A Newlands College dean told a 14-year-old young woman that her short skirt made her look like a slut.
There’s a conversation going on at frogblog on the topic, with the usual suspects coming out to play – “she didn’t call the girl a slut, she just said she looked like a slut!” “I see heaps of girls dressed like hookers!” and there’s even a bonus “doing Gender Studies at university is useless because it doesn’t get you a job” bit of fail!
But let’s not get distracted by the kinds of comments that are obviously misogynist – there’s a little tidbit in the Stuff article which makes it clear this is just the bit of the iceberg that’s above water:
The school’s guidelines require girls’ skirts to touch the ground when they kneel
I would delight in the quaint Victorian-ness of it all if it weren’t so infuriating. In an article about school authority figures policing young women using gendered, sex-shaming slurs, this sentence is just dropped in as though it’s completely insignificant.
But this is where it all starts.
A commenter at frogblog tries to argue that boys face “sexist” uniform regulations too, in regards to hair length. And yes, this goes to issues about masculinity and the basic premise of high school, molding us all into nice little homogeneous GDP-generating units … but no cigar. Men’s hair is simply not routinely used as a tool to control and police their actions and lives the way sexuality, and “looking” sexual, is used against women.
But QoT, they just want everyone to look uniform and neat!
Nope. The school’s regulation on skirt length is summed up as “must touch the ground when kneeling”. So are below-knee, at-knee, above-knee, mid-calf skirts permitted? What about the girls who get larger skirts which go down to their ankles to grow into in Year 9, or the poor girl who hits 5’10 sometime in the middle of Year 12 and simply cannot find a skirt to fit from the (horribly overpriced) uniform shop that goes anywhere near her knees?
Come on, QoT, the girl must be freezing in a skirt that short!
And she can take the hem down. Or wear stockings. Or maybe she’s one of those bizarre people (like many Cantabrian classmates in my past who rocked shorts and t-shirts year-round) who just doesn’t get cold as easily.
But what if the notorious Wellington wind blows it up and people see her underwear!
Only a problem if you think young women’s underwear is an inherently immoral thing. You aren’t … slut-shaming women in short skirts, are you, invisible questioner?
No! I’m just … concerned for her privacy! What if some pervert takes an upskirt photo of her???
Then that pervert is a pervert and the fault of a pervert’s actions fall … on the pervert. And probably a society that simultaneously tells young women not to look like sluts while massively hyper-sexualising The Naughty Catholic Schoolgirl archetype and idolizing youth/”innocence”.
I just want young women to look like ladies/nicely dressed/dignified!
And as soon as “ladies”, “nice” and “dignified” are set up in opposition to “sexual” … congratulations, you’re a slut-shamer using sexuality to control women’s choices!
Look, I just don’t think young women should go around dressed like hookers!
How precisely do “hookers” dress? What is inherently wrong with dressing like women who work in the sex industry? Isn’t “dressed like hookers” just a nice, anti-sex-work shorthand for “dressed in a way which is read as sexual”? So … isn’t that just slut-shaming?
Well, um … fuck you! Dogs and raw meat analogy! You are no lady! Asking for it! Childhood time of innocence! Sex bad!
The prosecution rests.
Skirt length regulations are first and foremost about making schoolgirls look “like ladies” or “respectable”, two concepts which are rooted in hiding and denying women’s sexual agency and sexual feelings. The dean at Newlands College shouldn’t be punished; she should be praised for at least being honest about their priorities.