Is This An "Inappropriate Outfit" For a Teenage Girl?

When I look at this photograph, I see an innocent young girl who looks stylish, comfortable and appropriate. Rules are rules, but I do wonder a little about the mindset of someone who sees anything else.

May 18, 2012 at 11:43am | Leave a comment

I have this high-school story that I sometimes break out in a "Waaah, waaah, nobody was paying attention to me" kind of way, about being sent home from school for wearing a red vintage slip to school. In my mother's defense, it was the 90s, and slip dresses were very popular, and I'm sure it looked pretty adorable with my dyed red hair and Doc Martens. I remember the gross guys I used to let give me hickies in between games of "Vampire: The Masquerade" really enjoying it, because boobs.

The story has a happy ending: It was picture day, and I managed to get my whore ass immortalized in print before the administrative smackdown. Plus, what teenager doesn't like getting to leave school for any reason?

And in in retrospect, my mom and I were both kind of dumbasses: I was wearing freaking lingerie! With my standard-issue chubby-girl cardigan over it, but still.

But in the case of this post from a blog called Adult Onset Atheist by a father who was called to school on Wednesday due to his daughter's "inappropriate" attire, I give a hearty, "Huh-wha?"

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This is the apparently inappropriate outfit in the school's front office.

As the blogger points out in his post, entitled "Burqa, "calling in the parents is one of the most significant punishments that can befall a junior high student" and there are "significant consequences" to both the parents, who must take an hour off work, and the student, who is expected to spend at least one class period sitting in the office, on display to their peers through the large windows.

While this outfit seems totally age-and-school-appropriate to me, it is apparently 1/2 an inch too short, according to the principal, who personally identified the student as inappropriately dressed. Which is where it gets sort of creepy -- is the "inappropriateness" of this outfit in the eyes of the beholder?

The father writes:

"I began to think: Luckily the school administration can look at [her] and see her as a provocative female, but then I thought, No…that is extremely creepy. I tried to think: Luckily the school administration can look at [her] though the eyes of hormone addled teenage boys to see her as provocative, but then I thought, No…that is weird-creepy. So I began to imagine some teacher thinking inappropriate things about [her], and she being punished for it. Imagine sitting in a class where you knew the teacher was literally looking through your clothing to see you as a provocateur?

I can’t help but think that the principal’s action creates an unhealthy atmosphere in his school. What does it say to the teachers who had her in class earlier in the day, and not noticed her inappropriate dress? Will there be punitive actions taken against the teachers who could not look at my daughter with perversion in their eyes? Is [she] safe?"

When I look at this photograph, I see an innocent young girl who looks stylish, comfortable and appropriate. Rules are rules, but I do wonder a little about the mindset of someone who sees anything else.

For that matter, why are schools always policing girls in this way? I don't remember a boy ever being sent home for wearing something too provocative, nor do I remember them being asked to do "fingertip tests" and the like with their shorts. Can you imagine a boy's father being called because his shorts were the length of this student's skirt?  Must we always hold women and girls accountable for other people's potentially sexual reactions to the way they look?

And what message does it send to her, to be made to feel "inappropriate," for what? Having the body of a teenage girl? Or being looked at by the wrong person? Unfortunately, if she plans to continue being a woman, it's a message she should probably get used to.