“The dress code creates the very problem they have to address: it makes girls sexual.”

The temperatures these days are causing heated discussions in the stadium. Marjolin van Pavel, a postdoctoral researcher in history at the University of Antwerp and a member of the feminist think tank Furia, thinks it’s a good idea for young people not to simply accept the dress code at school. “When adults tell a girl that her shirt has a plunging neckline, they are telling her that her body is viewed from a sexual perspective.”

A student from Secondary School III at Montfort College in Rottselaer in Flemish Brabant has reopened the debate about the school’s dress code with her response to the administration. Beatrix Yavuz (14) believes the dress code disproportionately targets girls.

For teens, discovering and creating their own identity is an important part of their lives. They enjoy expressing themselves through clothing and exploring their own and social boundaries. Unfortunately, girls also face double standards.

“The dress code creates the very problem they have to address: it makes girls sexual.”

On the one hand, it is expected to be attractive. The current beauty ideals that we see on the streets, in Social media And consider how modeling also involves a degree of sexuality. Despite all the so-called sexual liberation, girls are still judged on this basis. Teenage girls find that their bodies are suddenly seen through a sexual lens, not only by their peers, but also by adults who show a great deal of interest in supervising those bodies. Girls should dress “decently” and not “obscene” or “abusive” so that no one is distracted by their bodies.

Today there is a long history of thinking that men have unbridled sexual impulses. The task of women was to protect men from themselves, above all, not to arouse animal impulses. If a guy can’t “rein in” himself, then it must be her. Didn’t her ankle show? Behold the long tradition blaming the victim Shift blame from the perpetrator to the victim. As a result, different rules were applied to men and women. Not only did men have more freedom of movement, they were also more free to display their bodies. Is today’s navel yesterday’s ankle?

Girls not only suffer from this because, for example, they get kicked out of the classroom, but it also creates too much emphasis on their bodies, giving the pleasure of playing with clothes a darker side. By taking responsibility for the impact of it they happened in others With girls, you make it hard for them not to make themselves blaming the victim They do when something unpleasant happens to them.

When adults tell a girl that her cute shirt is a split They made her realize that her body is viewed from a sexual perspective

This is the age when girls not only feel that sexual appearance is burning their bodies, but where they also have to hear “jokes” about their bodies from their peers, being yelled at in the street by “old people” and feel the first unwelcome hand on the buttocks or the chest. Also in adolescence, the sexual boundaries of many girls are crossed, often by acquaintances from their environment.

When adults tell a girl that her cute shirt is a split They made her realize that her body is viewed from a sexual perspective. This contributes to a feeling of insecurity. For example, a sixteen-year-old girl told me that she feels very uncomfortable when a teacher, an adult, indicates that she has split she has. It’s just a nice top for her. “I have a feeling this also creates the impression that some of the clothes are considered sexy and that you might be less likely to wear something like that later on an outing alone.”

Thus, these kinds of rules create the very problem they have to address: they sexualize girls. Instead of reproducing and teaching outdated double standards, schools should be encouraged to engage in a dialogue about their policies and freedom of expression and choice. Young people would likely be better off if space was created to think critically about the influence of mass media and popular culture on gender identity or the impact of marketing and consumption. The focus should be on respecting others regardless of their clothing. You can also tell that the responsibility for one’s (sexual) outlook and feelings rests solely with the person themselves. Girls don’t have a right to prevent this from happening to others, but it’s up to others to handle it appropriately. More respect for men and boys was also indicated: they are not animals with uncontrollable desires.

Dress codes don’t just discriminate against girls. There are still schools that ban earrings, nail polish and makeup for boys

When young people speak out against the dress code, it is about more than expressing personal identity. It’s about the way girls feel about things and sex. It is a demand to be heard and respected by those who often treat them as second-class citizens and display gender-biased, racist, class and homophobic thinking patterns on their bodies. Dress codes don’t just discriminate against girls. There are still schools that ban earrings, nail polish, and makeup for boys. Nor should we ignore the way black girls are being sexualized more extreme and younger. It is also incomprehensible that there are Flemish schools that boast tolerant dress codes and an open school climate, but ban headscarves.

The fact that young people are engaging in the debate cannot be commended. They demand a policy relevant to their lives, in which they are consulted and that take into account the evolution of identity, gender expression and cultural diversity: the politics of their era.

Marjolin van Pavel is a member of the feminist Think Tank and Action Group Furia

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