I have been thinking about writing this all day. The feminist inside of me has been fraught and frustrated, struggling with how to word this so that I do not offend anyone.
This morning I had this conversation with my twelve year old son.
O: “Mom, did you know there is a different dress code at school for girls?”
Me: “Oh is there?”
O: “Yes. Do you know why?”
Me: “I’m not really sure. Why?”
O: “Because men and boys are perverts.”
There it was. Plain as day. The world we live in is teaching my twelve year old son that girls have a dress code because boys are perverts.
This frustrates me to no end. Yes, some boys do fit that description, but I think it is fair to say that most do not. In fact, it would also be fair to say some girls fit that same description too. So then, why does my son have to be forced into a grouping that makes him feel shame and assumes he is a pervert just because he was born a male?
I see this as a two fold issue. First, girls need to be taught to both dress and treat themselves with respect. They also need to learn how to treat other women with respect too. Second, our boys need to be taught how to be kind and how to treat a girl with respect, even if she is not respecting herself.
Before anyone gets upset, I am a girl. A woman. A female. I can draw a lot from my personal experiences. I have been on the receiving end of a pervert’s bullshit. Several times in my life in fact. I did not ask to be treated that way any of these times, but I still was. In each case it was ONE man. Not all of them, and certainly not enough to label all men and boys as perverts.
The picture I used for this post is from a night that I got dressed up. I wore a short, strapless dress. I had very high heels on with it. That night, for the first time in a long time, I felt very good about myself. I knew the dress would attract some attention. At one point, I even questioned whether or not I should wear it.
For the most part, the comments and attention I received because of it, was all very positive like it should have been. You see, even though the dress was short and strapless, it was classy.
Classless was the man, who towards the end of the night – in his drunken state – thought it would be funny to try and pull my dress down from the hemline. I just happened to be standing beside him after coming off the dance floor. Even less cool was his wife’s attitude. She was watching this happen, and glaring at me angrily as if her husband’s behaviour was my fault.
This of course was just ONE man. He did not represent all of the men at the event, nor did he represent all of the men in our society. He was ONE man acting like a complete douchebag.
While there was nothing inappropriate about my dress, I was fully aware of the reaction it could get. Wrong, yes, but I was prepared for it.
Perhaps girls and young women need to be made more aware of the same things. A parent needs to be a source of guidance and not afraid to make them change into more appropriate attire when they are wearing something that should never leave the bedroom. Our girls need to be taught how to attract positive attention, in positive ways. They also need to be there for other girls and women and to stand up for them when needed.
That said, our boys need to be nurtured. They need to learn right from wrong. They need to be taught that there is no amount of clothing – or rather lack of – that gives them the right to treat a female with disrespect. They need to learn that no matter what a female does or wears, she still deserves respect. Our boys need strong role models who can teach them the difference between love and lust.
It bothers me that my twelve year old willingly accepted that he is a boy and he is by default a pervert, because the school dress code tells him this.