When Did Covering My Body Become More Important Than My Education?

By Olivia Gilbert

I recently bought a pair of high rise jeans and a pink crop top and was so excited to wear them to school. I made sure to get the top a couple of sizes too big so that it wouldn’t show a bunch of skin. It was the perfect length.

I noticed at school that I couldn’t raise my hands too far up or my stomach would show, so I was very careful. But at lunch, I tossed a napkin into the trash and my shirt went up just enough for my vice-principal to be concerned that I was distracting others from their meals. She told me to cover up, so I put my jacket on. But I was miserably hot. To problem solve, I taped my shirt to my pants. She couldn’t get angry if I was covered from head to toe. But I didn’t wear that outfit again.

I didn’t want to wear tape.

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I was taught that my body is a sexual object and more important than my education. When MY education was interrupted by taking me out of class to cover up, I was told I was interrupting the boys and their precious class time. I personally can’t wrap my head around how this makes sense. Is it my shoulders that are distracting him or the tobacco he posts about on social media?

Another time, I was wearing a skirt. And no, the skirt was not too short, because I was wearing pantyhose. I was pulled aside into a classroom on my way to math, and I was told my pantyhose were too sheer, that my black pantyhose were too sheer. Now, maybe this would have made sense if they were actually sheer, but they weren’t. No skin was showing. I was completely covered. But I needed to cover up even more, just in case the boys thought pantyhose were too sexual. Just in case.

I didn’t wear that skirt again.

These rules make rape culture okay. They teach that if I wear a skirt shorter than my knees, then I’m distracting the boys, tempting them, making it my fault  if I get raped.

My body isn't the issue. The Nike shorts I wear everyday in the summer, or the off-the-shoulder jumpsuit I see on display, aren’t something that I should be shamed for.

So why do I have to cover up?

This is sexism. And while some see sexism in their workplace or on the streets, I see it everyday in school. I see it in our code of conduct, I see it when teachers pull girls aside, and I see it when teachers don’t enforce the dress code for boys. When I research these issues, everything I read says the same thing: that girls can’t find dress code appropriate clothing in stores and that dress codes punish girls for boys’ actions. But nothing ever changes, the code of conduct stays the same.

When eleven year-olds are taught to cover up, it teaches them that their body is nothing more than how it appears in the eyes of boys.

What's it gonna take for our teachers and vice-principals to fight for the girls as well as the boys?