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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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82 Responses

  1. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub April 2, 2010 at 11:51 am |

    I. . .I. . .I am wavering between snark and outrage. If this didn’t involve minors, I’d go for the snark.

  2. BW
    BW April 2, 2010 at 12:02 pm |

    According to the articles cited in this post, among others, it looked as if a total of 18 students were cited – of more than one gender and more than one race. I couldn’t find a specific breakdown, but it was not just girls. However, only one of the cited students chose suspension, and the article provides a photograph of her in her prom dress: I believe that while I do have cis-gender white female lower-to-middle class privilege, I can also identify what a breastbone/sternum is and what ‘to the shoulder’ is and that was clearly not it.

    It is also explained in articles about this prom and Oxford school in general that the rules against ‘overexposure’ and ‘bagginess’ are everyday school rules which the students were made aware of well in advance. (I’m guessing the rules about ‘women must wear evening gowns’ aren’t everyday rules though ;-) .)

    So while I agree that paddling is ridiculous and should be illegal in this day and age, I have a very hard time feeling sympathy for students who chose to go to a non-mandatory school event (which many, btw, probably desired to attend but could not because they didn’t have the money to buy/rent ANY dress/tux) in full knowledge of that school’s rules of appropriateness – and CHOSE to violate those rules, knowing the punishment(s).

    And if the students/their parents/community wished to dispute the dress code or the EVERYDAY punishments for breaching it, in my opinion, they could/possibly should have done so beforehand. At least they have a dress code which spells out specifically what is/isn’t appropriate…two things the school district cannot be faulted for are a lack of specificity or lack of prior notification.

  3. BW
    BW April 2, 2010 at 12:05 pm |

    …And, to point out the obvious, if students could choose between suspension and paddling, and only 1 – a female – was suspended, and if students of more than one gender were cited, then logically men were indeed paddled also. Again, I don’t think that’s an appropriate thing for a school (or a parent) to do, but it was applied to more than just women. At least.

  4. BW
    BW April 2, 2010 at 12:06 pm |

    …And, to point out the obvious, if students could choose between suspension and paddling, and only 1 – a female – was suspended, and if students of more than one gender were cited, then logically men were indeed paddled also. Again, I don’t think that’s an appropriate thing for a school (or a parent) to do, but it was applied to more than just women. At least. And they weren’t threatened with paddling, they were paddled.

  5. shannon
    shannon April 2, 2010 at 12:11 pm |

    That seems like a shockingly sexualized punishment for something so minor.

  6. Cara
    Cara April 2, 2010 at 12:15 pm |

    Obviously it’s appalling the corporal punishment is an option available to schools anywhere. The very idea boggles my mind.

    But to talk just for a minute about the code itself, rules regarding cleavage are not only incredibly sexist in concept, they’re also not applied even remotely evenly. The larger your breasts, the more likely it is that you’re going to be accused of violating the dress code, because you just have more cleavage and it’s harder to cover up.

    I’m not saying that women with small breasts have never been penalized by these kinds of rules or making a “who has it harder” argument (obviously women with all different sized breasts are variously punished and rewarded because of their bodies in different ways), but whenever these cases make the news, it is virtually always with a woman who has larger breasts. It basically results in a practice of women with different body types being held to different standards of “decency.” And that basically results in certain body types being ruled as indecent altogether. It’s misogynistic, and it’s disgusting.

  7. Another Laurie
    Another Laurie April 2, 2010 at 12:15 pm |

    Did the Porno Screenwriters Guild take over this school district?

  8. Another Laurie
    Another Laurie April 2, 2010 at 12:27 pm |

    The article says that the students were allowed to attend the prom and then were informed the following week that they would be punished. It seems perverse to me to impose a severe punishment for a behavior that no one deemed severe enough to prevent at the time. If the revealing dress was really so damaging and destructive, why let these students into the prom in the first place?

    And yeah, the paddling. One of the links says a number of students chose the paddling. I wonder why? What were the consequences of a three-day suspension for graduating on time, college admissions, or being able to take crucial exams? I don’t know, but I question whether there was some incentive to take the sexually humiliating punishment in order to avoid the suspension.

    Oh, and I don’t care how clear the rules were. It is never okay to paddle anyone. The sadistic sexual shaming of a minor is far more damaging than showing some skin at the prom.

  9. Another Laurie
    Another Laurie April 2, 2010 at 12:33 pm |

    Ho-lee shit. HuffPos says 17 out of 18 students chose the paddling. So yeah, I’ve gotta think that deck was stacked so that students would take that choice.

    Maybe I’m wrong, but I’ve heard horror stories before about these faux “choices” in which the only real choice to let the school administrators get their jollies by forcing young people to bend over a desk for a spanking. I would love to find out the back story on that angle.

