I don’t know where to start with this one. I just don’t.
To bring you all up to speed who may not live in my town or know the situation, my old high school has enacted a policy banning leggings, yoga pants and jeggings unless they are worn with “dress code appropriate” shorts, skirts, dresses, or pants.
Hmmm: Pants over yoga pants. That sounds reasonable.
At the top of the page are two pictures of me in different pants. Can you tell which one is dress pants, and which is “inappropriate” according to Skyview?
Because I graduated from this specific school, this kind of “news” is especially upsetting to me. Let me tell you a little about my high school experience with clothing.
When I was a freshman and sophomore, I was groped and cat-called and treated like a sexual object both inside and outside of classrooms. As I walked through the hall, I remember senior boys grabbing at my derriere and whistling at me. I remember classmates yelling across the room explicit instructions of what they would like to do to me. Sometimes I ignored them. Sometimes I just walked away. Sometimes I loudly spoke back to them. Sometimes I glared. Sometimes I told them to please shut up.
At that time, what was “in fashion” was nothing that violated the dress code. I was literally wearing T-shirts and jeans 99 percent of the time.
Junior year, I showed up to the first day of school wearing this:
A new dress code had been enacted during the summer, and when I walked into my first classroom, the teacher loudly announced that I was going to have to go home because my clothing was inappropriate.
I was a straight-A, perfectionist, people-pleasing, never had detention or even a tardy, never in trouble, rule-following “good girl,” and had been for my entire life. The teacher who called me out in front of the class completely humiliated me to the point of tears. I didn’t understand what I did wrong. I didn’t understand why I was being punished.
The rest of that year and the year following, I spent in constant vigilance that I wasn’t going to be embarrassed for my clothing. Talk about a productive “learning environment.” At that time, the dean came into our classes and explained that the boys had a hard time paying attention when girls were showing skin.
I remember being terrified to reach to the top of my locker because if a teacher happened to be watching and the tiniest sliver of skin was exposed, I knew I risked being sent home and humiliated. Did the cat-calling and groping stop because of the dress-code enforcement? Hell no.
Did teachers even really seem to care when they saw it happening? Not as much as they cared about the dress code.
I’m not really sure the “right” way to follow up with what has happened during the past week.
Dear Skyview: I want to tell you, as a former student what I am feeling right now when I look back at my high school experience. The emotions I am feeling now, 11 years since graduating, are still just as fresh. You created a “learning environment” where I was ashamed, where I was afraid, and where eventually, I was enraged. Enraged because your “dress code” served to humiliate the females for having bodies. For being female and having the gall to put on clothing that suggested they were female. Where the burden of the opposite sex’s learning was placed squarely on my covered shoulders. I was the problem. The other girls and I were made to feel like our bodies were dangerous. Our underage bodies were incredibly sexualized. We were not protected. I hope you can understand that you are not protecting your students with this dress code.
You are shaming them and teaching the girls that they are dangerous, and the boys that they are weak and must be protected. You couldn’t protect me from the unwanted physical touches or verbal taunts, but you sure as hell could protect those boys from seeing my collarbone.
You are teaching girls that if their pants are too tight, if too much skin is visible above their knees, if their shoulders are bare, they deserve to be punished. And don’t tell me it's not punishment. You are telling them to go home and not come back until they look differently. You are setting the stage for the boys you are teaching to grow up into men who say “she asked for it” because she was dressed provocatively. The logic you are using fits perfectly into that mentality. Girls, cover up to protect everyone. The boys can’t control themselves, and they might hurt themselves or you if you don’t keep it under control for them.
Don’t kid yourself that you are teaching “life skills” by banning yoga pants. Guess what? I wear yoga pants every day to work. Because I work from home and I can. Why do I wear yoga pants, you ask? To seduce my non-existent male co-workers and distract them from their jobs? The reason I wear yoga pants is that they are comfortable, end of story. And because I can. And I still get paid. And I still advance in my career. And I am a woman.
Skyview, if you want to help your students out, how about teaching them that men and women deserve respect, period? It doesn’t matter what they look like, or what they are wearing, or how they style their hair. We are all humans. We are all the same. Women are sexual beings. Men are sexual beings. Teens have hormones and they are interested in sex. I have news for you: Boys are going to think about sex during class no matter what the girls are wearing. They are going to think about sex even if there are no girls in the room. Guess what? That’s part of life. Men and women are going to have sexual thoughts. You are powerless to prevent them from occurring in school, try as you might.
I can promise you that your dress code isn’t going to prevent any of these things from happening. What I can promise you is that you are sending a loud and clear message to the girls in your school that you are not on their side. I can tell you that I will never, ever forget how I was treated in high school. I will never forget how I felt, and I feel I have a responsibility to tell you from the “other side,” also known as "real life," how your policies are affecting past students.
Since high school, I have gone on to graduate from college and grad school with straight As. I have chosen a career and have enjoyed success in all of the areas of my life, despite living in a female body that proudly wore and continues to wear a lot of yoga pants.