Slut-Shaming Be Damned: Don’t Judge A Girl By Her Clothes

Shana sharing her story about street harassment at LREI's International Day Of The Girl Assembly. Photo Credit: Lexie Clinton.
Shana sharing her story about street harassment at LREI’s International Day Of The Girl Assembly. (photo credit: Lexie Clinton)

“Excuse me miss. Your skirt is too short.”

“Miss, where are you going showing your midriff?”

“I’m gonna need you to the principal’s office, that dress is inappropriate.”

“You need to change or go home.”

These are just some of the countless phrases and sayings that I imagine are told to girls who try to express themselves freely at a school without a uniform, and yet are stopped countless times by the faculty and administration for wearing “revealing” clothing.

The unfortunate truth, however, is this:

When you interrupt a girl’s school day to force her to change clothes or to send her home because her shorts are short, or her bra straps are visible, you are telling her that hiding her body is more important than her education. You are telling her that making sure the boys have a distraction-free learning environment is more important than her education.

What you are really telling her is that “boys are more entitled to an education than she is” and this mentality needs to stop.

During the Breaking Silence event at Columbia, a very interesting point was brought up. Issues such as school pushout and dress code violations are really just another way to deal with stereotypes. School pushout happens when members of the school administration suspend girls when they try to “correct” this so-called “rambunctious” behavior.

Women of color are hypersexualized in the media and thus, are hypersexualized at school. They are viewed as aggressive versus simply being assertive. For one member of the panel, she was thankful for this suspension, as it “helped separate herself from the norm,” as she was expected to be and dress like this “aggressively sexual” girl at school, when that was far from the truth. She was wrongly stereotyped. But through the suspension, she was able to live by the “authentic truth” and be who she really was, instead of having to live up to this skewed vision.

But she was lucky. For her, being suspended actually liberated her. But being reprimanded simply because of what a female chooses to wear is a huge issue. During our International Day of the Girl assembly that my class put on earlier in October, one of my fellow classmates, Shana, told a personal story about street harassment. She recalled the catcalls and the whistles she hears walking down the street and unnecessary comments made at her, amongst which were “Smile baby,” “Miss! Miss! Yo I’m talking to you!,” “Damn mami, you sexy, can I have some?,” “Who do you think you’re ignoring?”

In her words, these remarks were not compliments. When she tells her family her daily struggle, they never sympathize with her, as they always attempt to side with the male offender. They ask her, “Well, what were you wearing?” She reflects on this situation with a word to the wise:

Never ask a woman that. It doesn’t matter. I wear what I want, for myself and my confidence. Not to get street harassed or touched by a stranger’s hand. I’m not asking for it.

I agree. Women should be able to wear what they want to be able to express themselves without having to deal with creepy boys lurking on them, ready to prey.

But alas, once a girl expresses herself, the negative remarks almost never cease.

This brings up the idea of slut-shaming. At our assembly, Lilah spoke about this concept. She said that “when a woman is raped, sexually harassed, or slut shamed, people often say that she was asking for it and that the guy couldn’t help himself simply because he is a man. Not only does society blame the victim, but they even try to protect the abuser.”

Lilah speaking about slut-shaming at LREI's International Day Of The Girl Assembly. (photo Credit: Lexie Clinton)
Lilah speaking about slut-shaming at LREI’s International Day Of The Girl Assembly. (photo credit: Lexie Clinton)

 

This was what was underlying in Shana’s situations. The unspoken excuse was that “boys will be boys.”

One example of how boys are excused for gender-based violence happened in Steubenville, Ohio. Lilah informed us of this incident at our International Day of The Girl assembly and said it was “when a couple of high school boys raped a girl and posted videos of the incident online. Many in the community didn’t want the boys to be charged because it would hurt their future as football players and their ability to get into good colleges. Ironically, the victim was blamed for putting them in that position, when the boys were the ones who committed the crime. She was left invisible. The girl’s feelings, well-being, health, safety and future were completely ignored, and she was left to feel irrelevant.”

“Boys will be boys” is a heinous excuse for bad behavior as it allows our society to continue to believe that boys and men are born that way, and that their behaviors are natural and beyond their control.

Lilah went on to say, “If this is how the world thinks, we will never make an effort and demand more of men and boys. For women to have the chance to be liberated, the first step is for society at large to stop thinking men and boys don’t have any control over their own impulses. We have to change our culture,” and I wholeheartedly agree.

Slut-shaming is exactly why we as a society need feminism. This is exactly why guys need feminism! They are brought up to have this macho mentality and are almost never held accountable for their actions, because, once again, “boys will be boys.” If we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, then why is it okay to judge a girl by her clothes?

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