Enough is enough
Recently CNN ran a story about Bartram Trail High School in St. Johns, FL, which has come under fire for altering 80 yearbook photos of female students to mask their cleavage. Stephanie Fabre, a parent whose daughter Riley O’ Keefe was one of those students, pointed out that the school’s decision “comes on the heels of a much bigger issue of gender discrimination and these girls being targeted and sexualized for being told that their clothes are wrong,” she said. O’ Keefe expressed frustration at how “if a girl has a smaller chest versus a girl having a larger chest, the girl with a larger chest is much more likely to be dress coded and it’s not fair. We should be able to wear the same shirts, the same clothing and not fear being dress coded.” Very fair point.
However, two things should be mentioned here.
First, the student dress code prohibits clothing that is “immodest, revealing, or distracting,” with each school’s principal having the final say about whether the attire is appropriate. The code also warns that “students are prohibited from wearing clothing that exposes underwear or that exposes body parts in an indecent or vulgar manner.”
Second, there also is a disclaimer on the district’s website states that if the outfits of the students did not meet the dress code, they would be digitally altered.
Apparently, some parents and students believe there is an “inequity between the boys’ and girls’ dress codes.” How? The code specifies that “boy’s pants/slacks must be worn at the waist. No boxer shorts or underwear may be visible.” Is it because, as CNN points out, “While the dress code for girls and boys each have three entries, the list of rules for boys is shorter”? Must fairness be judged today using a spreadsheet, ensuring Column A and Column B have the same number of entries?
I am also very disturbed by the reactions of Bartram’s parents to the photo alterations because it appears to reflect an attitude that is too prevalent in our society: supporting and allowing the sexualization of young girls as a good thing. Unfortunately, many of the same people who argue for body positivity and who cheer women like Kim Kardashian for posting scantily clad photos of themselves, are the same people who complain about the objectification of women. It is an inherent hypocrisy. If you wear clothing drawing attention to certain parts of your body, you cannot get angry when people notice those parts of your body.
As a woman I believe all women (indeed all people) should be proud and comfortable with who they are. However, as a mother with children (a boy and a girl) who spends her life trying to protect children from online dangers, such as sextortion, sex trafficking, sexual exploitation, etc., I cannot understand why Bartram’s parents are not at least thankful that the school has a child’s modesty protected in this way. There is far too much acceptance of sexuality permitted with our young children—and I say this as a mother and as a clinical psychologist. Shouldn’t the fact that there are parents who were offended when their child’s image was protected be a wake-up call for the rest of us? Shouldn’t we all want to ensure that our children do not fall prey to society’s expectations that sexualized versions of ourselves are ok? I applaud Bartram for this decision to hold true to their policies.