This graduation season, California high school senior Chloe Cross's yearbook quote went viral because it perfectly highlighted the sexist silliness of school dress codes that seem to focus on hiding girls' bodies so that they aren't a "distraction" to their male classmates.
The point, of course, is that girls' clothing doesn't distract from education the way some proponents of dress codes say it does — and even if it did, it wouldn't be the responsibility of the girls who opted to show a little skin. It would be something for boys who were objectifying them so hard that they couldn't concentrate to grapple with and solve for themselves.
This idea has begun to take hold.
Last August, the Nation's Cecilia D'Anastasio reported that students across the country were protesting their school's dress codes — not just for the backward messages about sex they send, but because consequences for their violation often involve missing classroom time and disrupting girls' education:
Students at Morris Knolls High School in New Jersey, Kenilworth Junior High in California, Duncanville High School in Texas and even New York's prestigious Stuyvesant High School have issued complaints about their dress codes, many of which have resulted in full-on protest. Stories of girls being harassed, sent home, shamed or asked to change into ill-fitting gym clothes in lieu of what they came to school in are commonplace on Tumblr, and are rapidly becoming more prevalent on Twitter. Young women around the country are arguing that the school's reaction to a woman's appearance is more distracting than her appearance itself and that it is unfair to be told that their attire frustrates the school's goal to educate. On a more extreme scale, this philosophy of blaming women's attire for men's behavior toward them echoes what many call "rape culture:" a term describing, in part, the likelihood that a woman will be blamed for her rape.
In an effort to raise awareness about the sexism inherent in many school dress codes, other young feminists recently posted photos of themselves in crop tops using the hashtags #standinsolidarity and #croptopday. Mic has a great roundup of some of the responses, as well as the campaign of one high school activist who papered her school's walls with this message:
Laci Green, the creator of a YouTube series dedicated to sex ed, used a March video to make a similar point (the description: "'OMG a shoulder!! I'm going to fail this exam now. :(' said no guy ever").
"I was truly trying to get a message across about sexism in my school (and others) and how genuinely stupid I find the defense of the dress code to be," Cross, the high school senior behind the viral yearbook quote, told Yahoo Canada. "I wanted to emphasize how stupid it sounds to blame the way that people, especially girls, dress for the academic failure of their peers. Nobody from my class would be going to college if bodies were as distracting as the administration makes them out to be."