School uniforms are already a pretty fraught issue when it comes to gender and sexism, but they are also becoming a frequent figure in other discussions that are just as disturbing as the sexist stereotypes that determine who wears what based on biological gender.

Not for the first time, I’ve been reading about the idea that female students should have a specific dress code that limits things like the length of their skirts or the visibility of their bra straps to ensure that male students and teachers aren’t somehow adversely effected.

Let that sink in for a minute.

I don’t know about you, but I believe that men and boys are entirely capable of coping with a bit of exposed leg. Teachers, specifically, are grown adults. They should, in theory, be entirely capable of performing their job (you know, teaching) even with the certain knowledge that their female students have legs that continue above the knee level. They should be able to teach all their students without sexualising any of them, regardless of what they’re wearing. I’m pretty sure that’s a job requirement.

Some schools, however, seem to believe otherwise. The most recent school I’ve read about, Henderson High School in New Zealand, has been in the news because their Deputy Principal told female students that they must have knee length school uniform skirts. The reasoning behind this directive? To “keep our girls safe, to stop boys from getting ideas and to create a good work environment for male staff”. 

School uniform

#satire Image Source.

 

Knee-length school uniform skirts will keep girls safe from what, exactly? The implication here is pretty clear. It’s to keep them safe from boys. Boys who might “get ideas”. Because boys apparently lose all self control at the sight of a bit of skin and may “get ideas” that compromise the safety of girls, right? Ideas like, say, sexual assault and rape? But they apparently won’t get these ideas if the girls wear knee length skirts.

This way, if a girl is sexually assaulted and was wearing a short skirt at the time, the benefits are two-fold: She will know it was her own fault for dressing in such an unprotective skirt and the perpetrator will know that he won’t be held accountable for his actions, because he lives in a society that constantly reinforces to him that he doesn’t have to seek consent from a woman who is dressed a certain way. She shouldn’t have worn something that gave someone an “idea” because everyone knows that a bit of extra skirt length would have kept her safe.

Is this really a healthy message to send to young people?

The skirt rule is also apparently to ensure a “good work environment” for male staff. I wonder how other men, men who aren’t teachers, cope in environments where they must work in environments where women of all ages wear whatever they want? How do male doctors and nurses cope with female patients who are wearing miniskirts? How do the guys who work in retail cope with a teenage clientele who might wander in wearing shorts? What about the male life guards that patrol our public beaches and pools, surrounded by women of all ages who bare their thighs (among other things) without a second thought? How are all these poor men coping without accosting every woman they see?

This is Rape Culture, brought to you by the Patriarchy, and this is yet another reason we need feminism.

rape culture 1 rape culture 2

VIA Giphy

Why is it considered easier or more appropriate to teach women, from a young age, to behave and dress in certain ways to try to prevent sexual assault, rather than just teaching young men not to perpetrate it? By this, I mean teaching all young people about consent. All kids should learn, early on that they do not have the right to so much as lay a finger on another person without their consent. They should know the difference between seeking someone’s consent and trying to coerce it. They should be told, explicitly, that touching someone without their freely given consent is wrong. They should learn about healthy relationships and sexuality.

Trying to teach young women that they are responsible for the actions of men will not prevent sexual assault. It will just perpetuate a culture of victim-blaming.

Men, young and old, are perfectly capable of a level of self-control that prevents them from sexually assaulting women and girls who wear short skirts. This is demonstrated by millions and millions of men, every single day.  Yet there are still organisations, groups and people in positions of power creating rules and policies that say otherwise. What about accounts of young males being sexually abused? We know it happens and we know it’s abhorrent. We know that the perpetrators are sometimes female and often male. But I have yet to see a school dress code that stipulates the length of their shorts or trousers to protect them. Is this because society doesn’t care about male victims? Or is it because, despite the apparent rationale behind these dress codes, we know that clothing doesn’t cause sexual assault?

We shouldn’t be relying on a school uniform or any clothing restrictions to protect anyone from abuse or sexual assault, because clothes do not cause or prevent abuse or sexual assault. Even educating all kids about consent probably won’t prevent all sexual assaults- but it will prevent some. And frankly, it makes a whole lot more sense than focusing on the length of someone’s skirt.

 

#IBOT @ EssentiallyJess.

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  • Hugzilla

    Oh FUCK OFF that we are even still hearing this shit in 2016. People say that feminists hate men, but we aren’t the ones who keep insisting that men are slavering sex-beats who only think about getting their end wet and aren’t in control of themselves.

  • Hugzilla

    SEX BEASTS. Urgh. Typo.

  • Rebecca Bowyer

    Oh for crying out loud, when are they going to stop the victim blaming? Women should be able to walk down the street naked and still be safe.

