What about my right to not have to look at a partially clothed high school student?

I had just started composing a post about liking the idea of school uniforms when I read about Cat Just and her campaign against Bangor High School’s dress code.

The idea for my post started with an experience dropping a teenager off for high school the other morning. The drop-off area was a bumper-to-bumper mess. After the teen got out of my car, I was waiting for the vehicle ahead of me to leave. Unfortunately, waiting involved an unavoidable reverse Brittney Spears moment — remember her famed moment leaving the limo going, as they say, commando?

This moment wasn’t quite that bad, but the style of vehicle required that the student departing it in extreme short shorts shared more of her rear end with me than I cared to see before 7 am — or at any time, for that matter. Call me old school, but the various cracks and crevices of a minor’s body are best left covered in public.

Honestly, I’m okay with starting my day without getting mooned by a 14 or 15 year old.

It so happened that on the same day I got mooned, I had a conversation with a young man in his early 20s who has been working at a high school recently. He was going on and on about how girls were dressing for school. He was shocked that he was shocked by the attire, since he was a recent high school graduate himself.

He couldn’t believe what was being considered appropriate school attire, and he considered himself to be a liberal free thinker, as would most people who know him. He wasn’t sure where the line should be drawn, but he thought covering midriffs and a mid-thigh length rule weren’t bad ideas. He said the girls were dressing as if school were a racy night club.

I think he called it “academic club-wear.”

It reminded me of something a male teacher told me a several years ago. He said it’s hard being a guy in high school environments these days. He has the utmost respect for women, young and old, and would like to consider himself above ogling young bodies. But it was hard with the outfits girls were wearing, because everything was hanging out everywhere, he said — and just looking at them at all, felt creepy.

I’m guessing after those two conversations, they are not alone in not wanting to feel that way. If men raise that point, though, it’s victim blaming, so I’ll raise the point as a woman.

Schools are a public place, which means all types of people will be there. The purpose of this place is learning (for students) and working (for teachers and staff) — all funded by taxpayers who expect a certain standard of conduct in publicly funded places. Excessive sharing of flesh and crevices has nothing to to with learning — unless you are learning about the human body — and nothing to do with working unless you work at a strip club or are a doctor.

I’m no prude. I only own one bra I keep around for that rare occasion I absolutely can’t get away without wearing one. I’ve posed semi-nude. I like skinny dipping and sunbathing nude. There’s not a lot about my life story that screams conventional, and when I was young, I was especially wild and uninhibited.

I would have felt weird wearing my frayed and too-short Levi cut-offs to school, though. And it would have been disgusting. Schools are glorified petri-dishes, germ-wise, so a layer of fabric between one’s skin and any surface in a school is a good thing.

Like the young man I mentioned earlier, I find it disturbing that school attire is making me feel like a prude. Am I a prude to think I should be able to sit in a school parking lot without getting mooned? Am I a prude to think I don’t want men I respect and admire to feel like creeps at work?

Is a young woman’s right to expose herself in a publicly funded setting more important than others’ right not to witness it?

Ms. Just may have found the dress code conversation at her high school to be sexist.  Maybe it was; I wasn’t there.  In mentioning bra straps, the vice principal was probably working on the assumption that most of the bra-wearers at his school were female.  And if a male wasn’t asked to cover up his crop top when girls were asked to cover up, then that is sexist.

However, as a parent who is at a high school regularly, I have yet to be mooned by or appalled by the attire of a boy in the drop-off area.

 

Patricia Callahan

About Patricia Callahan

Trish is a writer who lives in Augusta. She has worked professionally in education and social services.