It’s not my fault if my body offends you

The dress code rule against tank tops objectifies students at STA, which should be a safe environment focused on learning and not appearance.

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by Jeannie O'Flaherty, Staff Writer

I find it odd that St. Teresa’s is so strict on the dress code. I’d rather feel like my body is viewed respectfully instead of objectified.

This seems to happen to us girls a lot these days: on the streets, at parties, on social media and even in our homes. One would only hope that their Catholic, all-girls, women empowering high school might be a safe haven from the constant sexualization of our bodies, but alas, our wants go unheard.

Even clothing items as simple as tank tops are found inappropriate. St. Teresa’s principal of student affairs, Dr. Elizabeth Baker, stated in an email that “bare shoulders are not acceptable non uniform wear…some students may choose to upsize [tank tops sold in the Star Shop] which promotes exposure that we do not condone at STA.”

The “Unacceptable Out of Uniform Days” attire at STA includes: extremely short shorts or skirts, bare backs, shoulders and midriffs, halter spaghetti straps and tube tops.

By implementing these dress code rules, it’s implied that somehow us girls have control over other’s thoughts. If we wear tank tops, we are the cause of teachers, faculty or other students viewing us in a negative, unprofessional or sexual way. But perhaps it could be the ingrained societal norms that encourage primarily men to view us strictly on our appearance. Or maybe – just maybe – boys need to be taught not to sexually harass girls instead of girls being taught that we should be blamed for harassment because of our clothing or body exposure. But hey, what do I know? It’s not like I’m a girl who has been a victim of objectification ever since puberty hit and the world decided all there is to me is my curves and uncontrollable seductive nature.

We aren’t unprofessional based on what we wear. We are professional based on our actions. What’s unprofessional is thinking that somehow our appearance is the deciding factor of our professionalism.

Even Fran Koehler, Assistant High School Division Head for Student Life of Notre Dame de Sion, commented that the only cheeks she wanted to see at the mixer they were hosting were the ones on the girls’ faces. Really? Does the area from my butt to my knees really make you that uncomfortable? Do others really have no control over where they look, or how they perceive what they look at? It’s not my fault if my body offends you.

So here’s my proposal: instead of falling into the dangerous trap of blaming girls for other’s unprofessional behavior or thoughts, learn how to see past our appearance. Let us wear tank tops when it’s 90 degrees outside and the air conditioning doesn’t work in half of our classes. Let us wear short shorts when we’re at a mixer packed full of other dancing, sweaty boys and girls. And lastly, it’s an all girls’ school; we have boobs, we wear bras, it’s no secret, so don’t squirm when you see my sports bra peeking out from underneath my tank top.

Why are you looking there anyway? Most girls in high school aren’t even legal adults yet. But still, we are taught that exposing any given part of our bodies could result in not being taken professionally, or even being taken advantage of sexually. Victim blaming is a dangerous road to go down, especially when those victims are girls in an environment where women empowerment is so prominent.

 

It was brought to the Dart’s attention that Fran Koehler is wrongly attributed in this opinion piece. Koehler is Assistant High School Division Head for Student Life, not the Dean. The mistake has been corrected. The Dart regrets this error.

Updated Nov. 16 7:50 a.m.