Sluts and Curves
A key issue that has become increasingly covered by the media in recent months is school dress codes for girls. Although there have been issues regarding social control over what girls wear since always, it is important to note that this is a problem, which has become reported on much more, and thus talked about. Such attention has highlighted some very troubling implications about societal beliefs on females and sexuality.
One of the most telling stories as of late was about a girl getting kicked out of prom for her dress making the father chaperones think “impure thoughts.” On May 14th, a story published at the local Washington D.C. CBS blog told of how a 17-year-old girl was immediately stopped at prom to measure her dress. Understandably, at 5’9 finding a dress that would hit longer on her than, say, a 5’4 girl would be more difficult. However, after doing the “fingertip length” test, the female teacher who initially spotted her cleared the teenage girl and told her to be “careful” and to “make sure [the dress] stays pulled down.”
The girl, who blogged under the name Clare on the site HannahEttinger.com, went on to tell about how the fathers on the balcony above were ogling her while she was dancing, and talking among themselves. She was called off the dance floor by the same female teacher and was told that even though her dress passed the test, the fathers were complaining her dancing was “too provocative” and they were concerned the young men at prom were going to have “impure thoughts.” Even side-stepping the issues of slut-shaming, making it the female’s responsibility to control males’ thoughts and the underaged objectification, there is another issue that this incredibly inappropriate incident brings up–body shaming.
In high school, students are mandated to take a health class, which includes, among general nutrition, drug prevention attempts and sex ed, a unit on eating disorders and body dysmorphia. This girl was punished for having a developed body and being tall. If she were, say, 5’2 with a petite, boyish frame, then this would not have happened to her. Instead, because she has a healthy, womanly body, she is being punished for men being attracted to her body.
How is someone, especially a young person, supposed to feel about her body when authority figures and her school is telling her that even though she is breaking no rules, her body is the subject of thorough discussion, and, worse, punishment? We complain all the time about how the media is influencing girls to have insecurities about their bodies and eating disorders, but when the opportunity arises to combat this shame, we fail miserably.
Not only does this send a message to girls that their bodies are commodities on display for others to talk about and critique, it is telling the boys that it is perfectly natural and okay behavior to monitor and control the female form.