What I Teach My Teenage Daughter In Response To Her School’s Sexist Dress Code

What I Teach My Teenage Daughter In Response To Her School’s Sexist Dress Code May 25, 2016

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Before my 14 year old daughter left for school this morning she came out of her room and asked, “Do you think I’ll get dress coded for this?”

My response to her was far different than I had once imagined it would be. I remember the old me saying things like, “If I have a daughter, she’ll never go out of the house wearing ____” (insert whatever I thought was immodest at the time).

But that’s not how I see things today as the actual– no longer theoretical– parent of a teenage girl.

Now, she has never been “dress coded” at school, because the clothing she chooses for herself is pretty ordinary. However, in these frequent discussions when she worries about it (or tells me about other kids– always girls– who got dress coded), I use it as an opportunity to have an important discussion with her. Here’s where I steer things:

I tell her that if she’s wearing clothes her mom and I bought for her, there’s no reason she can’t wear them to school or anywhere else.

She’s 14 and obviously doesn’t have a job– which means if she has clothes, we bought them. And if we bought them, there’s no reason why she can’t wear them to school– even if some administrator disagrees with our family’s decisions. We are completely capable as a family to make our own decisions on clothing, we don’t need the school to help. If we wanted help from the school, we would have sent her to one of those private schools where they do stuff like that.

Thus, I encourage her to keep on whatever she’s wearing (if she wants), even if she’s worried about an administrator giving her a hard time.

I teach her that other people don’t get to dictate anything about her body– that she is in complete control over her self expression and has her own bodily autonomy as a human being.

The *worst* thing I could teach my daughter is that men, or societal forces, somehow have a power or say regarding her self-expression or body. This would be a message that could throw her into a host of oppressive and abusive situations as an adult, so I make sure we have that conversation right now. She is the complete and total owner of her own body. She can dress it however she wants, and draw boundaries that she is in total control of (aka, if someone at church wants to hug you, you can totally say “no thanks”).

If I were to encourage her to passively accept the dress code, I’d be encouraging her to accept the reality that others have control over her body.

I tell her that she isn’t responsible making sure the boys don’t “get distracted.”

I teach my daughter that when she goes to school, it’s her job to work her hardest learning English, learning to read, and giving her best effort to everything she does. That’s what she’s responsible for.

What she’s not responsible for is making sure all the boys are actually doing their jobs. She’s not responsible for their attention span, she’s not responsible for where they point their eyes, and she’s certainly not responsible for whatever thoughts 14 year old boys think about during the school day.

I teach her that her body is a beautiful creation of God, and that she should love it. But I also teach her that her body is not some hyper sexualized kryptonite where having her bra strap accidentally stick out, or where a bare shoulder is going to render all the males in her world completely helpless and incapable of behaving appropriately.

Seriously– if your son can’t finish his math assignment because my daughter has her shoulder showing, the “talk” that needs to occur is with your son, not my daughter.

I teach her that her school’s dress code is part of the oppression of sexism and patriarchy, and that she should resist it.

My daughter has been raised in an egalitarian home with strong female role models, so when she experiences sexism, she naturally finds it revolting and unnatural all on her own. I use these dress code conversations to point out how sexism and patriarchy are both ingrained in our culture, and teach her how to notice and identify it when it comes up. Regarding the dress code, she was able to notice all on her own that it’s really only the girls who have their bodies policed, and that this felt wrong to her.

Once she’s able to identify things like this, I teach her the importance of tearing down any social structure that oppresses people. This gives way to a bigger discussion on other forms of cultural oppression– discussions I really cherish having with her.

I tell her that I would be her #1 supporter in defying patriarchy. 

She is being raised in a pacifist home, but that doesn’t mean we teach passivity or compliance with oppression. While we teach the principles of being respectful towards those in authority and being loving towards even our enemies, I make sure to not confuse this with teaching her blind compliance with authority.

Instead, I encourage her to take control over her clothing choices and self expression– and I make sure she knows that if she ever gets dress coded, I’d put up the biggest, most spectacular fight her school has ever seen. (And this always invites a “look” that is split between feeling supported while also saying, “Dad, do NOT embarrass me.”)

Private schools can do whatever they like, because we have the total freedom to not go there. But public schools? I don’t need my local public school telling me how to parent, or telling my daughter that her body is some hyper sexualized object that will throw the school into total chaos if she happens to have too much of her 7th grade shoulder or leg showing.

And so, when she’s worried about getting in trouble at school, I use that as an opportunity to have a much bigger discussion.

unafraid 300Dr. Benjamin L. Corey is a public theologian and cultural anthropologist who is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary with graduate degrees in the fields of Theology and International Culture, and holds a doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary. He is also the author of the new book, Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, which is available wherever good books are sold. www.Unafraid-book.com.

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  • Barb


  • Nimblewill

    “I teach her that her school’s dress code is part of the oppression of sexism and patriarchy, and that she should resist it.”

    What about dress codes on beaches? Would you allow her to go topless. I am a middle school teacher. Nearly bare bodies, boys or girls, are a distraction in schools. Plain and simple. How would you feel about one of her young male teachers going around school shirtless? Would you consider it to be oppressive to require a dress code for him?

    I never say anything to girls about dress, its always the women teachers who notice and say things.

  • mkeddy

    Preach it, Benjamin.

    I think it is actually disrespectful to guys to imply that they are powerless in the face of teen girls’ reasonable clothing choices. Raise your boys to respect girls and mind their own business, people.

    I especially like #1

  • Stormageddon1

    if I were a parent, this is the kind of parent I would want to be.

  • Nimblewill

    You do realize that not every middle school student has responsible parents like Corey?

  • Nimblewill

    Many are raising themselves or are being raised by men who prey on women. Its all good in theory. Real world is totally different.

  • Reasonable, well-balanced, yet assertive. This is really good stuff; your daughter is so lucky.

  • So, if boys are being raised to treat women like objects, the solution is to change the women in their environment?

  • Michael Corey

    > I tell her that she isn’t responsible making sure the boys don’t “get distracted.”

    I would love for you to apply that same logic to your hatred of firearms owners. Maybe they are not responsible for making sure the pacifists are not intimidated?

    Beyond that… dude, you are just setting that kid up for failure. Dress codes exist in the world. For the past 3 years I have had to wear a tie to work. To ignore that, and to actively ignore that how you present yourself to others matters, seems beyond shortsighted.

    > We are completely capable as a family to make our own decisions on clothing, we don’t need the school to help. If we wanted help from the school, we would have sent her to one of those private schools where they do stuff like that.

    Yes, but you did make the choice to send her to the school she is currently attending. And they have a dress code. And you are free to a private school if you do not like that dress code.

  • Ron

    I am assuming you have certain lines you would not allow your teenage daughter to cross in terms of appropriate and inappropriate dress. If so, doesn’t that negate the heart of your argument?

  • (a) If the dress code standards are the same and applied to both sexes, fine. No one is allowed to go shirtless, so that’s a consistent standard for everyone to meet.

    (b) It doesn’t matter if it’s always the women who correct the girls- that doesn’t make it any less of a practice that is rooted in sexism and patriarchy.

  • James Quinn

    Are you seriously trying to compare a pair of shorts that may not be finger tipped length to carrying a weapon designed to kill a person?

  • Timothy Swanson

    Well said. I have had this fight with my own extended family, who felt entitled to police what my wife and daughters wear. And we’re talking normal, mainstream clothing, not nude in public. You are right that it is indeed part of the patriarchy – the assumption that women’s bodies are uniquely available for strangers to critique and control. Unsurprisingly, along with the body policing came hostility to my feminist beliefs and my wife’s career. It all goes together.

  • Jen Crowder Noricks

    Thanks for writing this. My children are in elementary school so this isn’t a big issue for our family…yet. I was very upset to recently hear that Jr high and high school teachers/administrators in our district still tell girls that their clothing is distracting the boys. This is unacceptable as it sends unhealthy messages to both girls and boys. I will be looking into the whether our district has any policies or is providing training for staff regarding enforcement of dress codes. I am inclined to rally other parents but I like your idea of also using it as an opportunity to teach kids self advocacy.

  • Chad Board

    It’s like you were overhearing our daily conversation with our daughters.

    In our Oklahoma school district, the female administrator claims that the dress code is equally for young men and women and yet somehow every follow up email is about girls and every kid who get’s “dress-coded” is a girl.

    We do encourage our daughter to stay within what we call the stupid dress code simply because it is very hard to expect our 7th grade girl to be the one to stand against the system in a VERY conservative environment. In other words, as you said, “Dad, do NOT embarrass me.”

  • Kerri Martinsen

    No, because it is our position as a family to dictate how we raise our children. We spend our money as we see fit on our children. If I don’t think something is appropriate for my daughter, I won’t buy it. (She is 14). It is not the school’s job to tell me how to dress my daughter. It is the school’s job to teach them English, Math, etc. Now there is clothing to be worn that is respectful for your job (and school is her job). Dress for the job you want. Right now she wants to be a teenager. And that is fine.

