Sexist school uniform code of conduct and staff attitudes have only recently received social media backash. Teen girls are speaking out about the policing of their uniforms, and therefore bodies, and of the demeaning reasons behind uniform rules.
In high school myself, I was lined up on civvies day with other girls from my class to have our skirts and shorts measured and our cleavage assessed, by female teachers who openly stated that the reason for these checks were to prevent ‘distracting male teachers and students’. At the age of 15 I asked myself why I was being made to accommodate my male teachers and peers- should the focus not be on ensuring that female students are able to conduct themselves without worrying about a prying gaze from their older male teacher/catcall from their fellow classmate? Why are we excusing these actions before they even occur?
Most of us have our own story to tell, so why do the public and social media continue to be shocked by how young girls are systematically forced, and groomed, to accommodate the male gaze and appetite (with it’s tendency to be easily distracted, and apparently uncontrollable).While worse back in your grandma’s day, the deeply entrenched patriarchal code of conduct many schools enforce continue to fail to adapt further.
We are told that it is not the responsibility of male peers to police themselves by ensuring we feel comfortable in our learning (and later on working) environments, but our responsibility to make sure we do not elicit unwanted advances and reactions- essentially, any sexually demeaning or aggressive behaviour we are subject to, is simply brought upon ourselves. Because men are not responsible for allowing us to be comfortable in our bodies by not making sexual remarks or actions- we are responsible for making sure they are comfortably able to learn and act, without being distracted by our bodies.
Is it no wonder that women go into the working world with the mentality that they are responsible for violent or sexually aggressive actions and commentary, or that young men go into the world feeling entitled and not responsible for their own behaviour? They are conditioned and accommodated from the beginning of their schooling, they are taught that their whims and urges whether violent or inappropriate are under no control or responsibility of their own.
After all, they’re just being boys, right?
Image Credit: Ad Campaign by Terre Des Femmes.