  • Natalie @ Our Parallel Connect

    This is ridiculous. Teach boys and girls the same thing… Respect each other. You must be exhausted researching this

  • I had so many problems with weird and stupid rules at one of my high schools that they suggested I “look into other educational opportunities”. In the cafeteria line, no less. Fucking weird school.

  • OMG are they serious? Firstly it scares me that the concept of girls being assaulted or raped at school age is so prevalent that they need to come up with ridiculous rules like this to try and prevent it. And don’t even get me started on how it will make the male staff work environment better, what the actual? If they’re looking at or thinking of the STUDENTS in any kind of sexual way they shouldn’t be bloody teachers. I’m going to stop there or my comment may become filled with profanities. #teamIBOT

    • Totally agree and in this space- profanities are totally fine 🙂

  • Emily M Morgan

    You are speaking my thoughts. Amen. I’m sharing this post everywhere. Makes you wonder how naturalists manage, doesn’t it. And the little tribes all over South America and Africa (and Australia), some of whom spent their days with nothing on. The carnage, the rape that must have gone on! Wait – no carnage? Something doesn’t make sense…

    • Thanks for sharing! It’s amazing, isn’t it?

  • It just makes me sad that this is even a thing. Where has responsibility gone? Why can’t we be good responsibly adults and raise good responsibly children? Perhaps all boys also need to wear full length pants? Bloody stupid! Great post though x

  • Ah yes, we had this at my school too. Lots of girls would get pulled up for having skirts above knee length. Because you know, boys and distraction and shit. What people don’t get is that ‘advice’ like this implies men are like animals who just have to have sex when on heat and don’t have a thing called the brain which can actually control what the body might feel.

    • Exactly- just as harmful to males as it is to females.

  • Betty

    This is such a big fat joke! The school had lost its mind and any remnants of its reputation along with it.

    Just excuse me while I go and lengthen all my skirts #satire

  • Well, Henderson High School is stuck in the dark ages. How ridiculous. This victim blaming has got to stop. Just because you show a little skin doesn’t mean you’re asking for it.

  • Flashback of having to kneel in front of the nuns back in the 90s to make sure my skirt hit the floor!

    • Eeeek!

      • Yes, I had this flashback to. Although ours was allowed to be 1 to 2 cm above the floor when kneeling. Which I believe was just an excuse for them to carry a ruler to hit you over the knuckles with.

  • This is so ridiculous. I sometimes think the world is going backwards.

  • It’s so frustrating that this mindset is still so prevalent. My mum grew up in Henderson NZ and says it sounds like nothing much has changed since the 60’s – Girls who wear short skirts are simply ‘asking for it’. Fuck off.

  • Wow. Just wow. When will people who actually perpetrate crimes be held accountable for their actions? When will actually give men the responsibility and trust to do the right thing because it’s the right thing?

    • Exactly- what ever happened to personal accountability?

  • Gah! Victim blaming again!

  • I cannot believe I am still seeing this shit even now. So much effort expended on something so needlessly stupid. Let them wear what they want for crying out loud.

  • I wonder if boys were taught not to objectify girls, or take skirt length as consent, or whatever “ideas” we don’t want boys to be getting from what their female peers are wearing… then maybe, just maybe… there wouldn’t be any issue for the adult male staff having a good work environment because they’ll have learned that girls, even CHILDREN IN THEIR CARE, don’t exist for their sexual pleasure.

    Would that be so hard?

  • Kitty Black

    The uniform bullshit such a clear case victim blaming and all that other patriarchy bullshit! Gah! Clothing is not related to sexual assault in any way and it’s doing men a disservice too to insinuate they can’t control themselves. They can. So fucking do it.

  • This drives me mental! Nothing a woman (or man) does is the cause of the rape! The perpetrator of the rape is the lowlife scum that has chosen to destroy another person’s life willingly through power and control and it has nothing at all to do with the length of the clothing! I can forgive anything (inc murder) but rape and sexual assault of children which are crimes of power and control they are the crimes I cannot forgive!
    When will people get it through their thick heads that it isn’t the clothes that people wear that “cause” these crimes.

  • It’s yet another form of victim blaming. I remember going on a school excursion to a pulp mill and being told we all had to wear pants rather than our school skirts. Why? The year before the workers were busted looking up the girls skirts through the metal stairs.

  • Are they for realz? Is that place called Henderson or Backward Town? By the by, I went to boarding school in the eighties, and the uniform code was very strict. All skirts had to be knee length, and all fringes had to be cut above the eyebrow. Can you imagine? That said, I bet even they’re able to wear skirts of any length now. All this victim blaming has to stop.

  • Mel Roworth

    So true. Wouldn’t it be great if education focused on mutual, respectful behavior towards each other as fellow humans?