  • Ron

    I guess that is the point – the school leadership must decide what is respectful for the environment of learning. If I disagree, I can take steps to become a part of the decision making process. With 3 teenagers (2 girls & 1 boy), I may or may not always agree with the decisions of the school but I teach my teens to respect the guidelines in place. IMO the modesty issue tends to be more female-oriented because few boys are walking around exposing large amounts of skin. If a boy came to school in a g-string, he would be dealt with appropriately. Boys are also not allowed to sag their pants, etc. I just don’t see how asking boys or girls to dress by an appropriate standard is sexist.

  • Paul Sheneman

    You said, “…I’d put up the biggest, most spectacular fight her school has ever seen.” Wondering how a pacifist “fights” I scoured the internet and found this.
    Is this how a pacifist fights?

  • OhShmoopy

    Sorry but I think this whole post is rather ignorant. When you say that nobody can tell your child (yes, your child. I guarantee you’d see her that way if an adult male had sex with her) what she can or can’t wear, you’re saying that anything goes at school. Well it doesn’t. There are reasons for rules in schools. What if your child’s teacher’s father told her the same thing? Should a teacher show up in pasties and a g-string because her daddy said nobody should tell her what to wear? If a school’s dress code is out of line, that should be addressed before it’s an issue. Otherwise, it’s the school’s rules, not dad’s (and BTW, you don’t even see the irony that you’re telling her to listen to a man’s rules and not an institution’s).

    I also object you to you feeding your daughter all the patriarchy garbage. The rules are only sexist if they apply to one gender and not the other. If the punishment seems to be doled out unevenly, maybe that’s because the rules are broken unevenly. I guarantee there are other rules that boys break more than girls. What you should really teach your daughter is to not go through life blaming her gender. I’m a woman who’s worked in male-dominated professions and I’ve never felt held back because of my gender. But the women who came into the game with a gender chip on their shoulder always saw themselves as victims, because people like you fed them that BS so long that it became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  • Jill Kirsten Warner

    It seems to me that there is another element at play here. The every-day role models promoted in our media help to create this double standard. For example, female news personalities, at least in my market, get thinner and thinner and the clothing that has become so universal it appears to be a uniform of sorts is the short, skin-tight, form-fitting dress, Meanwhile, the men are covered from neck to toe in loose fitting suits with the exception of the rare summer loose shorts and shirt. So one hand of society tells women exactly what their body must look like and how they should dress while the other shames them for emulating their role models. I worked at a summer camp some years back and wept as I watched the thin girls play water sports with abandon while the chubby girls tugged at their over-sized T-shirts trying to cover themselves. We’ve got a long way to go. Thanks for this post.

  • pj3333

    I mean, I guess so. Within reason. Because you’ve probably bought your daughter a swimming suit and while it may be appropriate at a beach or a pool party, it’s probably not appropriate for school or a funeral or a wedding. My kids (male and female) dress modestly but that is not to say that we believe the exercise clothing we buy our daughter for sports practice are appropriate for the classroom. And believe me, I still have PTSD remembering The Winter of the Running Tights.

    Modesty does play some role, but as parents I believe we have a duty to teach our kids socially appropriate attire for various settings. I would totally support my school giving my daughter a hard time for wearing a sports bra and shorts to class but the busybody community members who called to complain about the cross country girls running for 2 hours without shirts when it was 98degF and 90% humidity need to shut it. When they’re trying to get a workout in without literally killing themselves, modesty is the least of my concerns. Especially when you aren’t also calling to complain about the boys running shirtless.

  • It’s sexist if it places the responsibility for male behavior on women.

  • Nah, we mostly just slap a lot.

  • pj3333

    I’m female and I don’t care to see the bits and pieces students of either gender often have dangling out of their inappropriate school attire. Unfortunately, girls are more likely to wear this type of clothing than boys, in my experience. While I don’t doubt some use “male distraction” as an excuse for dress codes, I have never lived in a school district where this was given as a rationale. I think it’s become the urban legend of dress code haters.

    The larger issue I have with dress codes is when they don’t take into consideration the clothing that is available within the town they are serving. To tell my my kid has to have shorts that reach the knees when the local stores only sell ones that don’t even go to the fingertips makes my life a living hell, thank you very much. Our district has no A/C but they don’t want any skin showing and won’t cancel class for high heat or humidity. Oh, and you can’t have a water bottle in class when the room is 100degF because maybe you’ve got it filled with vodka instead of water. Schools seem to have lost all ability to show compassion.

    Additionally too many dress codes are erratically enforced, IMO. A small chested girl may get away with a top that gets a bustier girl flagged, for example. Or a girl wearing a tank with thick straps gets busted because it’s cut in a way that shows “too much back” while another girl wearing a skirt so short you can tell she isn’t wearing underwear is sashaying past the guy writing up the first girl.

    Sometimes I feel like the hostile environment of high school toward females is the pay off for males managing to endure the hostile environment of elementary school (sit still, shut up, and color another stupid worksheet). Very depressing state of affairs for all concerned..

  • Michael Corey

    I am seriously saying that if your argument is that you are not responsible for other’s perceptions of what you are wearing, then that should be applied to things the author finds distasteful as well. My misogyny and your hoplophobia are apparently no one’s concern but our own.

  • John

    Wow, calm down Benjamin. Sounds like something must have happened that set you off. Public school or not, dress codes exist and have their proper place in regulating the students as many posts below mention. You seem intent of finding a fight. Guess you got the blog responses you were hoping for.

  • pj3333

    I’m wondering what people’s reactions would be to racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. tshirts? If parents see fit to buy it, should kids be allowed to wear it to school? Should my daughter have to sit in class reading your son’s shirt bearing disgusting sexual innuendo because it’s your job to raise him and the school’s job to teach him?

  • Michael Corey

    That would be a consistent application of the premise of the article. Alas, both left and right rarely consistently apply principals to things they personally like.

    For myself as a libertarian, I believe it is the prerogative of a land owner to make a dress code or not, and for us as free people to patronize or avoid a location based on the land owner’s decision.

  • pj3333

    I”m not saying I disagree with you. Just that there’s a lot of righteous indignation in this post on an issue that is perhaps not as black and white as is being suggested (e.g. any clothing I buy must obviously be completely appropriate for a classroom setting).

    It’s awful the way girls feel incredibly humiliated when they are “dress coded”, particularly when they are wearing clothing that meets the spirit of the law. At the same time, I want my daughter to feel proud and powerful for what her body can DO not simply for how well she can display it for the admiration of others. I want her to respect and value her body enough to not wear booty shorts to school because she doesn’t want her rear hanging out for everyone to judge/admire/whatever, not because an administrator demands she cover up.

  • Jason

    Except most people don’t have the ability to just avoid sending their kids to public school.

  • Michael Corey

    As someone who is currently putting 3 kids through private school on a very middle class income, it is do able. My wife is a private school teacher, and something like 70% of the kids at her school get some sort of financial aid, upto and including full rides. Here in St. Louis, we also have a large number of charter schools, each with their own dress codes. The school voucher movement is also gaining ground.

    Options exist if you want to find them.

  • pj3333

    Right, so as a society we agree to give up some freedoms in order to have an environment that works as well as possible for the majority. I’m fine giving up my kid’s right to wear spaghetti straps if it means someone else’s kid has to give up the right to wear offensive tshirts.

  • pj3333

    Ah, the privilege of an urbanite. Options exist where they are available. ;-)

  • Michael Corey

    The privilege of those who plan for the future.

  • Jason

    Lots of negative comments here, but where the article
    may lack some nuance, so do most all of the detractors of Cory’s opinion. Dress
    codes and policing female bodies is not a black and white issue. Yes, most
    dress codes treat boys and girls fairly on paper, but rarely in practice. We
    need to start with acceptance of the fact that society as a whole has
    determined what is and isn’t appropriate for people to wear. One thing that is
    true is in most places, men can go topless while women can’t (except in NY,
    where women can also go topless…). Why is that? Both have nipples. Both male
    and female figures are sexualized by people. Breasts are considered sexually
    attractive, as are men’s “pecs”. I’ve heard plenty of women comment when they
    see an attractive guy without a shirt. BUT only a woman would get in trouble
    for being topless. Why? I’d like to hear a convincing answer to that.

  • Paul Sheneman

    Haha! Silly pacifist who “fight”.

  • pj3333

    That’s ridiculous. People live in various locations for all kinds of reasons. Some people are relocated for jobs, which can be hard to come by these days. An adult takes a job that means moving from a preferred location if the alternative means his/her children starve. People in rural areas deserve access to healthcare, education, police/fire/EMT service, lawyers, etc. as much as people who live in large urban areas. Some believe living near family or in a slower paced or less polluted environment is a valuable trade off for opportunities lost by not living in a city. The education my kid has gotten by going to public school with a diverse student body in a rural area has been far richer than what she’d have gotten being siloed in a private school with kids who look and think exactly like her. There are costs to every decision.

  • Michael Corey

    > There are costs to every decision.

