- I'm a Mills College alumna. By most definitions, I'm feminist. Better dead than co-ed.
- I wear leggings almost every day of the year.
- From Kindergarten until 12th grade, I attended a school with a strict dress code. We couldn't wear leggings at all, jeans were allowed only on certain Fridays, and pants for girls were only allowed December-February. We couldn't wear sleeveless tops and our skirts could be no shorter than 2 inches above our knees. At swimming events, we couldn't wear two-piece suits and at our formals, we couldn't wear strapless or backless gowns. And I'm not even that old.
Earlier this week, a North Dakota school banned leggings and yoga pants. This dress code change has caused a major uproar across the media and social networking. Frankly, I think the uproar is more ridiculous than the rule.
The rule actually states:
"Yoga pants, leggings and/or tights must be appropriately covered by other clothing." Not quite what Salon.com and HuffPost are reporting, is it? Here you can read it for yourself.
Did you know that Cosmopolitan magazine basically says the same thing? Read it here.
CBSNews and Oprah agree. Read it here.
Say this with me: leggings are not pants. Leggings are meant to go UNDER something else, a top that covers most of, if not all of, your butt. They're a layering piece. Cosmo gets it. Oprah gets it. Why can't we understand this?
Now say this: nobody wants to see my butt. Well, perhaps some people do want to see your butt, but that doesn't mean you should show it to them. And NOT showing it to them is actually more empowering than showing it.
Being empowered, liking your body, respecting your body does not actually happen when you're dressing to get attention, when you're showing off your stuff. And that's the point of wearing leggings without something to cover your butt. Don't try and sugar coat it and tell me it's because they're comfortable. I agree, they are. But they're just as comfortable with a shirt covering your butt as they are with a shirt that doesn't cover your butt. Remember, I wear leggings almost every day. I understand how comfortable and easy they are.
But again, they're just as comfortable with a fingertip-length shirt as they are with a waist-length shirt.
Now, many of my fellow feminists are angry because they think they're putting the responsibility on girls for their own bodies and protecting boys from being responsible for their bodies and actions. Well, gee whiz, we want our girls to be responsible for their own birth control, we want them to have the right to choose, we are telling women all the time that they are the only ones in control of and responsible for their bodies. Except when it comes to leggings? Really? That's ridiculous.
Part of being responsible for and in control of one's own body is how one dresses. Duh. What's so hard about that?
And yes, I agree that a woman should be able to wear any provocative outfit and not be objectified or subjected to poor male behavior. Heck, I think a woman should be able to walk down the street nude and not hear catcalls, be ogled, groped, assaulted or raped.
What she is wearing or is not wearing should not matter. She should still be treated with respect.
But, hello? This is the real world. And it doesn't happen that way. And since I know that it's not safe for women to walk around nude or scantily clad, it would be horribly irresponsible of a woman to do it. Not because she should protect the man who cannot control himself but because she should protect herself. Doesn't sound like rocket science to me. I don't think I should have to wear a seatbelt, but I do because it keeps me safe. I don't think I should have to lock my doors, but I do because it keeps me safe. I don't think I should have to avoid certain neighborhoods after dark, but I do because doing so keeps me safe.
Dressing modestly keeps me safe.
I realize we're all upset because we don't want girls to feel any more shame about their bodies. But by telling them they are free to wear whatever they want even though it isn't flattering, we're actually setting them up for more shame. And by telling girls they should just go ahead and wear clothes that are sexy actually objectifies them more than teaching them to be modest.
And we're upset because we think we're protecting boys and teaching them they don't have to be responsible for their actions. Well, here's another newsflash: we can't control what people think. We can only control what they see.
I have a son. Luckily for me, he is still completely unaware of girls. To him, they're princess-obsessed, pink-dressed, giggling annoyances. Soon enough he'll notice their beauty. I don't want him to be distracted from a girl's kind spirit, sharp mind and quick wit by her tight pants and low-cut top. I want him to see the girl for who she is not for what she wears.
I also have a daughter. I want boys to see her for who she is, for her attention to detail, for her caring heart, and her wacky sense of humor. I want her to understand that she doesn't need to show off her body to be empowered. I want her to feel confident in and loved for who she is. I want her to understand that beauty fades, skin sags, fat accumulates, and stretch marks appear but that doesn't mean she isn't beautiful. If she's only been taught that she can dress however she wants, that she should wear what shows off her body, I'm setting her up for major disappointment and self-esteem issues when suddenly the tight pants don't look so hot on her aging, changing body.
So, ya, I'm pretty much okay with the new dress code rule at one high school here in North Dakota. Maybe they could have handled it better. Maybe we as moms should spend some time teaching our daughters that their bodies ARE beautiful and special and as such should be treated with respect not only by others but first by themselves.