School to girls: 'Get longer skirts to protect yourselves'

Aug 22, 2016 at 12:39 p.m. ET
Image: Glow Images/Getty

Sexist dress codes are unfortunately nothing new, but one school has kicked off the new term with some of the most degrading clothing rules we've seen yet.

Teens at Kambrya College in Melbourne, Australia, are outraged after school officials basically slut-shamed girls and asked them to stop wearing short skirts and makeup.

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Faith Sobotker, a 15-year-old who attends Kambrya, posted an angry video online clapping back at the school's sexist and degrading standards. School officials allegedly told teen girls to stop wearing short skirts to "protect their integrity." They also said girls should stop wearing makeup and refrain from sending "sexy selfies." The dress code meeting was held after some students at the school were found to be victims of an online "pornography ring," in which male students were trading nude photos of female students without consent.

In her video, Sobotker responded to the school's crackdown with some harsh words of her own. "My self-respect is doing what makes me happy," she said. "You can't tell me what ladylike is because we don't live in the '50s anymore. I'm looking for equality... I'm 15 years old. You don't get to sexualize me like that."


Catherine Manning, a parent of one teen girl at the school, also wrote on Facebook that she was furious with the school for victim-blaming her daughter. "The problem is not with the girls and the length of their skirts, nor whether or not they choose to share photos with their boyfriends or anyone else. It’s with the boys themselves; their sense of entitlement and sexist attitudes toward women and girls," she said.

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Dress codes have long been used to shame women into looking and acting a certain way, so as not to "distract" or "tempt" males at school. But, in reality, these guidelines are most often sexist and degrading, and they fail to hold boys and men responsible for their own bad behavior. The length of a girl's skirt has nothing to do with her integrity, and the amount of makeup on her face shouldn't make her more or less worthy of respect.

Dress code rules such as these are a form of victim-blaming, plain and simple, and they do nothing to deter sexist behavior. In fact, they seem to invite even more sexism by implying that women exist to be gawked at and must alter their physical appearance if they wish to be treated with dignity. If we want to change the way women and girls are treated, we should start by calling out the behavior of the people who treat them badly.

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Don't teach girls to wear longer skirts or less mascara. Teach boys that women and girls deserve to be treated as people — not objects — regardless of what they have on. Teach boys that girls don't exist for their consumption and that a girl's decision to dress a certain way has no bearing on her value as a human being. If schools are really worried about eliminating "distractions," then they need to educate male students about girls' rights to dress however they want, because having to change the way you dress to make sure you don't get harassed? That is pretty damn distracting.