  10. Michelle Lamb
    Michelle Lamb April 2, 2010 at 12:36 pm |

    This reminds me of my high school. i went to a private christian school and our “prom” if thats what you want to call it was the same. although we didnt get paddled, you were just shamefully forced to wear an oversized dirty shirt over you dress or they made you leave. i was forced to leave from my senior prom. its just a way for the older women at the school to prove how morally superior they are by ruining young girls lives.

  11. The Flash
    The Flash April 2, 2010 at 12:44 pm |

    Proms are a specific kind of social occasion with their own uniforms and rules that are rooted in tradition. While traditions evolve, it’s soundly within the social context of a prom to require the exact dresscode described. They’re not denying a kid graduation by saying they have to hew to a particular uniform that reflects the specific character of the event– it’s not a prom if people don’t have to dress in what’s recognized in the United States as “formal”.

    The paddling is just creepy. This is why no one should ever leave New York.

    Also, the flap over breast size and cleavage… I mean… are we supposed to pretend everyone’s born the same? I think this falls into the Hobbesian category of people-have-different-advantages-and-disadvantages-in-life-but-they’re-all-equal-at-the-end-of-the-day. Having large breasts confers advantages on the bearers of such in certain circumstances, and disadvantages in others. I’d guess it roughly comes out in the wash. And, frankly, it probably comes out better than okay… having to deal with an abundance of cleavage at prom probably isn’t that big a demerit as compared to the advantages, both subtle and unsubtle, that come with being more generously endowed.

    1. Cara
      Cara April 2, 2010 at 12:54 pm |

      Actually, Flash, what I was arguing is that we shouldn’t expect different types of dress out of people with different body types, and treat a woman with small breasts one way when she’s wearing a certain cut, and a woman with large breasts a different way when she’s wearing that same cut. I know, radical concept. I think I also mentioned the part about how there are social advantages and disadvantages to all breast sizes? But thank you for explaining it back to me. It’s much easier having my boobs mansplained than talking about them myself. I mean, prior to this moment, I was thinking that this was an issue in women’s lives that was bigger than prom!

      Anyway, let’s end the derail.

  12. Mandolin
    Mandolin April 2, 2010 at 12:49 pm |

    I’m guessing “The Flash” doesn’t know very many generously endowed women who developed early.

  13. jemand
    jemand April 2, 2010 at 1:16 pm |

    I often wonder in stories like this what it would be like if kinky people were more in the public’s consciousness…. I mean seriously, if the idea of spanking were fairly closely linked to sex, I’m guessing these kinds of punishments would happen immensely less often. Maybe I’m just optimistic though…

    It just seems to me that nonconsensual spanking should be classified as sexual assault. *ESPECIALLY* of someone old enough to attend a prom.

  14. ACG
    ACG April 2, 2010 at 1:45 pm |

    1. Apparently, too slatternly for the dress code still isn’t too slatternly to stay at the prom. But it’s slatternly enough to get paddled or suspended when you get back to school.

    2. Does “Your dress was too provocative, so now I must spank you” sound extra-creepy to anyone else?

  15. a lawyer
    a lawyer April 2, 2010 at 1:46 pm |

    Actually, Flash, what I was arguing is that we shouldn’t expect different types of dress out of people with different body types

    Yes, but why not?

  16. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable April 2, 2010 at 1:47 pm |

    I don’t think I understand, “The dresses can be sleeveless or strapless, provided all body parts from the shoulder to the knee are covered.”

    How can your shoulders be covered in a strapless dress? I don’t understand how I’m misreading this.

  17. BW
    BW April 2, 2010 at 2:00 pm |

    @PrettyAmiable

    I agree – that doesn’t seem to make much sense. As close as I can figure, it means that a dress which is strapless but which comes up to the arms and has *I imagine* a straight-across top which lies flush to the skin, therefore not showing sternum/breastbone (which was specified) and not allowing cleavage or anything else to ‘get out/hang out.’ The not showing the sternum part seemed pretty clear, though.

  18. La BellaDonna
    La BellaDonna April 2, 2010 at 2:14 pm |

    Wait, I didn’t get that memo. Please tell me what specific advantages having a large bust have provided me? Are there by any chance any posts here at Feministe that outline them? I’m familiar with the expensive bras, back pain, difficulty finding clothes that fit, having to do alterations or make my own clothes, and other inconveniences – not to mention if I’m not muffled up to the neck, I invariably show more cleavage than someone who has a smaller bust, even, as noted above, in the same garment. Tell me, exactly, WHAT advantages I’ve had because of my bust? Because I sure can’t call any to mind at the moment.

