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The Soapbox: On School Dress Codes And Slutty Wednesday At Stuyvesant High School

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By now you’ve probably heard of the prestigious New York City high school that protested what they perceive as a discriminatory dress code by instituting a “Slutty Wednesday”—a day in which students came to school in outfits that deliberately violated the code. According to news reports, the school’s dress code is pretty basic. It requires that shorts, dresses and skirts should extend below students’ fingertips, with their arms straight at their sides and that shoulders, undergarments, midriffs and lower backs should not be exposed. Students argued that such a code affects female students more than males and that it is being arbitrarily enforced, singling out students whose bodies are “more curvy.”

“In addition to the violation of female students’ rights,” Jessica Valenti writes in The Nation, “the thinking behind the code sends a dangerous message to young women – that they are responsible for the way in which society objectifies and sexualizes them.”

The protest is similar to the thinking behind movements like Slutwalk — movements that, in the words of founder Heather Jarvis, emphasize the right for “anyone to wear what you want and be who you are without the threat of violence.”

Whereas I agree that it’s not a women’s responsibility to mitigate the male gaze, and I certainly respect that a woman’s sexuality is her own to be expressed as she chooses, the sticky fact is that many spaces we encounter have a dress code, written or unwritten. To the extent that school prepares students for the “real world,” shouldn’t students be expected to come to school properly dressed? Keep reading »

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