’s nothing like that. Nobody bans boys wearing low shorts because it’s too sexy for the girls or the teachers to see; they ban it because it squicks certain people out. Nobody accused boys of looking like hookers, or enticing the school population with their sexuality, and you don’t ever read stories about males being blamed for their own sexual attacks because of the way they dress. RAPE AND SEXUAL ATTACKS ARE NOT ABOUT HOW PEOPLE DRESS, THEY ARE ABOUT POWER AND CONTROL.
Following the principal’s new edict (the district superintendent says no official policy change has been made), parents and students have pointed out that the school should be focusing on more important things, like bullying. I’m saying, they should be focusing on more important things, like giving the entire school population correct information about sexual attacks and why they occur, and how everyone needs to stop holding only women responsible for others’ thoughts and actions. If your teachers cannot concentrate on their jobs because female students are wearing yoga pants or leggings, neither the problem nor the responsibility lies with the students. And before people start in with the, “Well, some kids do dress inappropriately” argument, just don’t. Most schools do have some sort of overall dress code, that’s a given. But singling out female students to be responsible for dressing in a manner so as not to provoke another person’s thoughts is ludicrous. No one could possibly determine every other individual’s perceptions, and an individual sexualizing a female student has nothing to do with her clothing. Perpetuating this type of misinformation, and blaming female students for others’ thoughts is both incomprehensible and unacceptable. I hope the parents of kids attending that school rally together to get the right perceptions corrected.