By Sommer Fowler (Guest Writer)
The first Friday of the school year I was stopped by an administrator and told my skirt was too short. It was the first time I had been stopped for a dress violation in my life. I wasn’t upset, I actually thought it was a misunderstanding. I checked this outfit last night. It’s fingertip length. It has to be. I made sure. I can’t get in trouble for this, I never get in trouble.
I was calm. I apologetically told her I thought the rule was fingertip length. My arm shot down my side for proof. Sure enough, I could feel the fabric of my dress underneath the tips of my fingers. She took a quick glance at my arm and told me maybe my arms are too short, or something. Huh? Words became a jumbled mess of anger and embarrassment as I heard fellow students whispering in the background. Out of pure shock, I apologized and continued to get lunch– an act I would regret immediately after.
Yeah, I do have short arms. Like the rest of my body! I’m 5’2”! The rest of lunch was spent in an angry mumble and ranting to anyone who would listen. Concentrating in class for the remainder of my day was impossible. After sixth period, I visited the office wearing the cursed outfit to check with a different administrator if I was scandalously breaking any rules. I was incredibly relieved to be assured I wasn’t—and even happier to be talked to, not talked down to.
My anger and embarrassment turned into resent. Fingertip length applies to everyone, not just those who the school sees fit. I was humiliated in a crowded space because someone did not respect guidelines, even when I did. Since the incident, I’ve paid close attention to the dress code, and unfortunately received mixed messages.
Being a TA meant I had the privilege of hearing two talks regarding basic school rules in the first month of school. In the first speech, supervisors explained the dress code almost identically to the previous three years’ rules, but one point stood out. They told us to dress in clothing acceptable to a workplace. How would we feel if teachers came to work in inappropriate dress?
Would I turn away in disgust if a teacher stood in front of me exposing her sensual shoulders? No, because I recognize that someone’s clothing, as long as I can’t see beach-worthy amounts of skin, is their choice.
During my second presentation of the same information, a supervisor alerted students that teachers are not withheld to the same dress guidelines as students. Wasn’t I just told yesterday that it’s inappropriate for teachers to dress how they’d like? It seems that PHHS believes if a boy, or even worse, teacher were to see a student’s legs or midriff or chest, chaos would ensue and babies would fly from the heavens and we would lose our beautiful standardized testing record. However, if a teacher standing directly in front of students for hours every day were to dress revealingly, all is calm and well. The dress sweeps are uncomfortable to say the least, it is no wonder why many male teachers have opted to ignore the announcement.
A member of male cheer informed me they are not allowed to wear shirts or yoga pants because it objectifies women. Male cheer is the one opportunity for the school to objectify men, right or wrong. At the same time, PHHS introduced dress sweeps this year. How does men wearing tight bottoms objectify women, yet having students stand up while their teachers stare at their bodies to decide if they are dressed appropriately does not?
These events led me to question the motives for such a dress code. How about to keep the focus on lessons, not legs? If a student is being distracted by a classmate’s dress, perhaps the underlying cause has more to do with the student that can’t focus, not the classmate. If someone can get sidetracked by a skirt, maybe that person just does not care about school in the first place.
Maybe it exists to protect the girls from unwanted advancements by hormone-induced high-school boys? That’s an excellent reason, because then all the boys will be revved up for college, where the untaught respect for others’ bodies mixed with newfound freedom can cause all sorts of trouble that Eastside isn’t responsible for anymore. No one cares what high school Brock Turner attended, right?
PHHS has helped me achieve so much more than I imagined myself doing; it has pushed me to flourish in all aspects of my life, which confuses me even more when I see such ridiculous and condescending treatment of its students on an issue that doesn’t seem to affect classroom attention.
I made up countless excuses for the administrator who stopped me that Friday. Heels make legs look longer, that had to be the reason she thought my dress was too short. Maybe from her angle it really did look too short. I dress differently. I drew too much attention. Truthfully, none of my excuses hold up. My extended fingertips should have ended the conversation, and I know it. There is no excuse for the response she gave me, even if she did think my dress was too short initially. So I must ask you, PHHS, how are students expected to follow the dress code if the faculty trusted to maintain school-wide integrity cannot follow it themselves?