‘Are My Pants Lowering Your Test Scores?’
In March, Administators at Haven Middle School (Evanston, Illinois) notified parents that female students are no longer allowed to wear shorts, leggings, or yoga pants. Why? Because those clothes might be “too distracting” for their male peers. And, while some say that the boys should be responsible for their own behavior, others say that the girls provoke the boys by wearing these things.
More than 500 students have signed onto a petition protesting the new dress code policy, which they say is sexist because it’s only targeting girls’ clothing. Some female students have chosen to defy the ban and are wearing leggings and yoga pants to school in protest. A poster plastered in Haven Middle School reads, “Are my pants lowering your test scores?”
“Not being able to wear leggings because it’s ‘too distracting for boys’ is giving us the impression we should be guilty for what guys do,” one of the students participating in protest, 13-year-old Sophie Hasty, told the Evanston Reveiew. “We just want to be comfortable!”
Let’s zip across the country to the City of Snoqualmie in Washington state, where there is a recent tradition called May Madness at Mount Si High School:
May Madness seems to be a Mount Si High School tradition about five years running – whether you agree with it or not. It’s a ‘beauty’ contest set up in brackets like college basketball’s famed “March Madness.”
It matches girls in a one on one in a contest of looks. Contestants are picked by boys. Voted on by boys. The girls neither opt in nor opt out. They are essentially unconsenting participants – sometimes even matched against a good friend.
In response to this annual tradition where girls are rated on hotness (which, for some reason, administrators have not stopped), the students themselves have stepped up with a campaign called “Be Above the Madness.”
Yesterday, May 6, 2014, the group organized a positive protest to the May Madness contest. They made t-shirts and wore them to school. One side of the shirt has a graphic of a tournament bracket and the other side proclaims, “Be Above the Madness.”
They distributed about 50-60 t-shirts at Mount Si – actually running out because so many students asked to wear them. Wilson said the shirts also provoked questions, with many students asking how they can get involved.
When asked what message she hopes to send to the boys who started the contest, Wilson said she wants them to know while what they are doing is harmful, she doesn’t blame them…
Wilson may not place blame, but stands firm that the boys’ actions aren’t justified and says she’s tired of hearing the contest written off as “boys will be boys.
It’s never too early to start pitting girls against each other in a competition about looks, it is also never too soon to excuse boorish behavior from boys. The message to boys is damning, too: you are animals incapable of controlling yourselves, so why bother?
For Wilson, it boils down to school being a place for students to develop ideas and grow intellectually, not to be taught they are defined by how attractive they are to the opposite sex. She says May Madness is not just an issue of respect and hurt feelings. She feels it goes beyond that, saying objectification is often times the first step toward justifying violence against someone.
Wilson say contests like these plant seeds with young kids – that boys are allowed to judge girls in this way and girls need to adhere to boys expectations to be valid. She sees May Madness reflecting “a deeply engrained flaw in society.”
Indeed it is.
And there is no winning. Women are encouraged to strive to be objects of men’s desire and then criticized when they look do, or worse. Boys are excused for their boorish behavior and given a pass instead of being taught to be a gentleman. And we start them young, both the boys and the girls.