    Exactly, which is why I find your “check your privilege” comment so disgusting. You choose to live in a rural area, and enjoy the benefits of it. We chose to live urban and enjoy the benefits of it. Both of these are choices, not privilege.

  • T in Ohio

    I disagree with you on this. I see it as a sign of respect for the teachers and the rules. Perhaps I’m old school here, but there has to be a line in how to dress. The school board adopts a policy and once in place you and your daughter should adhere to it. Your fight is with the school board. Waiting until she gets “called” on it is the wrong approach. If you are trying to teach her something, why not fight for justice and remove or change the dress code. My son is a teacher and as such he shows decorum when he dresses business-like and not like he’s dressed for the gym when he teaches. (of which he would prefer) I guess this issue hits home because our neighbors are breaking zoning laws and we’re finding that the laws have “no teeth”. We live in an imperfect society, but we have these rules or “guidelines” which we all agree to live by so that we can get along. For instance, your idea of appropriate attire for you daughter might not be the same as mine. I do agree that male/female dress code rules should all be the same. So for all public school dress, anything goes?

  • Ron

    I’m not sure you are helping Benjamin’s case with your thoughts. :)

  • In reading these comments, I think a lot of people use invalid arguments in opposing what Benjamin said. In particular those who use extreme examples of his daughter showing up in swim suits, or a teacher in a G-string are silly. He has no such things in mind. Perhaps this is a matter of reading him over literally rather than in context, and then misunderstanding his intent.

    I am quite sure a parent like Benjamin, who would have this discussion with his daughter about clothing, also talks to her about propriety, responsibility, and respect. His daughter certainly understands the parameters of his stance on controlling her own body. She has context; she is not likely to push the extremes.

    I think the backgrounds to this issue include patriarchy, our society’s terrible attitudes about women, equality for females, and personal responsibility. These are real issues that must be addressed.

    I think he knows the need for rules in schools; but he opposes the endemic injustice toward females.

  • Jason

    I live in an urban area because I don’t have many other options if i wish to get to my job via public transportation and also allow for my child to be able to go to preschool. It’s I either live near a bus route or, well that’s my only option.
    Your comments are, however unintentional, demeaning. Your “bootstrap” notions don’t apply to everyone everywhere. The bootstraps are broken. It’s great that you can afford to do that on your “very middle class” income. I can bet my family makes half or less than you do, and that’s with multiple jobs by people with degrees. I honestly don’t understand how people can’t imagine that not everyone has the same opportunites or even the ability to make their own, as you might say.

  • Jason

    Wasn’t trying to help either. I was trying to get a one of the underlying issues concerning the obvious patriarchal bias when it comes to the perceived sexuality of men and women and how we are told a topless woman is obscene in a public context where a man may not be.

  • Jason

    In general I think that men can walk around without shirts on. Businesses and restaurants are moot point because those are private establishments and have the right to require those things. Around here, guys can go for a walk or run on the city streets without shirts….I’m not sure what point you were trying to make.

  • Jason

    I think you and many others are missing the point. No one is arguing for there to be no dress codes or less lax ones. The point is, as I see it, that the predominant argument where female dress is concerned is that they “distract boys” with their young female body parts…like shoulders…and (gasp!) knees! Ben doesn’t give an example of what the other girls were wearing and how egregiously they violated the rules, but the point is that it’s always about how girls are a distraction to boys so it’s their responsibility to do the impossible and keep them from being hormonal pubescent boys.

  • bc, a t t i c (• ) •)

  • Gennifer Miller


  • I mean, Ben specifically noted that literally every article of clothing she possesses was bought for her by her parents. I think that was intended to preempt questions of “what if she’s wearing something you find objectionable?” And yet, the questions came anyway. Sometimes you just can’t win.


    Sounds like you teach your daughter nothing. In that, you fail as a father. Too bad for your daughter.

  • Gagarin

    That’s fine and dandy.

    But in the real world teenagers will dress to attract attention.

  • Bones

    That’s why in Australia every school has an official uniform policy which students must abide by.

    If you don’t want to wear a school uniform, be home schooled.

  • Well Michael, she’s actually a really fantastic kid, but thanks for your concern.

  • meadowhawk

    For the most part I agree with you. Probably the most ridiculous case I’ve personally known for a girl getting criticized for supposedly breeching the dress code was when my sister was told she couldn’t wear purple pants because they attracted too much attention to her legs. It didn’t actually violate the dress code, but she didn’t want to rock the boat so she switched to…red pants, which were somehow better.

    That said, there are some boundaries that I think it should be completely fair for a school to enforce. Some obvious ones I’ve seen kids get told off for are things like t-shirts that advocate violence or drugs or kids who don’t wear shoes and are then provided with flip-flops for safety reasons. I’d also say that as long as the rules are enforced equally between the genders (for instance if tank tops are forbidden for both girls and boys and its equally enforced) it would probably be ok.


    None of this was about your daughter…it all about how cool you are.

  • billwald

    Dr. Corey never noticed that males are visually sexually stimulated by seeing and women by words? That the book shelves in “recycle stores” are filled with soft porn (romance novels) for women and men never catch on? That’s why men have different dress rules than women.

  • Gagarin

    I’m pretty sure that’s actually not true.

  • caelin blevans

    So i’m a highschool student and I know a good bit about the dress code, I’m pretty sure I’m one of your youngest readers and this is what I have to say about the dress code: There is a different set of rules for dressing appropriately in a school setting because men and women have different physiological body parts. And while it is true that it is not a women’s/girl’s job to dress for men to stay on task, nobody should dress in a way to distract others, men or women. In my high school (a public school) and many others, the dress code is very loosely regarded, and the actions of some students outweighs what they’re wearing. But more to the main point, some dress code violations can’t be gender neutral, like a girl shouldn’t be walking around with only a bra on as a top, but men don’t wear bras so it is not an issue. And to the idea of patriarchy, what right are women missing in the first world that men aren’t? I’m not discrediting the possibility, but I am looking for evidence because if the government is a patriarchy, then the legal system is a matriarchy. (please would you do an article on that Mr.Corey?)

  • caelin blevans

    why? please elaborate.

  • caelin blevans

    there is no patriarchy, and if you say look at the past history of america, and ask, “why are there only male presidents?” i would respond in like. first, how dare you misgender them, perhaps they are women (as a gender preference) and then say, how many have run for office, how many of them had a reasonable position, were they career politicians, and eleanor roosevelt almost became president, but there is no proof of the government suppressing women in the 21st century (as a whole, not individuals)

  • caelin blevans

    how long ago were you in highschool? girls/women truly do dress to distract and show a lot more than shoulders and knees

  • caelin blevans

    but if you ask most many would say that they don’t want to see a man’s chest, lets be honest here not everyone is a model.

  • caelin blevans

    look up images of the slut walk, now look up normal shirtless man, and tell me that neither are obscene.

  • caelin blevans

    can women? or is that a part of the patriarchy if you say no?

  • caelin blevans

    maybe society isn’t the problem, maybe it is how adults teach their children

  • caelin blevans

    the same can be said for women. like how a man must have shorts/pants at least past his middle finger with his hands at his sides, or how he can’t wear a tank top/wife beater, or maybe how his stomach can’t show. oh i know it’s that he can’t sag, these weren’t possibly made so that people would dress professionally. and other than for sagging, these are rules made for the women too, except that they ignore the tank top rule also.

  • caelin blevans

    dressing immodestly is a problem that only grows when you don’t check it, telling a family member that the clothes they picked out is not appropriate is not a part of patriarchy, it is matriarchy because my mom did it to me all the time.

  • caelin blevans

    and part of their job is too keep things professional. like a workplace, you bont dress for the beach at a construction site, why wouldn’t you follow the rules set for the school setting?

  • caelin blevans

    no he is connecting the ideology of it,

  • caelin blevans

    but they get people somewhere. somebody who does nothing for themselves should not expect anything from another.

  • caelin blevans

    a girl goes to school dressed like a hooker with intent. who’s fault is it that the men get aroused? the men or the girl?

  • caelin blevans

    who is being preyed upon?

  • caelin blevans

    that is part of it, no you need to change the men and the women, neither side is without fault in any issue.

  • caelin blevans

    a women can’t be sexist to other women without it applying to herself. are you saying that by holding a standard to others, one that you meet, you are a sexist? how does that work?

  • caelin blevans

    and i have read the comments and it saddens me that you adults, most with children, many christians would trivialize the words sexism, misogyny, and patriarchy to something as simple as a standard. how many of you are in high school? what? maybe one or too. how many are students like me. you have little to no standing other than that you are a parent. you claim that it is sexist to hold a standard for different people. is it ableist to have an easier test for a mentally disabled kid? no it isn’t, rather it is a different standard. nobody in the comments mention what is taught to the students. you have no standing for an argument about how dress codes are because you are not students in these schools. when you are, then you can complain about this, until then, keep it to the workplace.

  • Ok, I’m not sure I followed all that, but the problem with “equating” the hassle men and women go through RE wardrobe is that there’s probably not many stories at there about a man who was followed home and raped by a woman who blamed it on his short shorts.

