This past week, a local high school had a controversy involving their homecoming dance and a dress code. Long story short, around 20 girls were sent home from the dance because their dresses were “too short” according to the dress code. However, the controversy came because some of the girls claimed that other girls with dresses the same length were let into the dance. The girls decided to protest by wearing their dresses to school the following Monday and they declared that the dress code was too ambiguous.
The local news made a big hullabaloo about it, but the real issue was almost missed. It isn’t so much a matter of teenagers being rebellious or about the length of dresses. The issue is that with situations and reactions like this, girls and women across the world are taught that they are nothing more than a body and if they show too much of that body, they become a danger to society.
Now, I’m not trying to come off as a crazy bra-burning feminist here, and I do support modesty as part of my own personal standards. But, why is modesty always such a big emphasis for women and not men? Don’t both sexes have secret, private parts that shouldn’t be exposed? And, these girls weren’t exposing any of those secret, private parts with their dresses-not even close in fact!
The bias and contradiction against women in the fashion world is astounding. Designers make skimpy clothes to assist women in feeling “confident, free and sexy” according to the advertisements. But then when the women fall into the advertising traps and wear such clothing, others cry foul and say that women are unfit and assisting in the decay of societal standards because of the way they dress. Society objectifies women by creating dresses without sleeves and that are two inches above the knee, but then all hell breaks loose when the women actually wear those dresses and it makes the woman socially unacceptable. Is anyone else seeing the contradiction here?
This is the type of circular reasoning that resulted in the girls (who are good students in school) being shunned from their own social function and left to feel that their appearance has more importance than who they are as a person.
How does wearing a dress that exposes your shoulders and two inches above the knee bring down the walls of morale and chastity in society? I will tell you how; Society allows it to by the way they emphasize petty things like dress, over important characteristics like behavior. Administrators decide to tell girls that they are unfit, improper and a menace to society if they wear that type of dress to a dance. That is the message that was sent to those girls.
One news article out of dozens hit this issue on the head. Two researchers, Lexie and Lindsay Kite were interviewed by KSL.com about their work that they have done in the field of body image and the objectification of women. The sisters have received Ph.D.’s on the topic and had a few things to say regarding this particular case.
“We believe that by empowering girls to see themselves as more than just bodies, they will then make correct decisions for themselves,” said Lindsay Kite. “This standard teaches girls that they’re just bodies and everyone is looking at them and not themselves being able to make appropriate decisions. We want to reframe that conversation by teaching girls that they’re more than just bodies to be looked at. We can teach them that they can live and be and do great things.”
That is the point that I also wanted to emphasize with this argument. Stop making such a big deal about what a woman does and doesn’t wear. It is the same ridiculous message that is being sent as when people say, “Well if a woman is dressed slutty and provocative, then she is asking to get raped.” (I have actually heard people say that and it infuriated and disgusted me.) We need to reframe how we look at men and women and instead of focusing so much on what they wear, focus more on what they say and do.