Dress Code Distress

As recent events of misogyny unfolded at El Segundo High School, I could feel my temperature rising.

My discomfort started with the back to school assembly, where teachers outlined which clothing violates the dress code; all items being part of the female wardrobe. The list laughed in my face: no tank tops, no short skirts, and no short shorts. I could not comprehend the offense found in spaghetti straps - shoulders are just shoulders - but I understood the potential complaint with the other items. I believed it was a stretch, but I am not unreasonable. So, I tried to let it go. Directly after the dress code excoriation, they proceeded to play a school “lip-sync” video made by the class of 2017, in which boys ripped off their shirts and danced in speedos. This was extremely ironic, especially in stark contrast to the freshly stated dress code rules. However everyone laughed, and I tried to let it go.

But then I heard a complaint about the class of 2020’s float, which made my temperature rise yet again. Apparently one of the cut-out, wooden, female breakdancers wore a crop top. To explain, as the float theme was 90’s hip hop, every facet of the float had to encompass the culture of this musical genre. Crop tops were classic 1990’s style, and my peers found it an obvious stylistic choice. However, certain administrators deemed this artistic choice for the character inappropriate because it violated the school dress code. Somehow the wooden stomach of a happy-go-lucky cartoon character became banned; such a shocking offense! I tried to laugh this off, but as I thought more about the nature of the complaint I became infuriated. These events led me to recognize the question building inside of myself: Why are female bodies illegal?

...

I have come to find that I am frightened by the opinion of society on females. While High School is a microcosm, it mirrors real life; it not only teaches Math and English, but it also teaches about real societal dynamics. And the opinions held by powerful people on campus about female bodies and female empowerment is truly frightening.

Not only do we face scrutiny for our mere physical appearance, we also must pay a toll for our bodies. Being touched, even “playfully” despite lack of consent, is “not so bad”, nor is making us to concede to others’ wishes. And why is it not seen as egregious? Well it isn’t murder, or rape, or anything too big, and it should be brushed off, you’re stronger than that! But if we allow for groping or pressuring, then we reach a slippery slope: what is too far? If it isn’t too far to merely touch us, then it isn’t too far to assault us, and thus the standard dissolves until there is no reprimand because “it happens”. And it happens, indeed, but that only further proves the problem. Most of us have the common sense of the wrongs of murder or stealing, but some do not possess the awareness of killing esteem or stealing personal security. If our bodies are battlegrounds, then where do we seek shelter?

There is a virus running rampant around schools and it has become the most haunting thing I have discovered in recent years. It is a virus that has lingered for centuries in the heart I fear for women in America. It is not a physical ailment or vaping, its nothing I can control. There is no vaccine and there is apparently nothing I can do to say no. This virus is worse and it is man-made, this virus has created an outbreak of psychologically scarred and aggressive teenagers. I am terrified by the prevalence of rape culture, which has been ingrained into the school system so intently. The adults teach us to cover ourselves for the cold when they are really trying to tell us to hide our bodies to the predators that they have created. The issue is they never warned us that even if we follow their instructions by covering ourselves up, acting submissive, and letting ourselves be socially silenced, that we would still be at the same risk of being harassed and assaulted. If anything this warning to keep quiet and let “boys be boys” seems to be a death sentence because instead of our covered limbs and sealed lips warding off the insatiable sexual desires of these men, they seem to only be restraints from letting me run away, fight back, or scream, molding me into the perfect victim.

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