  • caelin blevans

    is there any stories of the opposite?

  • hisxmark

    We buy some freedoms by giving up others. We have the rights granted by those around us. To pretend otherwise is to live in a fantasy world, but then, almost all of us do.
    Let’s be honest: Women and girls gain power and approval by signalling sexual availability. Men respond to this on a level that bypasses reason, straight from the amygdala. Women dress and present themselves in a way to attract men. (And other women!) They can then choose the socially and physically dominant men and reject the others. The signals are to all, all the time, because even when she isn’t “in the mood” , such signalling grants power over others.
    Don’t give me that blarney about “patriarchy”. Women run society, and set men to the hard, unpleasant and dangerous tasks.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    I have some difficulty fully following the article because it is not clear what the school dress code actually is. I don’t think Ben is objecting to dress codes per se ( I am presuming he would agree the school is entitled to stop students turning up in their pyjamas) but to the sort of dress code and attitude at this particular school.

    I am reasonably confident that if Ben’s daughter tried to go to school in a bikini he would have something to say about it. He is not saying (I think) that everyone should be able to wear what they want always, but that it is only a girl’s responsibility to turn up to school sensibly dressed for study, in exactly the same way as a boy’s. It is not a girl’s (or woman’s) responsibility to shield herself from the male gaze to avoid provoking him to uncontrollable lust.
    This attitude essentially absolves men from any control over their own desires and allows them to do exactly what they want by saying that it is a woman’s fault for “provoking” them.
    It is also, basically, a fraud. If anyone has ever actually been a teenager the idea that boys (and girls) will somehow magically cease to be awash with hormones and distracted by “lustful thoughts” by enforcing a dress code (no matter how strict) would be laughable. You could stick both teenage boys and girls in head to toe burqas and they would be still speculating about what they looked like underneath the robe.
    The real purpose of the kind of dress code I suspect Ben is talking about is to allow boys to blame girls for their failure to regulate their own behaviour (” it’s not my fault, you could see her ankles!” ) and to ensure that a new generation of girls are as thoroughly ashamed of having female bodies as the previous generation was obliged to be (hence women who had it done to them jealously enforcing it themselves).

  • Matthew

    Thanks for this Benjamin.

    While I agree with some of your points, my opinion is (as a former teacher) that fashion causes a distraction; especially among young people (for both girls and boys). I support a school uniform program — even in public schools.

    On a technical note:

    Is anyone else having script problems with patheos? I have these problems with both my android tablet and my windows driven PC. It´s really frustrating given the fact that I use this website nearly everyday. It gets stuck all the time! I have contacted pathos technical support, but haven’t received a response. Maybe the problem is on my end?

  • Matthew

    In fairness Snommelp, Benjamin did also mention in the article that he supports his daughter in her personal choice of dress. That means she might eventually choose something that is considered objectionable by some or many.

    Bones (and Australia) is right. Uniforms are the best solution all around IMO.

  • wolfeevolution

    Wait… I missed something. Pacifists are intimidated? Which ones?

    Pacifists are the boldest, least passive people I know.

  • I agree– I have no problem with dress codes, it’s when dress codes are used to enforce girl’s bodies instead of teaching the boys respect that I have an issue with. Saying no flip flops or no violent shirts is a completely reasonable rule that’s not rooted in sexism.

  • I’d have no problem with a school uniform that was applied evenly to both groups.

    (and I’ll report the script issues, I’ve been having them the last few days too)

  • Matthew

    Absolutely … must be applied evenly.

    Thanks also for reporting the tech issue.

  • Um, no.

    A woman who knows no women who dress for men, but only for themselves, who knows very few men who claim they’re unable to control themselves, who is definitely not attracted to socially or physically dominant men, who is constantly faced with discrimination in her society.

  • Exactly.

  • pj3333

    See, I don’t believe most dress codes are about boy lust. Girls shouldn’t be subjected to questionable attire, either. Teachers shouldn’t be subjected to questionable attire. It’s very uncomfortable to teach a student who has parts of their body inappropriately exposed (said as someone who had to refuse to meet a male student in her office for office hours because he didn’t wear underwear and constantly touched himself). It is distracting to faculty and staff to have to figure out how to avert their gaze or position their bodies so they don’t appear to be lecherously staring at minors or to be sitting there wondering if testicles or nipples are going to come spilling out of an outfit at any moment (and what you will do/say at that point). Too revealing clothing is distracting to everyone, regardless of gender or age, and is a potential litigation minefield.

  • Kerri Martinsen

    Agreed, but sometimes the rules are arbitrary or inconsistent. Our school has a “fingertip” rule on skirt/short lengths. My daughters arms are VERY long, which means she can’t wear anything above the knee. For others it is mid thigh. And try buying a dress these days for teens. Everything is either maxi length or 3″ above knee. She was also “coded” for wearing leggings with a sweatshirt over it (she wasn’t feeling good and wanted to be comfortable). Her shirt covered her butt but it wasn’t long enough. Being sent home or to in school suspension is not helping. Girls are teased mercilessly for “fashion”. And yet most of it breaks dress code.

  • pj3333

    Perhaps he “didn’t have it in mind” but it’s not what he said. He said any articles of clothing he purchased are school appropriate. It’s clearly not factual unless he believes things like pajamas and sports wear are school appropriate. Children do wear PJs to school (I personally see no difference between flannel PJ pants and sweats but whatever). If he meant “the school clothes that I buy are all school appropriate” then he should have said that. Because a lot of parents may buy school appropriate clothes for the kids and the kids may turn around and wear items that were bought for other purposes. We don’t know what other parents are doing or thinking and kids will push the limits, thus the need for dress codes. No lie, girls were wearing see-thru tights as pants at my kids’ high school one year so they finally had to say no leggings, period because it became impossible to reason with people who could not distinguish between hosiery and leggings. I’m sure the mom who bought the tights didn’t figure she was buying something that wasn’t school appropriate at the time but her kid figured out a way to make it so.

  • pj3333

    YMMV. Our concert dress is tux or floor length gown (your choice, not dictated by your gender).

  • pj3333

    I have never seen a dress code that did not dictate the amount of shoulder, underarm and collarbone a boy is allowed to show. They are typically written gender neutral (who needs an OCR gender discrimination investigation?!) and then they will give examples like “Tank top straps must be at least X” thick”. Some will specifically say no tube tops, spaghetti straps or bare midriffs, which are not typical of male attire so it seems to be targeting girls but it is also redundant if you state shirts must have shoulders or straps that are so wide. Dictating inseams on shorts must be a certain length applies to boys as well, it’s just that boys don’t typcially wear booty shorts (and those who do should not wear them to school).

  • pj3333

    Our dress code dictates how much of the underarm and chest may be exposed so boys are also constrained in how much torso they may bare.

  • pj3333

    This is a real problem, IMO. The fingertip rule is helpful because who wants to measure a student’s inseam in the office? How humiliating! But very tall girls get caught in this all the time. This is where an administrator needs to have some common sense. Unfortunately, some parent will complain if one child gets away with something and their kid doesn’t. Our junior high dean is wonderful in that she tells kids to bring in an outfit they are worried about and she’ll pre-approve it so they don’t feel shamed if they wear it and then get sent to the office.

  • You mean, are there stories about women being assaulted and “what they were wearing” being a key factor in the defense? Sure.


  • I love this argument. Also, there’s no racism. There’s no proof of the government suppressing a particular race in the 21st century. We truly live in an egalitarian utopia. Thanks for reminding us.

  • You sound nice.

  • Are you suggesting that there should be codes against what men can say to women since that’s how women are stimulated?

  • Caelin, I cannot agree. In some (very large) conservative Christian circles there is definitely patriarchy, and it is not hidden but openly and aggressively embraced. And it has devastating effects.

    The impact of this patriarchy makes believers more aware of the dangers of it and the ability to recognize in within our general culture.

    I didn’t mention American presidents in regard to patriarchy, and I know that some in the government have made great progress in promoting equality, but subtle (and not so subtle) demeaning attitudes toward women still exist in our culture.

  • Yes, women are truly the power structure in the world at large. That’s why women have all the wealth and all the legislation in America favors women.


  • Well said, Iain! This is so well said. I think you have insight into what Ben is saying that many commenters do not seem to grasp. I hope your comment is widely read.

  • dickjones1517

    Think of it this way: If, at this tender age, a 14 year old is being schooled outside of the home, then parents are opting for the worst regarding any and all rules and regulations imposed by the child’s outside-the-home, surrogate parents – referring to her substitute academic and theological mentors. Once released out of the home, your education guidance options and your influence regarding your daughter are mega-drastically reduced. If you love her, keep her out of the all-humanist all of the time public or private school mental asylum system. Not fair to her. Or to your future grandkids.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    You may be right about dress codes generally, at least on paper, but Ben is talking about a dress code (or its manner of enforcement) which results in a young girl dressed in perfectly ordinary clothes being perpetually worried about violating it. That is a sign of something seriously wrong.
    The example you gave of the boy in your office I would have thought a behavioural issue not a dress code issue, if he is touching himself in front of a member of staff.

