"It's hot!" And other school dress code problems (by Patty Blount)

Sorry, all! Forgot to hit the switch on this post that was supposed to go live yesterday.

All this month, we Outsiders are blogging about summer ending, summer heat, and summer sunsets. As I write this, back-to-school commercials advertising fall fashions are playing on my TV.


Is it me, or is time moving at warp speed?

Here on Long Island, school begins in September, but for many areas of the country, school has already begun  -- and so have the annual dress code wars. It's still hot and many schools aren't air conditioned so all these fall fashions aren't appropriate yet.

Niether is asking girls to cover up.

I am the mother of sons -- I don't have a daughter to shop with, so I'm not "up" on the latest styles and trends for girls. I can tell you this, though... I used to be astounded by what I saw some of the girls wearing to school when I dropped off my boys. Shorts so short, I could see underwear. Tops cut so low, I could see bra. Mini skirts. Belly buttons, you name it.

And then I wrote a book called Some Boys that changed my whole perspective.

While researching this story, I kept coming across something called rape culture. At the time, I thought that was just some term made up by the media but now I know it's a very real and dangerous thing that provides excuses for poor behavior by shifting blame and responsibility for that bad behavior to victims.

Harassed by boys? It's your fault for wearing that top, that skirt, those shoes. It's your fault for walking down that corridor. It's YOUR fault.

No. Just no.

It is not your fault. The only person at fault here is the boy who chooses to disrespect you.

And here's the flip side of my argument. I'm the mother of two sons. I do not make excuses for their bad choices and bad behavior. I don't shrug and give you one of those insipid little smiles and say, "Oh, you know...boys will be boys!"

That's an excuse. 

And a poor one at that because there should be NO excuse for harassment, for assault, or for rape.

Dress codes that enforce ridiculous rules -- don't show your knees, don't show your collar bone, don't show this... they are perpetuating rape culture by providing handy excuses to boys and men for their bad decisions. Dress codes are really saying things like this:

"I couldn't help myself! My penis saw her exposed knee caps and just had to penetrate her! I'm just a poor boy who cannot control his own body! It's not my fault. It's hers. If she'd only covered up those knees, I wouldn't have raped her."

*gag*  Please.

As the mother of sons, I am disgusted that we are to believe our boys are incapable of being more than just a walking sex organ. That they cannot control their bodies or urges. That they cannot understand a girl's body is not their playground. This is insulting and degrading to the boys I'm trying to raise. You're telling my boys that there is no hope for them -- it's just a matter of time before they rape someone.

I get it... I do. Schools want a distraction-free place to learn. Children of both sexes should dress tastefully and respectfully. Okay. Fine. Enforce dress codes but don't degrade children while you do it. Calling them a distraction does both sexes a disservice. Maybe it's time we dumped sexist dress codes and instead, enforced sexual assault policies that insist on respect for everyone.

If you're a parent, what are you doing to teach your son how to treat the girls in his school? Do you make excuses or do you hold him accountable? Bra snapping, groping, dirty jokes -- none of these are respectful.

I believe no girl should ever be shamed for what she's wearing, as this girl was for wearing this outfit.

"Nobody gets it. I was with friends! People I know, people I've known for all of high school and even before that. I should have been able to stand there buck naked and be safe. Why didn't anybody help me when I passed out? Isn't that what friends are supposed to do? Why did Zac think because I was unconscious, my body is nothing more than a, than a slot for him to use just because he was pissed off and horny?"  Grace Collier in Some Boys by Patty Blount
Instead of enforcing sexist dress codes, how else do you think we can address rape culture in our school system?


  1. It's disheartening at times. I live in an area where the poverty level is scary and education devalued. Teens have pretty bad role models in many instances. When I ran the library in town and saw or heard teen boys acting or saying things that were sexist or disrespectful, I called them on it. Sometimes the light went on, sadly, most times it didn't. I also encouraged girls to realize they didn't need to accept attention like that in order to be popular. Again, sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't.
    I loved Some Boys and thought it was dead on, so I suggested a young woman who I mentor while she gets her library degree read it. She completely related to it. Thank you for writing it.

  2. Thank you so much! I'm saddened to hear about the area in which you live. I hope it's turning around. Girls have it tough... on one hand, they're encouraged to be attractive and dress for attention, but few can appreciate the distinction betweeen what's appropriate and what's not. You'd be surprised how many women I know are flattered by cat-calling on the street!

  3. Ugh! So truthful--the whole rape culture, girls asking for it mentality disgusts me. I have boys too and do my best to raise them outside that mindset. But I also agree. What ALL kids are wearing to school today speaks volumes. When those kids go out to get jobs in the "real world" they are going to be shocked to learn that they DO have to wear the appropriate attire or uniform for that job. And they are also going to be shocked to learn that their work has to be done on time in order to keep their job. To me, there are a lot of kids in the world that don't appreciate the education opportunities they are given. When I see what some kids around the world will do to get an education it makes me shake my head. But I digress.

    1. Right, that's why I say I get the whole dress code need. I just take issue with how it's enforced. it's usually the girls who are shamed.


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