Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Stupid Stereotypes...

An email went out to all parents at Princess' school from the principal on Wednesday, October 30th. It read:
"1. Yes, Halloween is here tomorrow, wow! I think I’ve sent this before, but just to remind you, costumes are ok, but school dress code still applies. In addition, please be sure costume themes are school appropriate. In past years we have had some students come as “pimps” or “gangsters” or cross-dressing, specifically male to female. Sometimes students want to be really gory and bloody, and that is also not appropriate. Any sort of weapon is of course unacceptable, although carrying accessories such as a wand, or a hat or something is fine. Students have had advisory lessons covering this information. 2. On the theme of school dress code, I am seeing some young women showing a little more than perhaps parents realize when they leave the house. Tomorrow during advisory I will be having all female students come to the commons so I can share the following information:

a. Shorts need to be at least finger length. Athletic shorts are fine, but they must be appropriate.
b. All undergarments must be covered up. In addition, no spaghetti straps or strapless are allowed. Tank tops must have a noticeable width – two fingers is a good guide.
c. All tops must adequately cover your chest. If you are pulling up your shirt all day, you need to put something on over it.
d. Leggings must have something over them – shorts, skirts, long blouse, dress, etc. After today, they will no longer be allowed worn without something else over them.
e. Headbands are fine – bandanas are not.
f. Midriffs must be covered at all times.

If students are not dressed appropriately, they will be escorted to the office and we will phone a parent to bring other clothing. Thank you in advance for your support

Then, another email Thursday afternoon, Oct 31st. It read:
"Good afternoon,
I want to just clarify what was said at the assembly today as there have already been some questions. This morning I called all the girls into the commons to talk about dress code, as I had emailed you yesterday. There were multiple other female staff members present, but no men. I began by telling the girls we were there to discuss appropriate clothing for school as we were all there to learn, and I did make a comment that at times the way girls dress can distract the boys and keep them from learning. Giggle, giggle, giggle as you can imagine, but it got their attention. I then went into specifics about short shorts, low tops, spaghetti straps etc. The final topic was leggings, which I have to say was not received well. There were multiple questions and we had some students come up to show what was appropriate and inappropriate. Many girls were not happy about this, and apparently there is a group of students planning to wear leggings tomorrow just to see what we will do. Please know that we will call you if your student has only leggings with no other covering over them. To my memory, that was the only comment about boys in the assembly and I did it just to get their attention. There was no specific connection to boys and any particular area of dress. Thank you again for your support. I welcome your questions.

I read these, and thought, "I have to say something..." but first, I wanted to get Princess' take on the whole thing. She said that some of her classmates felt embarrassed, and a LOT of girls were pissed about the leggings & bandana parts. We talked for a little bit about how she felt & her interpretation of what was said. Then, I posted these letters for my "Close Friends" on FB, and asked their opinions. Then, I thought about it all weekend. Yesterday morning, I sent this:
"I have a bit of a problem with the way this way handled... (1) In this day & age, we should be teaching our girls (and I *do* teach mine) to respect their own bodies enough to wear appropriate clothing. It is not, EVER, a girls' responsibility to curtail boys' behaviors &/or thoughts. No matter how you brought it up (even in passing), boys should NOT have been brought up in the clothing discussion. I feel very strongly about this, and every time I see something like it, I feel the need to speak up. Why are we still teaching the girls that they need to watch what they wear/say/act because of boys' reactions?!?! This is 2013, and boys need to be fully responsible for their own actions & thoughts; hopefully being taught such by their families. I hope in the future, you will refrain from perpetuating this stupid stereotype. (2) If you have a rule about certain clothing items, it should apply across the board -- every item, both genders. For instance, it was brought to my attention that, while you said specifically that they couldn't wear bandanas, I know of many girls who wear them as headbands. One friend of my daughter wore one & was told to remove it. Another friend of hers wore one & was not. This happened in the SAME class, with the SAME teacher. It just so happened one headband was black & the other was DUCKS-themed. I can sort of understand ruling out "gang" colors, but, in my opinion, that would be inappropriate, as well, considering the two main colors -- red & blue -- are also {the local high school}'s colors. If you want to ban bandanas, then NO STUDENT, for ANY REASON, should be able to wear them. (3) My daughter also said that some of the girls that were called up as examples were embarrassed; for a 12 or 13yo girl to be made an example of in front of her peers is totally inappropriate. If you want to provide examples, use drawings, or pictures from the internet, or maybe ASK a few students ahead of time if they mind being called out (good or bad).

I also wanted to share some of my mom-friends' (some of whom have children at SM) opinions with you --
A. "What happened to class and to have dignity and respect for ones self and that we don't need to flaunt in order to receive self worth or respect from anyone...?"
B. "Ostracizing them in front of their class mates as examples?!? That is humiliating and singles them out as the "slutty ones." At that age, their self-esteem is so fragile."
C. "That's like telling a girl that she was raped because of her outfit! Not only teach your girls to dress with respect, but teach your boys how to respect girls/women, no matter what they are wearing! This pisses me off!!"
D. "It is maddening how the "boys will be boys" attitude is still perpetuated. Like men are too stupid to be in control of their actions, so women have to constantly consider and modify their own behavior. It's actually very insulting to men."

I want to reiterate that I *do* agree with more modest (to some degree) clothing (cover your butt, crotch, boobs & midriff), but I don't see a problem with leggings worn as pants (as long as you can't see their underwear), bandanas worn as headbands (or "support" bands on their arms), or tank/cami tops worn with a shirt over them (I don't see a problem with exposed shoulders, either, btw).

Thank you for caring enough about our girls to try to curb some of the inappropriate dress, and feel free to contact me any time.

I actually was going to also mention that I disagreed with the "cross-dressing" part, but forgot about it when I went to send the letter. Saying cross-dressing, "specifically male to female", is inappropriate is sexist. It says to me, at least, that a girl wanting to dress as a boy is fine, but a boy wanting to dress as a girl is not acceptable. It's not like the kids are wearing fishnets & rubber bras! Princess said that one of her male friends dressed as a grandma last year, and got in trouble! This year, Princess & her friends dressed as Batman, Robin, & The Joker... and none of them got in trouble! What message is this sending to our kids??!?!

Her response was within the hour:
"Good morning,

Thank you so much for taking the time to email me with your support as well as your concerns. I completely agree that young women should be taught to respect their bodies enough to wear appropriate clothing. The only time I made mention of boys was at the very beginning and it was simply to get their attention. I apologize if this was offensive. As for calling students up for examples, the only students that came up were completely voluntary, I did not call anyone out or force anyone to show what they were wearing. Also, no student was put down or made fun of that volunteered to show an example, either appropriate or inappropriate. I appreciated their willingness to volunteer and felt I was respectful of their feelings.

As for bandanas, they are not allowed to be worn by any student. Many of the girls wear headbands, but bandanas of any color are not allowed. I will talk to my staff to be sure this is clarified for them.

Again, I do appreciate the communication. If you ever want to talk in person, or if your daughter has a concern she would like to share, I am always open.

I feel this was a total blow-off letter; she doesn't really care about my opinion & is going to do things her way, no matter what other parents say. Another school-parent/friend of mine is going to write to her, too, but I really feel Ms S will blow her off, as well. I suppose I can take consolation in two things -- (1) Princess isn't one to break school rules (as much as she will complain & disagree with it), and (2) She's only got seven more months of dealing with these rules before she goes to H.S., where these rules don't exist, anyway.

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