Not long ago, I was looking around my town for a good preschool for my daughter.
I eventually found one, but not before I found this little gem that made me want to slam my computer shut and emphatically curse in the quiet comfort of my home. Regarding 3-year-old girls’ dress requirements for a weekly pre-school activity, Texas-based Grapevine Faith Christian School thought it necessary to articulate in their policies that, “Girls will need to wear modesty shorts under their jumpers.”
Modesty shorts. Three-year-old girls. Excuse me, but my pre-school girl needs to giveexactly zero thought to modesty.
I don’t even know WTF modesty shorts are, but they sound restrictive and institutionally sexist. As her mother, safety and common courtesy suggests that I should make sure she attends school with her body parts properly covered, but I am fundamentally not OK with a dress code policy that tacitly communicates to my daughter that her body is dangerous and fodder for adult policing.
Maybe I could pretend that this pre-school’s policy is harmless. Evidence, however, points to the contrary. I am convinced that both public and private schools are far too concerned with monitoring the bodies of prepubescent children. And to be clear, by “prepubescent children,” I only mean “prepubescent girls.” Boys appear to be immune from the watchful eyes of school policymakers. We’ve heard about this with junior high and high school girls, which is its own brand of alarming sexism. The singling out of little girls for body monitoring, however, is a whole different level of twisted misogyny and control.
Consider, for instance, the following examples of little girls who were shamed via policies for having and enjoying their bodies:
A 5-year-old Texas girl was asked to put a T-shirt and jeans on over a full-length spaghetti strap maxi dress because the straps were in violation of the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District’s clothing policies. Never mind that it was hot outside. Never mind that she is 5.
The 6th grade girls who were invited to a Rhoades Elementary pool party were instructed that uncovered bathing suits were not allowed. The exact instructions on the invitation? “All girls must wear a non-white T-shirt over their swimsuit.”
A 9-year-old girl in Colorado was recently suspended from her public school when she chose to shave her head to support a friend of hers who lost her hair to chemotherapy. Thankfully, the school board reversed the decision.
What’s the solution? Just stop the madness.
This is not an argument about junior high or high school girls’ dress codes, although I will gladly pick up my banner to write about sexism against teenage girls. This is an argument that is an entirely different animal. Young girls do not need to worry about modesty. They do not need to learn that their bodies are dangerous, and they do not need to restrict their freedom in the few short years before the dressing of their female body grows unfathomably and unnecessarily complicated due to the gaze of the male eye.