  • Timothy Swanson

    hisxmark inadvertently gives a great description of exactly why this is an issue of patriarchy. “Women and girls gain power and approval by signalling sexual availability.” Yes, in a partriarchal society, women’s bodies are their only commodity, to be sold to the highest bidder (i.e. the one that promises lifetime support via marriage.) Or, as hisxmark puts it, “socially and physically dominant men.” In a world where women had equal social and economic power, it would be unnecessary for women to sell their bodies this way.

  • Timothy Swanson

    The “men are visual, women are not” trope has been disproved.

  • Timothy Swanson

    Just because women enforce it doesn’t mean it isn’t patriarchy. The assumption behind “modesty” which is – as Benjamin points out – directed primarily at females, is that the male gaze is what matters. That is, what a man feels or thinks when he sees a female body is the determining factor. That’s why you have the “don’t distract the boys” line, but rarely if ever “don’t distract the girls.” It goes deeper than that to the assumption that female bodies exist primarily for male gratification. Thus, girls are expected to dress to be pretty – but not too pretty. Enough to signal that they are attractive, but not to the point of “availability,” which has no clear definition – it changes depending on who you talk to.

    Of course women enforce patriarchal ideals – particularly mothers. If the goal is to preserve the “purity” of the daughters, so that they can make an economically advantageous match, of course they will police clothing. If girls are either “good girls” or “sluts” based on how they dress, any parent would seek to increase their child’s chances of success. But that assumes a patriarchal game where women sell their bodies to men in exchange for economic security. In a world where women have true economic and social equality, there is no need to worry about the male gaze the same way.

  • Chris

    Maybe the answer is for the classes to be taken naked.

    Seriously, after a very short while, the mystery would be gone and work would continue as normal.

    When on holiday some twenty or more years ago, we stumbled on a beach just outside the resort that had an FKK sign. We were unaware what it meant, but as the day went on, and most of the bathers and sunbathers of all ages and genders stripped off completely, it just seemed boringly normal.
    I felt like the odd one out, queuing for an ice cream among naked children, pensioners, and teens. It seemed that my cut off jeans were being stared at. A girl of around fifteen calmly asked to borrow my newspaper as she wanted to practice her English reading. She was totally naked, and perfectly relaxed about it.
    I got back to my girlfriend who had now discarded the bottom of her bikini (she hadn’t been wearing the top since arriving at the beach anyway… This is Europe.)
    I just stripped off too, and inflicted my overweight out of condition body on the world. No one noticed… or if they did, they gave no indication.
    The old saying: ‘You’ve seen one… You’ve seen ’em all’ (or should that be ‘two’) is very true. It’s repression that breeds prurient curiosity.

  • Noah

    Whose fault is it that they have a function in their own body? That they can control? That girls can’t?


    Btw – pick one term. Men/Women, Girl/Boy

  • gimpi1

    Oh, I know! I know! **raises hand**

    It’s no one’s fault, because being aroused is not bad. That’s just a feeling, and feelings are neither good or bad. There’s nothing wrong with someone dressing the way they want, and nothing wrong with someone noticing or appreciating it. No fault here.

    However, it’s the boy’s (men’s) fault if they take unwanted actions. We’re always responsible for our own actions.They have the responsibility of controlling themselves, as do we all. Dress is never an excuse for unwelcome advances. And, they know if their advances are unwelcome when the person they are making advances towards says, “no.”

  • gimpi1

    Or, it’s simply not your business if someone dresses in a way you consider immodest, any more than it’s my Muslim neighbor’s business if I, a married woman, don’t cover my hair. The idea of an adult telling another adult what they or their child should wear is just weird to me. Also, why is it only girls who get so lectured? Why is male immodesty not a thing?

  • mkeddy

    I mean reasonable, not dressing like a pole dancer. If the bottom line as to what is modest vs. not modest is “does it turn a boy on”, eventually we’ll be wearing burkas. I mean, in the middle east some of these girls get acid thrown on them for showing ankle. :( Dressing with intent as you say (I like that wording) is certainly wrong because the intent is to attract the wrong kinds of attention.

  • paganheart

    The height of dress code hypocrisy for me was in high school, when the guys on our perennially awful boys’ basketball team were allowed, even
    encouraged, to wear their sleeveless jerseys to school on game days,
    because “School Spirit!” while the members of the girls’ basketball team were forbidden from doing the same thing, even on the day they were playing for a state championship, because “sleeveless tops are a distraction from the learning process.” I also remember an incident in ninth grade when a girl who was new to town wore a tube top to school (this was the early eighties; tube tops were a thing), which was a violation of the dress code. She was sent home, but only after a boy decided it would be great fun to pull her top down in front of everyone in the cafeteria. Other than a brief chat with the cafeteria monitor, the boy received no punishment. As far as I’m concerned, he should have been sent home as well.

    It seemed like nearly all of the dress code regulations when I went to school were aimed squarely at girls and the lengths of our hems, the height of our heels, or how much of our arms were covered by straps and sleeves. Boys were rarely sent home for dress code violations, and if they were, it was usually because a teacher was offended by the Iron Maiden, Judas Priest or Motley Crue t-shirts they were wearing, not because something they wore made a classmate do something stupid. 30 years later, it appears little has changed.

    It’s grossly sexist, but I guess it’s just a lot easier to punish all
    girls for the actions of a handful of boys who apparently are such wild,
    irrational and sub-human creatures they ought to be locked up, since
    they are so completely incapable of controlling themselves around a girl showing a little bit too much shoulder or knee (Which is basically the message boys
    get from such dress code rules, by the way.)

  • caelin blevans

    examples please, and in light of the no true scottsman logic, can they be considered true christians if they do not love everyone equally.

  • caelin blevans

    you see, it is both parties problem. the first and most responsible is the male/female to not pay attention, the second is the female/male to not attempt to distract others.

  • caelin blevans

    it is and you have no standing on what is being taught unless you are a highschool student. like me. almost everyone in my district and the districts around me that very few dress code rules are enforced and the ones that are, is usually sagging (for males)

  • caelin blevans

    your telling me that first world women are being submissive on purpose, and that it is wrong for adults to want their children to dress appropriately and professionally for a better chance of success. you are telling me that you think the idea of male gaze is true, and that it affects women primarily. to that i say i a sorry. i should change how i act. no more looking at women because that could harm them. no more expecting a dress code because it is wrong and sexist and not just there because there needs to be a standard. in fact tomorrow i will go to school naked because dress codes are wrong. thank you, you have opened my eyes.

  • caelin blevans

    that is a problem, but did you talk to the school about it? if not, then you are causing problems because you see a problem, but have not taken steps to resolve the issue

  • caelin blevans

    not even parents? if you go to a gathering with a strict dress code of suits and dresses, why would you take your family dressed for the beach? and male immodesty is a thing whether or not you see it. maybe you only notice female “immodesty” maybe you should advert your eyes. and if you are a parent, I’m am sure you have set out clothes for your child. no different than saying, that skirt is too short for school or, you cant wear flip-flops to your grandfather’s funeral.

  • caelin blevans

    there is, and you know it. people can’t wear whatever they want and get away with it. you must wear a helmet at construction sites. there is a law against public indecency. it is job of both parties to keep conflict out, not just the boy’s, not just the girls. the girl shouldn’t try to distract the boys, the boys shouldn’t be paying attention.

  • caelin blevans

    and i can say the same for women. do you have a better argument? you are kinda confusing here, so women shouldn’t wear shorts?

  • caelin blevans

    school has changed. that might have happened, i would be surprised if you were lying. how long ago were you in highschool? 30 years? were is you standing. i am a high school student and out of everyone who has commented, im pretty sure im the only one. i recognize there is sexism in many things, for both men and women, but dress codes affect everyone now. not just women, very rarely do women get in trouble for sagging, and very rarely do men get in trouble for wearing a skirt that is to short. is this sexist? no, it isn’t it is different. please go back to highschool and you will know how the dress code plays out now.

  • caelin blevans

    ben, can i call you ben? there are problems with the dress code, but school uniforms do not help. (this plays into mental states) please understand that high school dress codes play out different to what actually happens in the school. please message me so i can explain this to you because i am a high school student.

  • Caelin, the Christian patriarchy movement is well established but rather than give you examples I am attaching a Google search for the term, so you can choose what articles, and how many, you wish to view.

  • Caelin, the ‘Christian patriarchy’ movement is well established, but rather than sending examples I suggest searching the term ‘Christian patriarchy’ on Google.

    It is also called ‘Complementarianism’, so you might want to search that term as well.

    I hope this helps.

  • Caelin, Christian patriarchy is well established; it is also called complementarianism. Rather than examples, I suggest you Google the terms ‘Christian patriarchy’ and ‘Complementarianism’.

    I hope this helps.

  • hisxmark

    I see four dependent clauses and no independent clause in your post. It is not a sentence. Can you clarify?

