Oh, back-to-school season is upon us. Time to shift to a new routine. Time to buy new pencils and backpacks. And if you live in Freeburg, Illinois, time to take your fifth-grade daughters shopping for non-distracting, non-revealing and ladylike school clothes.
Yep. We’re still in 2016. We checked.
However, this flier that was sent home with students in grade five through eight sort of reeks of 1963:
Saint Louis journalist Rebecca Sheehan posted this flier on her public Facebook page, where she often shares behind-the-scenes peeks at stories in progress. Sheehan’s page followers have plenty to say about the dress code in Freeburg, which is just on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River, and they’re not shy about sharing their opinions.
Opinions are all over the place. Some give the school virtual high-fives for establishing a dress code that’s conducive to an educational environment — aka girls not wearing ultra-revealing clothes. Some think this dress code is too restrictive, too sexist and too outdated. One alumna remarked that this was the same dress code that had been in existence when she attended school — in 1975.
This comment was a favorite:
“So glad they allow girls to wear pants. With such a sexist and outdated standards like that, we should be thankful they let our daughters go to school at all. A potato is distracting to teenagers. This isn't about if the kids can concentrate, it's the adults sexualizing them.”
Believe it or not, this is (or at least appears to be) a flier that lays out the school dress code for both boys and girls. No, really. Look closer. You’ll see two boys illustrating that it’s not OK to wear wife beaters, boxer shorts or baggy pants to school. The (crudely drawn) images depict eight girls and two boys, and most of the “do nots” are aimed at females. It may as well say:
“Your bodies are distracting, girls. Buy clothing that’s two sizes too big, because if you don’t cover up, you’ll interfere with the boys’ ability to learn and the male faculty members' ability to do their jobs.”
Really? Rape culture much?
Schools should have a dress code, by all means, but make it a fair one and an easy-to-interpret one. Seriously, how difficult is it to establish finite and measurable standards that apply to both boys and girls? Come to the light and into the 21st century, where using ambiguous terms like "distracting," "revealing" and (barf) "ladylike" don’t have any place in how we’re teaching our children to describe themselves.
If you’re going to use diagrams, how hard would it be to produce something that showed equal representation to both boys and girls and didn’t give the visual cue that we’re singling out and shaming the female body? And for crying out loud, get some decent images that don’t, as one commenter put it, “look like they were drawn by a fifth-grader with a perpetual boner.”
Sounds like the administrators in the Freeburg schools need a refresher course in what it really means to reflect respect.
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