High school dress codes are problematic, because they’re so damn sexist. It’s common to see one or two sentences devoted to instructing male students what to wear, then an encyclopedia full of directives for female students. Some of the most ridiculous arguments for dress codes stem from the idea that what girls wear to school can distract boys from their studies. A UK high school has one-upped this sexist drivel this week, by sending 10 female students home so they wouldn’t be a distraction to their male teachers.
Yes, this actually happened.
Dr. Rowena Blencowe sent 10 girls home on their first day of class this week at Trentham High School in Staffordshire, England because she deemed their full-length black trousers too tight. She’d already outlawed all lengths of skirts last summer because she was “fed up of telling girls off for showing too much leg.” The girls were “inspected” by staff as they walked into the building. That’s not weird or anything.
Blencowe instituted the no-skirt ban last summer because, as she told the Daily Mail, “It’s not pleasant for male members of staff and students.” She added, “The girls have to walk up stairs and sit down and it’s a complete distraction.”
One of the 15-year-old girls who was sent home told Yahoo that the rules are making her feel self conscious:
“I was with a girl wearing exactly the same pair of trousers but, because I have slightly larger legs than her, I was told my trousers are too tight and that I must go home and change. I know I’ve got slightly bigger legs than some people, it doesn’t need pointing out.”
As those of us blessed with thick thighs and big butts know, there is very little you can do to mask such things. And why should these girls have to? They have to wear circus tents so their hung-up principal can relax?
The male staff members have got to be insulted by the insinuation that they are distracted by teen girls. Come on. These are professionals. The assertion that they can’t focus because of the size of the pants on their students is outrageous.
Policing the bodies of female students sends several real problematic messages. First, that the way they dress makes them responsible for how men and boys react to them. Second, that the way they present themselves at school trumps the importance of their education to such a degree that they’ll be sent home if they don’t conform to the puritanical standards set forth by their principal. Take a look at what the girl was wearing when she was sent home: a shirt buttoned to the top, a blazer, and long trousers. Unbelievable.
Stop the insanity. If the argument really is that boys (and men in this case) can’t concentrate around girls – well, you should be priming them for the real world anyway. A world in which women aren’t responsible for draping themselves in burlap sacks so the men around them can function with no “distractions.”