  • hisxmark

    Without sarcasm, women in America do control most of the wealth, and women are a majority of voters. And just how many folks do we find protesting male genital mutilation?
    Men and women are treated differently, but there are advantages and drawbacks for each.

  • hisxmark

    Not all men are socially and physically dominant. The ones who aren’t we call “dweebs”, “nerds”, “losers”, et al. The less “dominant” males, the majority, are the ones who fill the foxholes and have no place in the lifeboat. Men are the expendable sex.

  • Um, no you can’t. How women are dressed is a recurring factor in how sexual assault cases are handled. It’s never a case with men. That’s my point.

    You can’t say, “Well, dress codes are just as much of a hassle for men and it’s all about looking professional.” No, it isn’t. Maybe it is to you, and that’s great, but from a societal point of view, men treat women badly in sexual ways and justify it based on what they’re wearing. This never happens to men. Men do not have to worry about wearing a tank top and somebody raping them at a party because they were “asking for it.”

    Here in Kansas, we just had a bill make the rounds about a dress code for female interns in the Kansas Senate. Why? Because there were too many sex scandals and harassment cases due to misconduct by male senators. It’s not about people dressing professionally; it’s about men blaming the women for their own inability to treat them like human beings.

    If that’s not your issue, that’s great, but it is a very real and widespread thing in our society and it’s not irrational to point out the disparity.

  • caelin blevans

    you sound like a smart person, so i think you should know this, this is a great start to an argument, but…… it is not the person who asks the question to answer it. that, is the job of the responder, or, you in this case. thank you though!

  • caelin blevans

    it is quite sad that an ADULT (unlike me) is so closed minded. and i am one to talk, I’ve been called a sexist, racist, male, cis-gender, capitalist, oh, and heterosexual. i admit to all but the first two, those are lies. you think women don’t do this? you think, that men are always the perpetrators? more than 40% of domestic abuse is against men and i can tell you positively that some of the people who committed this crime used the same logic. and the response? men can’t be abused, men can’t be raped, he was asking for it, he was over-sexualised. recognize this, open your mind just a little bit, and get rid of the sexist idea that women are systematically oppressed and are too helpless to overcome a dress code. and to the bill:
    A formal dress code and social-media policy didn’t exist during the last session for volunteer interns, but a few complaints about decorum led a House Republican leader to recommend a set of rules intended to help dozens of interns present themselves in a professional manner while working at the Capitol with House and Senate members of both parties.

    “We want it set up so they can take pride in the position they hold,” said Emporia Rep. Peggy Mast, who serves as House speaker pro tem. “Hopefully, they’ll benefit from it.”

    The guide directed “gentlemen” to wear a suit or dress shirt, tie, slacks, and shoes. Hair for males should be clean and “neatly” styled with no “over-the-top colors.” Their facial hair should be clean shaven or trimmed very short.
    For the “ladies,” according to the draft plan, options include suits, business dresses, skirt/dress pants and a “dressy” top. There shall be no halter tops, mini skirts “or skirts/pants that are too tight, skinny dress pants and revealing necklines.”

  • Lady Alexandra

    Personally, I like the dress code at my sons’ public high school. Tops are polo shirts, short or long sleeved. You may wear a cardigan or blazer over them. They come in school colors, red, green, white. Pants are either navy or khaki. Shorts are permitted, if knee-length. (Covering kneecap when standing.) Female students have the option of a knee-length skirt, in either navy or khaki.

    It’s got parts that are easily obtained and replaced as the boys grow, and I would have welcomed it growing up. Being on the autistic spectrum, figuring out how to dress was tough. My boys, also spectrum, appreciate it as well.

    (Of course, out of school and in the real world, I wear black women’s t-shirts over blue jeans with a brightly colored long cardigan as if it were a uniform.)

  • Stormageddon1

    yeah, but he should be giving lessons! he’s good at it.

  • Realist1234

    ‘black women’s t-shirts’ – when I read that initially I thought black women had their own t-shirts! Oops.

  • Nimblewill

    You completely misunderstood what I was saying. There are boys who are going to treat your daughter a certain way regardless of how she dresses, but particularly if she dresses a certain way. I see them daily and no I don’t try to change the girls, I do my level best to model and teach proper ways to treat teenage girls. (I’ve raised two myself and currently have a 14 year old son) When girls are coming in in low cut shirts and high cut shorts makes my job harder.

  • Nimblewill

    As I 25 year veteran teacher, girls are just as unable to control their desires as boys are.

  • Please point me to a case of sexual assault against men where part of the defense was what he was wearing.

  • Incidentally, you do not get to decide if you are sexist or racist. Virtually no sexist or racist believes they are sexist or racist. You may not be either – I don’t know you. But if someone is calling you a sexist or a racist, you should probably think about why they called you that and stop whatever it is instead of declaring yourself not a sexist.

  • apoxbeonyou

    He might not want to start an argument. He is posting an idea and you are free to disagree. Not everyone wants to engage in an intense back and forth over a BB.

    For the record, I have been in churches all my life and have been witness to complementarianism. I have seen it, though I don’t remember exactly which churches and I certainly don’t have a link you can read since it was an experience and not documented.

  • apoxbeonyou

    Adults can have opinions about what happens in school because they have kids that go there. I’ve been reading your comments and it looks like you are really frustrated that none of us are children. It might be different now, and I’m sure it is, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have an opinion about what we do know about it.

  • Timothy Swanson

    You’re doing a great job of making my point. Patriarchy hurts everyone – including lower status males. If you think about it, there is no greater insult to a man than to refer to him as “womanly” in some way. Those epithets you use are the milder version of the insult, but they imply a lack of “manliness,” defined as aggression and dominance. Worldwide and historically, those societies which promote this idea of domination of alpha males over the lesser also tend toward partriarchy and polygyny – and more rigid dress codes for females.

  • caelin blevans

    i am slightly frustrated because adults who are not teachers (there are some) who think they understand what is happening, second hand from they’re children. that is not a fair representation of the school, the administration, and the students. how many people here have gone to the school board to complain or reason about the dress code?

  • caelin blevans

    yes you do have some say in whether or not you are racist or sexist, not much but some. but the reason i am called sexist and racist is because i am a white male, plain and simple. i am neither, in fact i just happen to be an egalitarian

  • Caelin, you said: “There is no patriarchy”. Then you wanted examples, presumably because you doubted my statement that there were strong patriarchal teachings and practices among very many conservative believers.

    Even a glance at the links these searches bring up will establish that Christian patriarchy does exist–even if you don’t read them. I can give names and denominations and statements by patriarchal teachers, but the Google terms I suggested would give you the ability to zero in on the questions that matter most to you.

  • Nimblewill

    What did she wear that might get her in trouble at school by possibly breaking dress code rules? She brought it up, so she must have known that there was something there?

  • No, nobody calls you a racist because you are a white male and exist. Somebody called you that because of something you said or did.

  • hisxmark

    Patriarchy is a social system in which fathers have absolute authority over their own families.
    What you are referring to is not patriarchy. It is a social power structure, to be sure, but not one ruled by fathers, not a strictly familial exercise of authority, nor is it even totally male. It is an oligarchy, and a plutocracy. It is not a society dominated by men, who are first in the foxholes and last in the lifeboats.
    Our society represses women and men, some more than others.
    If you want to change the system, and most of us do, you have to see it for what it really is, and it helps to name it properly.
    However, that said, it is society that sets the mores, and women can be just as authoritarian and conservative as men.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    Precisely so, and noone blames boys for provoking them with seductive clothing.

  • Thank you for this. Coming of age at a Southern Baptist church in a conservative public high school in the South, I was obsessed with the modesty of what I wore. For religious reasons at church, but also because my mom tied moral judgment and shame to “immodest” choices I dared try, and I have always been extremely sensitive and a people-pleaser.

    Consequently, while it was considered okay for my middle-school English teacher to slam the backs of girls’ lower legs with his heavy, cubed meter stick in the spring when we wore shorts and then laugh maniacally–in a move unrelated to dress code, that hit the part of legs approved for exposure–it was NOT okay for shirts to come shorter than fingertip-length. As a short-torsoed, long-limbed individual, this was torture. I spent the rare days I wore shorts to school terrified of being caught and forced to change, not only because I hated breaking rules, but because this one was tied to modesty–something my church and mom said determined my worth.

    Shame was all I knew when it came to dress, and my family wasn’t even fundamentalist!

    I mention the teacher who hit us because it reflects the “good ol’ boys” culture of my Southern school. They could do whatever they wanted, while girls were subjected to extraneous regulations and gender norms.

  • I’m sorry, is this supposed to be coherent? If you are saying public AND private schools are all completely humanistic, all of the time, you are mistaken. I both attended and now teach at schools in the South where humanistic philosophies have to fight to have a say. Furthermore, the school where I teach now is extremely high-ranking, but public, and hardly a mental asylum.
    Then again, your words are such complete generalizations that you had to have been attempting sarcasm … right?

