The concern for overly exposed young bodies may be well-intentioned. With society fetishizing girls at younger and younger ages, girls are instructed to self-objectify and see themselves as sexual objects, something to be looked at. A laundry list of problems can come from obsessing over one’s appearance: eating disorders, depression, low self-worth. Who wouldn’t want to spare her daughter from these struggles?
But these dress codes fall short of being legitimately helpful. What we fail to consider when enforcing restrictions on skirt-length and the tightness of pants is the girls themselves—not just their clothes, but their thoughts, emotions, budding sexuality and self-image.
Instead, these restrictions are executed with distracted boys in mind, casting girls as inherent sexual threats needing to be tamed. Dress restrictions in schools contribute to the very problem they aim to solve: the objectification of young girls. When you tell a girl what to wear (or force her to cover up with an oversized T-shirt), you control her body. When you control a girl’s body—even if it is ostensibly for her “own good”—you take away her agency. You tell her that her body is not her own.
When you deem a girl’s dress “inappropriate,” you’re also telling her, “Because your body may distract boys, your body is inappropriate. Cover it up.” You recontextualize her body; she now exists through the male gaze.
The oppressive effect of privilege is often so insidious that dominant groups complain whenever it’s brought up for discussion. They feel impatient and imposed on. “Come on,” they say, “stop whining. Things aren’t that bad. Maybe they used to be, but not anymore. It’s time to move on. Get over it” But people who are white or heterosexual or male or nondisabled or middle- or upper-class have to ask themselves how they would know how bad it really is to be a person of color or a lesbian or a woman or gay or disabled or working- or lower-class. What life experience, for example, would qualify a white person to know the day-to-day reality of racism? People of color are, by comparison, experts in the dynamics of race privilege, because they live with the oppressive consequences of it twenty-four hours a day.
The fact of the matter is, it doesn’t matter whether or not you think homosexuality is a sin. Let me say that again. It does not matter if you think homosexuality is a sin, or if you think it is simply another expression of human love. It doesn’t matter. Why doesn’t it matter? Because people are dying. Kids are literally killing themselves because they are so tired of being rejected and dehumanized that they feel their only option left is to end their life. As a Youth Pastor, this makes me physically ill. And as a human, it should make you feel the same way. So, I’m through with the debate.
When faced with the choice between being theologically correct…as if this is even possible…and being morally responsible, I’ll go with morally responsible every time.
Being loved is not the same thing as loving.
When you fall in love, it is discovering the ocean after years of puddle-jumping.
It is realizing you have hands.
It is reaching for the tightrope when the crowds have all gone home.
Do not spend time wondering if you are the type of woman men will hurt.
If he leaves you with a car alarm heart, you learn to sing along.
It is hard to stop loving the ocean, even after it has left you gasping, salty.
So forgive yourself for the decisions you’ve made, the ones you still call mistakes when you tuck them in at night,
And know this: know you are the type of woman who is searching for a place to call yours.
Let the statues crumble. You have always been the place.
You are a woman who can build it herself.
You were born to build.
When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.