It's 2021, So Why Are Schools Body-Shaming Young Girls And Telling Them How To Dress?

by Colleen Dilthey Thomas
Courtesy of Stephanie Fabre

It’s 2021 and here we are again telling young women that they should be ashamed of their bodies. They need to cover up. God forbid they feel confident about themselves and comfortable in their skin. Please, don’t let them dress the way that they want to because they certainly will be putting boys in an uncomfortable position. You know, distracting them from learning and whatnot. Or even more, encouraging rape culture because a young man can’t be held responsible for his actions if he is enticed. And whatever you do, don’t dare memorialize yourself in a yearbook photo looking “trashy.” Make sure you’ve got yourself nice and covered up, or someone might just go ahead and do it for you.

That is exactly what has happened to at least 80 photos in the Bartram Trails High School yearbook. I am sure that it comes as no surprise, but all of these edited photos were young women. Christina Langston, school district spokeswoman, told the St. Augustine Times that the school’s yearbook coordinator, Anne Irwin, who is a teacher, decided that the photos were out of dress code and did some of the editing. Oh, and she didn’t tell anyone this was happening. The photos were uncovered when yearbooks were distributed.

But according to Langston, this is normal operating procedure. In the past, students who were deemed out of dress code were just not included in the yearbook. So, let’s see. The fact that they digitally altered these students’ photos was actually doing them a favor? This way, at least they were able to be in the yearbook. Insert huge WTF eye roll. The school website states that all student yearbook photos are subject to editing if they don’t meet the school’s dress code standards.

Wanna take a look at that dress code? Unfortunately, it’s pretty par for the course at any high school in America. And no surprise, the boys are getting off easy. The standard pants at the waist, no underwear peeking out. They can’t wear pajama pants or anything revealing. And don’t forget to trim up that facial hair, fellas. That’ll do it for the boys.

Let’s move on to the standards for girls, shall we? The girls have a shit ton more things to worry about than a nicely groomed goatee. First, don’t think of coming to school with your shoulders showing in a way that could be distracting: read, spaghetti straps and cold shoulder tops. Because who can resist an exposed shoulder? Make sure that you look “modest.” Don’t even think about showing off your midriff or wearing a dress with any kind of cutouts. Get out the measuring tape and make sure that skirt or shorts don’t hit that thigh more than four inches up. Keep the revealing clothes, pajamas and lingerie at home. (Lingerie, seriously, who the hell is showing up to school in lingerie?) Oh, and pop those curlers out in the car; foam rollers must be a turn on too. Again, WTF? Be sure and keep the makeup light. There is no need to look like a streetwalker. And finally, pants at the waist, please.

Shockingly, they never mention leggings. Perhaps that falls under revealing clothing? It does to Maryann White, a woman who made waves in 2019 with an open letter to all the girls at her sons’ school who dare to make this scandalous fashion choice. White — a self-proclaimed “Catholic mother of four sons with a problem that only girls can solve: leggings” — appealed to all the legging-wearing strumpets out there by complaining that they had “intruded painfully on [her] landscape” and that it was hard to teach her boys to respect women when they were just right there in these horribly distracting form-fitting garments. Because heaven forbid they wear clothing that gives any suggestion whatsoever of their body type. White thought of the poor sex-crazed fellas behind her at mass who were in full view of those “blackly naked rear ends” and how difficult it must have been for them to ignore.

“Could you think of the mothers of sons the next time you go shopping and consider choosing jeans instead?” she pleaded at the end of her rant – after saying, of course, that she and her fellow mothers wanted to “find scarves to tie over the eyes of their sons to protect them from you!”

Because, you know, girls in leggings are just downright predatory.

Of course it comes as no surprise that girls everywhere are being held to a more stringent standard than boys. They can’t be trusted to dress appropriately, or to embrace their bodies, so they have every little thing laid out for them. And even when that happened, some of these silly girls still showed up to school for picture day dressed “inappropriately,” therefore they are facing the consequences.

Riley O’Keefe, a 15-year-old Bartram Trails student, had her photo altered. She told the New York Times that the school is making girls feel embarrassed about their bodies. She also said that the editing was totally one-sided. There are pictures of the boys’ swim team in Speedo suits that were printed in the yearbook minus the digital refinishing.

Courtesy of Stephanie Fabre

Courtesy of Stephanie Fabre

O’Keefe’s mother, Stephanie Fabre, told Scary Mommy “As parents, we are telling them their bodies are changing and it’s normal, because it is. They are coming into their own, finding their identity.” She continued, that school is sending the opposite message and it is confusing and damaging the girls. “Some of them are already struggling with it and the school made a problem where there wasn’t one.”

She said that the school is offering a refund for returned yearbooks, unsigned, but that is the only concession that is being offered. She and several other parents and students, including O’Keefe, attended a school board meeting May 25 and the board agreed that the policy needed to be reviewed and things needed to be changed.

Fabre says that she is not a confrontational person, but she watched this experience crush her daughter and her friends. “Riley and her friends have been so brave and I want girls to know their bodies are beautiful. It’s normal and to continue to grow and be confident in who they are.”

She wants this to be a learning experience for her daughter, one that she hopes will set a standard for her and her friends going forward. “Standing up for what is right is empowering. They need to stick together and empower each other.”

Scary Mommy reached out to Bartram Trails High School, but requests for comments were unanswered.

Let’s give our girls the opportunity to wear what’s comfortable, even if it — gasp! — hints at the female form. They deserve the autonomy to dress how they see fit, especially in light of such an antiquated double standard. And let’s give our boys some credit for having enough control of their brains to concentrate if there are — pearl clutch! — leggings or an inch of cleavage nearby.