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Yesterday there was a call-in radio show about dress codes at school - whether they are sexist and the response of many young women and men to those codes. There have been a lot of protests and media campaigns as the weather starts to get warm here. It was a great show, with guests including the principal of one of the schools involved, a young woman from another school who was sent home to change, among others. Unusually, I actually wanted to call in, because I have views.

I'm the mother of a seventeen year-old girl. She is a dancer, so is very used to wandering around in minimal clothing. Lately, there have been many crop tops and short skirts, but sometimes she wears gauzy tops (with a bandeau or tank top underneath) and abbreviated shorts.
Luckily, her high school doesn't seem to have much of a dress code (if any) because it is filled with artsy types who wear an amazing variety of outfits. She, like many of her counterparts, argues that less clothing is cooler as we get into the hot, humid summer.

Personally, I think that covering up is sexier because the cloth hints at hidden delights (while hiding the brutal reality). It also helps prevent sunburn, and natural fabrics keep me cooler than bare skin in the blazing sun.

Even though I am sometimes uncomfortable with her choices, I support her decisions. She doesn't dress up to attract boys - she dresses to please herself. She isn't showing anything that I don't see any day on the street. The last time she went shopping for shorts, she struggled to find anything between butt-cheeks-hanging-out length and Bermuda-shorts-her grandmother-might-wear. The same is often true for tops, and, to a lesser extent, dresses and skirts. I don't think she should be punished, miss school, or be forced to wear a humiliating cover-up (shirts of shame are often handed out, even when girls have a suitable cover-up in their lockers), when decent alternatives are simply not sold.

I worked as a photographer for a local newspaper back in university, so I have evidence that young women wore equally revealing clothing to work back then. I distinctly remember a lacy camisole bodice top I made and wore to work, and I have photos of another summer student wearing a tube dress to her office job. I also remember the outrage from some readers (wives of the military men who worked in the offices) when the tube dress showed up in the paper, and getting blamed when a work colleague at an earlier job pinned me up against the filing cabinets and I had to knee him to let me go.

It's not the clothes, that cause the problems, so lets just stop blaming the girls, shall we? All too soon, they will be old and podgy like me, and claiming that they prefer to be covered up because it's appropriate (not because it hides the bulges and sags). Let them enjoy their bodies while they can; hopefully if we don't make such a big deal about it, they will continue enjoying their bodies for life.


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December 2016

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