21st Century Scarlet Letter
Last week, a story came out regarding a teen who after attending a Florida school for 3 days after moving from Oregon was punished in a disrespectful way for violating the dress code she didn’t yet know about.
She wore a skirt that was considered too short, and she was taken to the nurse’s office right after first period, and was forced to wear the “shame suit.”
The shame suit is a huge, neon green shirt that reads “Dress Code Violation” across the front and baggy red athletic pants. The 15 year-old was not offered the option to go home and change and was instead, forced to wear this outfit, which the school openly admits is used to embarrass and publicly humiliate students who violate the dress code.
Dress codes are commonplace and make sense. While they are abused in a manner as to police women’s bodies in an unfair way, the point of this story has nothing to do with whether or not the code was violated. Rather than allowing the student to go change and fix the problem in a reasonable way, the school has instituted a cruel punishment that far outweighs the violation itself, even acknowledging that the code is based on a shaming system.
Once again, the idea that women’s bodies are something to be controlled and feared is reinforced. A terrible message is sent to this student as well as the rest of the student body (no pun intended) that it is okay to shame women for what they wear. I wonder how often the male students are forced to wear the shame suit?
We are always talking about women’s twisted relationships with their bodies as a society. Unfortunately, this story is another confirmation that our institutions do nothing to help, and, in this case, actually worsen the situation. The teenage years are formative and the relationship a teen has with her body is already a complicated one. A body is nothing to be ashamed of. Although what are considered appropriate outfits for appropriate times do exist, the outfit forced upon this girl was not appropriate.
Makes me wonder if The Scarlet Letter is assigned reading at this high school, because it seems that the faculty needs to brush up on their reading.
Student Forced to Wear ‘Shame Suit’ for Dress Code Violation