  • My immediate response was to recall the strict rules about shorts’ lengths. Since American style is long shorts for boys, only girls were ever sequestered or sent home under this particular rule, but girls who wore shorts long enough to follow the dress code were teased for it because that meant buying oversized shorts and/or appearing masculine, which in middle and high school is not a good thing for girls.

  • caelin blevans

    so you are saying i am lying? not very christian-like. I’d hate to break it to you, but yes people have said this to me and yes that is the reasoning behind what they said.

  • caelin blevans

    then please do. i should not have to answer my question when you can, i would do the same for you. if you prove me wrong, then i will admit you’r right, but, for you to be right, you need to give names of people, of churches, and of groups. then, show me were they express patriarchale views. then and only then will i concede my argument.

  • Bill Gothard, John Piper, the Dugger family from TV, Doug Phillips, Mark Driscoll, John MacArthur, the Quiverfull movement, much of the Christian Homeschool Movement, Southern Baptists, Independent Fundamental Baptists, Presbyterian Church of America.

    This should be a start.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    A clear example of what can be really going on with a dress code. A dress code simply intended to ensure that students wear ordinary sensible clothes to school would either ban shorts entirely or ensure girls’ shorts were worn at an unexceptional length most girls wore them, according to the school’s preference.
    Funny how the length of shorts is fixed at exactly the length that doesn’t inconvenience the boys.

  • No, that is your assessment of their reasoning. I am not saying that you’re lying. I’m saying you’re mistaking your judgment for objective reality.

    What you’re asking me to believe is someone randomly walked up to you on the street who did not know you at all, never heard anything you said, never saw anything you did, and said that you were a racist, and when you asked why they said that, they replied it was because you were a white male.

    You and I both know that did not happen.

  • caelin blevans

    thank you, you are right. i concede my argument. except for the homeschool and southern baptists.

  • caelin blevans

    no, you are right. it was not a stranger, it was a friend of mine, arguing about whether or not anybody can be racist, and women sexist. there was no mistaken reality, (those don’t exist) she outright said i was sexist and racist because i was a white male.

  • People are mistaken about reality all the time. You are claiming your friend is, for example.

    Tell me the actual conversation.

  • caelin blevans

    we were discussing about who could be sexist and who could be racist. she took the stance that to be racist or sexist you need social standing. then by her words, “racism and sexism is internalized in our society and you need to check your privilege before you (meaning me) can stop being racist and sexist.”

  • Ok, so a couple of things.

    First of all, you see how she did not say, “You are a racist because you are a white male.” That is your estimation and appropriation of what she was saying. She did not actually offer that as the reason. You think her reason amounts to that, but that’s not what she said. Do you see the difference between what she -said- and what you -interpret- as a functionally equivalent statement?

    The second thing is that she is 100% correct, and the fact that you dismiss her statement out of hand ironically proves it is completely true. I say that as a fellow white male. Her statement is completely true of me as well. There are so many ways in which I interpret the experience of other people groups through my own eyes. I evaluate their experience of the world, not by what they tell me, but by my experience of the world as I apply it to them.

    This is wrong, but it is insidious and it affects us in all kinds of ways that are often very subtle and under our radar, so thank Jesus for people like your friend who raise it to our conscious awareness. Most racists (or sexists, or homophobes, etc.) are not actively trying to be racist. They do not harbor conscious beliefs that a certain race is inferior or untrustworthy.

    However, those of us who have gone through life without really having to worry about our race being a factor in much of anything have a really hard time understanding the claims of people who have a very different experience. You and I are white guys. Nobody will say that we’re a bitch if we get aggressive in a board meeting. Nobody will make a witty comment like, “I knew you weren’t white because you said you were at work.”

    Furthermore, we are the beneficiaries of literally centuries of institutional oppression, and others suffer the longstanding after effects of that oppression even long after the official government component is gone. That doesn’t make us individually -responsible- for that oppression, but it does mean we are being rather racist if we don’t recognize it and our efforts toward justice don’t address it, and we just pretend it isn’t real or doesn’t exist despite the widespread testimony of women and minorities.

    Most white guys are racist simply by assuming everyone is on a level playing field these days and society should operate accordingly. That is, in fact, racist, and it’s racism that comes from the experience of being white.

  • hisxmark

    Let me address, Mr. Corey, what you tell your daughter:

    “I tell her that if she’s wearing clothes her mom and I bought for her, there’s no reason she can’t wear them to school or anywhere else.”

    There may very well be a reason that she can’t wear them to school: They may be in violation of the rules.

    “I teach her that other people don’t get to dictate anything about her body– that she is in complete control over her self expression and has her own bodily autonomy as a human being.”

    As members of society we give up some rights in order to secure the benefits of living in society. If you want to be in society you must follow society’s rules, or make sure that society doesn’t know you are breaking them. You may not like them. (There are some rules I don’t like either.) But you must follow the rules or pay the consequences.

    “I tell her that she isn’t responsible making sure the boys don’t ‘get distracted.’”

    She is not responsible. But the school, as an agent of society, may take that responsibility on itself. You may not agree with society’s choices and decisions, but unless you can make society change you must abide or face the consequences.

    I note in passing that some of society’s more irrational rules seem to be there simply to show who is abiding by the rules. These are often the rules of public conduct. Including dress codes.

    “I teach her that her school’s dress code is part of the oppression of sexism and patriarchy, and that she should resist it.”

    You may believe that. It may even be true. But if you teach her that she may indeed resist or violate the dress code, you, and she, should be prepared to pay the price for such resistance. She may, for instance be expelled from school or even arrested, and you might be declared an unfit parent. Whether you like it or not, society can do those things.

    “I tell her that I would be her #1 supporter in defying patriarchy.”

    So you, her father, would be her #1 supporter if she resisted your own “patriarchal” authority? Or do you deny that you have and ought to exercise any authority over your daughter? Your authority over your daughter is granted or mandated by society, and to abdicate such authority may cause society to terminate your parental “rights”. Society will, in other words, substitute society’s authority for your own. You might find this annoying, but that is just how it is.

    I think, Mr. Corey, that you are simply spouting, without rational consideration, what is “politically correct” in your small segment of society, but not acceptable to society as a whole. You describe with your “teaching”, some cloud-cuckoo land, and not the real society we live in. It is my opinion, that in teaching your daughter such nonsense, you are doing her a disservice, but as long as we have freedom of religion, you can, of course, teach her any nonsense you please. But, sooner or later, she must learn to live in the real world or she will face unpleasant consequences. That is one of the things I think you should be teaching her.

  • ferris Lindsay

    Presumably the father of this boy taught him that nobody has a right to tell him what he must do with his own body. The boy should be allowed to touch himself in front of anybody without having to feel ashamed. If the teacher has a problem then that’s the teacher’s problem. The school doesn’t fall down because a lad is touching himself. That’s the mess we get into when we act as though we live to ourselves (as the writer of the article suggests). Where do we draw the line?

  • Iain Lovejoy

    Don’t talk nonsense. Ben isn’t telling his daughter it’s OK to turn up to school in a thong bikini, and I am quite sure he isn’t teaching her she is should do whatever she likes and nuts to everyone else as you suggest.
    If you read more carefully you will notice that his complaint is that his daughter, who dresses perfectly sensibly and appropriately for school is nevertheless perpetually worried she will be sent home from school because someone doesn’t like what she is wearing, and, he believes, by reason of a dress code that proceeds on the basis that it is a girl’s responsibility through “modesty” to disguise her sinful and tempting female body to keep in check the sexual thoughts of the boys in school, because of course it could never be the responsibility of the boys themselves.

  • ferris Lindsay

    Thatsounds like nonsense to me. Show me where anybody has even suggested that a girl’s body is “sinful and tempting”. If somebody on here had suggested that then I would be with you in condemning them. So no case to answer there. As I see it Ben is spoiling for a fight. It sounds as if between them, his wife his daughter and he choose reasonably. It sounds as though his daughter has an unreasonable (but understandable, given her age) fear of being coded). Ben is looking for a problem where none exists and he just wants to display his “right on” /liberal credentials. “There’s nothing to see here. Pass on”

  • Iain Lovejoy

    Actually, read down the posts and you will find people reporting being subject to daft dress codes for exactly these daft reasons. I am from the UK and they don’t do that sort of thing here either but apparently where Ben does they do.

  • jjuulie

    I hope you protected your hitherto shielded “self” with a copious amount of sunscreen!

  • jjuulie

    Caelin, I”d say “how adults teach their children” IS society! But not just parents teaching their own children. One of the main problems for kids these days is the variety of mixed messages from adults at large. Parents say one thing, friends parents say something else, teachers yet a third message, advertising (produced by adults) even more varied messages. There isn’t one society message any more. And that’s huge for kids. At least, my kids say it is.

  • Linnea912

    The private school where I went from seventh grade until graduating from high school had a fairly sensible dress code. About the only thing girls couldn’t wear was spaghetti-strap tops or tank tops by themselves- you could wear them, you just had to throw a shirt over them. And the only T-shirts allowed were solid-color and/or single-pocket tees, or ones with school or clothing brand names on them. NOBODY could wear short shorts- shorts were only allowed on designated “shorts days” and they had to be the longer ones, at least mid-thigh length. Guys couldn’t wear anything tacky, either.

