The Line Between Education and Shame


Chastity Frazier, Staff Writer

When I was in the third grade, I was waiting in the pick up line for my mom, I remember wearing my matching shorts and tank top set from Justice, it was my favorite outfit. I was talking to my friend when one of the student’s mom came over to me, she told me my clothing choice was “not appropriate” and that I was “exposing too much.” At seven years old I was confused, I could not comprehend what she meant by it, but I can still remember the incredibly sinking feeling I felt when she walked away. After that day. I never wore that outfit again.

When I was in the sixth grade, I was walking down the hallway with my friend when a teacher stopped me. I was wearing yoga pants, at first she was just staring at me, then she started speaking. “Those pants are not okay, it is inappropriate,” “you are degrading yourself,” “this is ridiculous,” and yes I agree, it was ridiculous. It was ridiculous because while the people passing were laughing, I was heartbroken. I no longer had the elementary mind I had back in third grade.

When I was in the ninth grade, I went into a teacher’s classroom to give her papers from another teacher, this time I was wearing a dress. I kindly handed her the papers and then began to walk out, but her voice stopped me. “Excuse me, that dress is not appropriate,” “I can’t believe you would even consider walking out of your house like that,” “you need to go to the office and change.” I remember one student calling out “that’s gross” and everyone’s laughter followed. I felt sick to my stomach, ashamed, guilty. But guilty for what? Showing too much skin? Having long legs? The teacher should have felt guilty for making me feel insecure and self loathing but instead, I felt guilty for being a female.

As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie once said at a TedTalk, “We teach girls shame. Close your legs, cover yourself. As so, girls grow up to be women who silence themselves. They grow up to be women who cannot say what they truly think.”

I was seven years old when I was first exposed to shame for being a girl. But if you were to cut my hair and take off my shirt, I would be fundamentally identical to a boy at that age.

It is inevitable to experience sexism as a girl, however I have no tolerance for the concepts of body shaming.

Keller ISD’s dress and grooming policy states that students are “to dress in a respectful manner within the acceptable standards of the community and in such a manner as to contribute to the academic atmosphere, not detract from it..”

The fact that it says “to dress in a respectful manner… to contribute to the academic atmosphere, not distract from it,” is ridiculous. Students and teachers should respect my clothing choices. And who am I distracting with my “inappropriate” outfit in the first place? Male students?

Boys in school need to be taught that it does not matter what a girl in their class is wearing. It is a student’s job to come to school and learn, how a female is dressed has nothing to do with that.

School’s do not want to put in the time to teach boys that women are not objects and “opportunities of choice.” School systems everywhere are completely dismissing the rape culture we live in.

The dress code we have at not only our school but other schools around us, is teaching bright young women that it is their fault that their body is being sexualized. It also gives the green light for students to send out degrading slurs to these girls.

The teachers and faculty at Keller may not realize it, but dress code has warped young girls minds to think that showing too much skin is the equivalence to doing an illegal act. This is what makes girls think it is okay to shame other girls. But Keller ISD has a zero tolerance policy for bullying do they not? Are they not the ones influencing the minds of young girls? And are the teachers being the bullies when they break girls down and send them out of class for an exposed shoulder?

School systems, and society as a whole, need to realize that the effect dress code has on girls is not a positive one. Exposed shoulders, collarbones, thighs, and backs are not provocative. The creators of the dress code are sexualizing girl’s bodies. They are ruining the idea of freedom of expression, and they are blowing a true dress code’s meaning completely out of context.

Dress codes are used in schools to get students prepared for life after high school, seeing as most professions require a dress code. I understand that, but our dress code at Keller is unfair on the grounds of teaching shame to female students, and it needs to change.