If you’ve ever felt like there is something vaguely (or extremely) pervy and sexist about the language used to phrase school dress codes, you aren’t crazy. High school principal Jim Bazen’s creepy, condescending letter to a Michigan publication just ratcheted the sexism up to 11.
Bazen, who is the principal at Plymouth Christian High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan, took issue with an op-ed posted to MLive. In the original op-ed, the MLive editorial board proclaimed dress codes to be shady and gross, and called on Michigan schools to discontinue them.
There’s no denying that dress codes and dress code violations affect girls more than boys, and that the excuse we often hear is that a flash of shoulder, a stray legging, or (heaven forbid) a bit of thigh are distracting to
students boys. But attempting to articulate what exactly it is about dress codes that seem sexist can be a challenge, especially when the language is coded in broad arbitrary strokes, as it often is.
Fortunately, Bazen’s letter to the editor just did a better job of showing how truly creepy these dress codes are, and how the attitude behind them is a pile of sexist garbage, than even the most raging of feminists could hope to.
And oh boy, is it a doozy.
The principal’s response opens with a very condescending, “You say that harping on the young ladies to ‘cover-up’ does more harm than good. To me, that’s a double standard because as a female you will never completely understand the male mind.”
Oh man, the old, “I’m not sexist, you are” response! This was directed at an editorial board that is, in fact, not one woman but a couple of ladies and at least one dude.
But that’s not all. Bazen goes on to talk about the male mind in an extremely enlightening way. He has three main points in his rebuttal. The first is that, “Being wired more visual, males are attracted to shape and skin” (yawn), the second is “expecting the guys to keep their eyes off young ladies with shirts revealing their cleavage, short skirt, tight pants/leggings, shorty shorts, or tight shirt, is like walking out into the rain and expecting not to get wet” (WOW), and finally that “The only way you can help young men not treat young ladies as sex objects is by telling the young ladies to cover up!”
Actually, you can help young men not treat young ladies like sex objects by expecting them not to and not tolerating it when they do.
There are so many things wrong with this, but let’s start with the idea of how important it is to understand the male mind. Sure, that’s important, especially when you’re teaching, you know, young males. But it still represents approximately half of the average student body. So basically, unless you think that males should take precedence over female students, can we retire this tired line of reasoning? Plus, however damaging it might be for a boy to see a boob and not be able to touch it, it’s infinitely more damaging to teach girls that they must always don a nun’s habit and take responsibility for their peers’ boners.
Second, boys are not shameless animals. They are human beings. They are not “like wolves” or “like sharks” or like horny dogs. They are people, and like most people, have a thing called impulse control. It’s time to stop perpetuating the myth that when girls mess up it’s girls’ fault, and when boys mess up, it’s also girls’ fault.
Finally, people accept what Bazen has written (and much, much more) as indisputable fact: men and women are just different, male success is sacred, women shouldn’t bring harassment upon themselves by existing… we’ve all heard the clichéd reasoning behind this crap.
It isn’t new, and it isn’t justified. Bazen isn’t dropping truth bombs, he’s perpetuating stereotypes that are, frankly, an embarrassment in 2015. He comes off less fatherly and more creepy than he probably intended, and it would be a good idea for him to stop while he’s behind.
Yoga pants forever.