    Basically, the attitude came down to, “dress like you’re going to a job.” Though I griped about it at the time, when I got out into the work world, I understood what “business casual” was- it was basically how we dressed in high school.

  • Teka the Budgie

    The main sentence is “Um, no.” The rest is a sign-off in the structure common to handwritten letters.

  • Teka the Budgie

    Obviously the solution is to blindfold all male students. Cut the problem off at its source!

  • Cindy Bird

    I have 2 sons. And YES most public school dress codes are aimed at the girls and NOT the boys. The only real rule for the boys was no drugs on the tee shirts and they could not wear earrings to school. Long hair in boys had to be put in a ponytail which came down to the bottom of the shirt collar. Nothing about how short shorts could be, and I saw plenty of boys in short shorts which showed their underwear or in such large shorts that the top of the underwear showed. Girl’s were not allowed to wear tank tops unless covered by another shirt, however boys were allowed to wear what they laughingly called “Wife-beaters” tank tops without the covering shirt. I told my sons that these rules were sexist and even though they weren’t required to, they would follow the rules for the girls. Go to your local public high school and get a copy of the student guide. You’ll see just how sexist these dress codes really are.

  • Matt

    When boys start wearing skirts, dresses, and midriff shirts, I’m certain their dress code will be updated. Until then, I’m sure they’re fine in wearing t-shirts and jeans. The simplicity of a boy’s wardrobe compared to a girls is not the nefarious rule of the dangerous patriarchy. Progressives and their discussion about the “patriarchy” are akin to the McCarthyites and their constant grumbling about the pinko communists.

  • Matt

    What’s provoking about a baggy t-shirt that hasn’t been washed after wearing it three times and jeans with grass stains?

  • Iain Lovejoy

    Nothing whatsoever I would have thought. If you are joining this conversation half way through my view is that a dress code should have nothing to do with what is “provoking” or not but rather ensuring pupils are dressed smartly and sensibly for school and showing that they are taking study seriously.

  • Cindy Bird

    Some boys DO wear skirts or midriff tee shirts as part of Gothic dress. And again, how is it NOT sexist that boys can wear “wife-beaters” tank tops without a covering top, when girls may not, without a covering shirt?

  • Valerie Linares

    It is good that a girl understands that she does have control over her body and what she put on it. And I agree that if a boy is distracted by the way a girl dresses, then he should be taught how to control his own eyes. Boys should definitely be told and taught that they are personally responsible for controlling their hormones and wandering eyes. I agree 100% with that.

    However, in many areas, with the latest feminist movement, it almost seems that the feminist movement is telling women and even young girls, that they should be able to dress as scantily clad or as revealing as they like without receiving unwanted attention. I’m sorry, but that is unrealistic and illogical. That’s like saying, “I want to be able to smoke cigarettes as much as I want without getting lung cancer”. It doesn’t work that way. Like it or not, there are consequences to our actions. That’s just the way it is. Telling young women and girls, or boys and men, that they can dress as scantily clad or revealing as possible and not get unwanted attention is just straight an unrealistic, illogican and a naive pipe dream.

  • Valerie Linares

    Also, if we claim to be believers, we are to be the light, sanctified for God’s glory:

    “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:1-2

    In light of this, we also as believers who are free in Christ, should not abuse that freedom with selfishness in not considering the weaknesses of others around us:

    “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being.” 1 Corinthians 10:23-24

    “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. 13 Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods, but God will destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.” 1 Corinthians 6:12-13

    We should also consider that our bodies are not our own. We were bought at a price by Christ’s blood. Therefore, we ought to honor Him with what He’s given us:
    “Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” 1 Corinthians 6:18-20

    Women are also encouraged in 1 Peter to be modest:
    “Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.” 1 Peter 3:3-4

    The feminist movement has penetrated the minds of some Christians and convinced them of the false idea that the bible teaches women modesty because they should be ashamed of their bodies. This is quite the contrary to the truth. Scripture teaches modesty because God wants His daughters, AND His sons to be known for who they are on the inside, and not merely from their outside appearance.
    I’ve heard Christians say that they have abandoned the bible’s teachings on modesty because they were taught by their parent’s and other religious influences that they should be ashamed of their bodies, falsely teaching them that the body is only an object of sexual desire, and that sexual desire is shameful. This is NOT the bible’s teaching, this is the world’s teaching. Scripture teaches that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. God wants us to honor Him with our bodies with modesty in how we present ourselves. Not in shame, but in reverence to Him (1 Corinthians 12:23-24).
    In our sinful human nature, we pervert many things that God has given us. In this case, we’re discussing our bodies and our sexuality. But, we are to regard our bodies in modesty. Unlike what many religious leaders have taught the church over the century, sex is NOT inherently sinful. But rather, within the God given boundaries of marriage; sex is a beautiful union between a husband and wife becoming one flesh, physically, spiritually and emotionally as God has designed it.
    So, modesty has nothing to do with shame, biblically speaking. Rather we should be modest because we, as believers, should be known for our faith, our character and who we are in Christ. Not by how we dress or our physical appearance. And when we do not dress modestly, our immodestly distracts people from getting to know us for who we really are. Not to mention, we are not reflections of Christ, but reflections of the world.

  • Marian Blalock Bernstein

    What a load of bullshit. Why should some moldy old work of fiction written thousands of years ago dictate how women dress. The men who wrote this are the best example of a patriarchal society intent on keeping women in their place. This is a great dad.

  • caelin blevans

    and your breast in your shirt, funny how truisms work; if my eyes weren’t in my head, i couldn’t see, and i would be having that checked out.

  • lastrid

    You find a very many women protesting male genital mutilation. It is frequently the woman who has to convince her circumcised husband that it is a bad idea. I’m wondering upon what evidence you base your assertion that women control the wealth in our country.

  • s.p

  • s.p

  • utplagal

    And yet at the same time, we men go ‘scantily clad’ in public on a regular basis, be it out for a run, a day on the beach, etc. Do we receive unwanted attention from women (or gay men) for showing our bodies? I’m sure sometimes we do, but it’s typically hidden very well.

    It might be an unrealistic and illogical expectation for women at the moment, but less than a century ago toplessness for men was considered public indecency for the exact same reasons as women today. Then the norms changed, men’s bodies were normalized, and societal expectations shifted. I don’t think it’s unreasonable that the same could happen for women.

  • Katherine Heasley

    Funny, you quoted the Bible on being modest, but missed the whole point of the passage. Look again. Does it say, “Women should be modest and not show too much shoulder or leg”? No, it talks about showing off wealth. You’ve got some good ideas hidden in there, but you’re also taking way too much of what our world, and not the Bible, says about men and women.

  • Katherine Heasley

    And where, do you think, did we get the idea that girls need to wear clothes that attract men, while men can dress as simply as they want? Think about it really hard.

  • Evalyn Lee Allen

    Good job, “dad.” As the parent of a girl on the autism spectrum, I struggled with these issues when she was in high school. On the one hand, she needed to learn what the social norms were (since that is not something autistic kids pick up on their own), and on the other hand, well, I’m a free-spirited bra-burner. We had many discussions about the fact that bras were socially expected, even if the expectation was unreasonable in our opinion. Fortunately, she was able to understand the distinction. She chose to wear socially acceptable clothing–bra and all–just to avoid having to deal with the extra stresser of unwanted attention. Now that she is in college, she bases her decisions about clothing on what she wants to wear, not on the expectations of society. And so far, no one at either college she has attended has found her attire to be so disruptive that official intervention was necessary!

  • jekylldoc

    While I agree with the motivations expressed in your reasons, I think you ignored the other side of the issue and thereby reached conclusions that are extreme.

    Within the cultural systems we have, the game of revealing flesh to attract attention is a well-developed female “strategy”. As a result, society is likely to push back. Personally I suspect most women would appreciate an end to Hollywood-based fashion aimed at showing cleavage, for example. It sets up a ridiculous kind of competition, and girls need much more help working out how to resist that without giving up self-esteem than they need help resisting patriarchal dress codes.

    You stated that if her parents approved the clothes, they are okay. That is probably true, but note the omission. Parents have developed some judgment about how much “revealing” is a good idea. By saying, “leave that up to us,” you are suppressing discussion about the issues that are already facing her. What is the purpose of a dress code? How might it go to extremes, one way or the other? How can an autonomous individual take on the choices involved without ceding their autonomy to social rules and competitions? Sorry, but arguing that you as the adults who love her can be trusted while the institutions of society cannot is pretty much a cop-out. The matter is more complex.

    I would note in passing that I am astonished at all the assertions that the dress of boys is not an issue. In 15 years of teaching, I was confronted with at least as many violations by boys, mainly involving wearing jeans that drooped too low so their boxers would show. If that phenomenon has passed from the scene it is cause for rejoicing, but somehow I doubt it.