The end of the school year is the best time to reflect on the memories made during the previous year, start making plans for summer, and of course, slut shaming. When students get their yearbooks in hand, the first thing they do is flip to their picture to see how it turned out. When girls at Wasatch High School did this, some of them found that their yearbook photos had been edited for purposes of “modesty.”
Student Kimberly Montoya found that sleeves had been Photoshopped onto her sleeveless blouse. Some girls found their necklines had been raised. Shelly Baum found that not only had her neckline been adjusted, but her tattoo, a reminder of the difficult times she had overcome during her childhood, had been erased from the photo. There have been no reports of any boys having their yearbook photos re-touched for purposes of modesty.
Some girls wearing similar clothing did not have their photos edited, and this appears to be indicative of a school culture that uses its dress codes to arbitrarily humiliate students like Montoya, who reports that she was reprimanded for wearing a skirt she purchased at Forever 21 and forced to remove her “immodest” attire, replacing it with a pair of sweatpants imprinted with, “I support Wasatch High dress code.” Another girl in her school wore the same skirt and was not
slut shamed punished. The high school apparently only wants to have their messages read off the bodies of certain students.
Superintendent Terry E. Shoemaker responded to the arbitrary slut shaming of high school females by saying, “We only apologize in the sense that we want to be more consistent with what we’re trying to do in that sense we can help kids better prepare for their future by knowing how to dress appropriately for things.”
The tattoo that was Photoshopped out of student Shelly Baum’s yearbook photo read, “I am enough the way I am.”
Institutional impositions of illogical and ridiculous dress codes do not prepare kids for the future nor teach them how to dress appropriately. It does, however, teach students that they are not enough the way they are. They reinforce a patriarchal society by telling girls that they should make choices based on a stereotypical idea of manhood, reinforce misogyny by telling boys that how a woman dresses determines whether or not she wants sex, and by telling both genders they are incapable of making competent, thoughtful decisions about their bodies and themselves. Instead of teaching students to focus on the length of their essays, they are focusing on teaching students to focus on the length of girls’ shorts.
When I’m testifying in front of a committee on voting rights, making a video to be shown at the United Nations, appearing on MSNBC, receiving an award at a shwanky banquet, or giving a speech, deciding what to wear is a big part of my preparation. When I’m just having an average day, I don’t put much thought into it. No matter what the occasion, I’m never asking myself if my neckline is going to cause guys to grab my breasts, if my spaghetti straps are going to force me to spend the day swatting away a swarm of penises, or if male genitalia are going to randomly escape and fly up my skirt due to its length.
Sometimes, I also dress in ways that send up the middle finger to the people who think they can define or attempt to shame me and other women based on what we wear. My body is not a source of shame and I am nobody’s prop. I’m lucky enough to have surrounded myself with people who don’t judge other women by what they wear and who will quickly put the smackdown on anyone who does. I’m lucky because I’ve gotten messages my entire life that are empowering, not limiting. I’ve learned that I not only am I enough the way I am, but that I am special, beautiful, powerful, and capable of leadership. These are the kinds of lessons our schools should be teaching.
Girls of Wasatch High School, I’m sorry for what you’ve experienced. I’m proud of you for standing up to it. None of your clothing was inappropriate to wear to school, and the only thing you have to be ashamed of is the fact your school is teaching lessons that reinforce misogyny and patriarchy.
To the administrators of Wasatch High School, here’s my yearbook photo. Photoshop THIS. (outfit courtesy of Forever 21)
|Madison Kimrey is a student, actress, writer and teen activist who fights for LGBT rights, humane treatment of animals, women’s rights and promotes youth activism and participation in democracy. Follow her other blog, Functional Human Being|