  19. A.W.
    A.W. April 2, 2010 at 2:43 pm |

    Yeah, Jill’s pretty much nailed it there. Aside from ‘compliments’ (and denouncements, funnily enough, from a friend’s father, no less when that was clearly not the topic of convo and I was a teenager) I can’t think of anything. No, wait – in the sex work industry it might be considered an advantage, although that depends on the genre. All comes out in the wash my ass. The only advantage I can think of is that some larger busts are socially approved of, but if they’re not on someone conventionally attractive (or someone who has other intersections, like some disabilities and the desexualization of the people with ‘em) you can forget about any second thoughts someone might have over, say, hiring you for a job. And yes, the example was specific.

  20. The Flash
    The Flash April 2, 2010 at 2:48 pm |

    “Because it implies that certain kinds of bodies are more “appropriate” or inappropriate or sexual or good or bad or disgusting or attractive than others. ”

    No it doesn’t. It implies that certain bodies in certain types of dress are more appropriate or inappropriate than others– the commentary isn’t on the body, it’s on the appropriateness of matching body to clothing, which is what people outside of Feminist Bloglandia call “good taste”, which, yes, is within the purview of schools to compel… nay, teach.

  21. The Flash
    The Flash April 2, 2010 at 2:52 pm |

    “How can your shoulders be covered in a strapless dress?”

    Shawl.

  22. becky
    becky April 2, 2010 at 3:08 pm |

    It implies that certain bodies in certain types of dress are more appropriate or inappropriate than others– the commentary isn’t on the body, it’s on the appropriateness of matching body to clothing

    “How can your shoulders be covered in a strapless dress?”
    Shawl.

    thanks for the fashion advice, since it’s clearly the central issue here — not some people telling others what to wear and “paddling” them if they do not act accordingly.

    oh, and speaking of: your notion of what is appropriate or inappropriate for women and their bodies or how to cover yourself up properly was very educational. i am truly relieved that i know now how to dress according to the, err, rules.

  23. The Flash
    The Flash April 2, 2010 at 3:08 pm |

    ““Good taste,” though, has a basis in the idea that it is bad to reveal certain body parts if those body parts are shaped a certain way. That’s a problem.”

    It isn’t. Feminism doesn’t mean tearing down all mechanisms of judgment except for how feminist something is. In specific contexts, it is inappropriate to display a body a certain way, and that contextual judgment is affected by the shape of the individual’s body. I’m going to bet you wore a suit to your swearing-in, Jill, and not a red strapless cocktail dress or a rollerderby uniform. So the cleavage issue is just as much an outgrowth of appropriateness of clothing as the uniform is, because the ends are the same: to contextualize an event. Institutions, and particularly schools, can define the boundaries of an event by dictating that certain body parts shouldn’t be displayed, and if those body parts are bigger/smaller– a taller woman would need a longer dress, too, and a fatter guy couldn’t wear the same armani-cut suit, or a skinnier short guy couldn’t wear a Cedric the Entertainer costume, and a woman with a smaller chest might not be able to wear a dress that a larger-chested woman might wear– then the individual still has to dress accordingly. What applies at prom doesn’t apply in every facet of life, and it’s okay to create traditionalist spaces if they’re not overwhelming and they’re clearly demarcated.

  24. Athenia
    Athenia April 2, 2010 at 3:22 pm |

    So girls with big boobs must wear a shawl and girls with small boobs don’t have to?

    What irks me about things like this is that they don’t take into account what they sell in your local Macy’s or whatever…then you have a problem with finding something that’s in your correct size, appropriate color and in your price range.

  25. The Flash
    The Flash April 2, 2010 at 3:34 pm |

    “What irks me about things like this is that they don’t take into account what they sell in your local Macy’s or whatever…then you have a problem with finding something that’s in your correct size, appropriate color and in your price range.”

    This isn’t a gendered problem. Guys have to find a suit that has the right cut, too. If you’re on the shorter or fatter side, you have a problem. But so what? Anyone in Williamsburg or the LES will tell you that looking good doesn’t need to cost a lot of money, whatever your shape. It’s okay for there to be social stigma against people who aren’t creative.

  26. Emma
    Emma April 2, 2010 at 3:48 pm |

    It is shocking that paddling happens anywhere, but I have found (as an AL resident) it occurs quite often. Recently, an incident took in which a 16 year old was paddled for “cussing” (using the word damn) and on another occasion chewing gum.

    I am also concerned (as shannon mentioned) about the sexual nature of the punishment. Apparently, most schools mandate that a woman paddle female students and male teachers paddle male students…as if this some how makes the act non-sexual.

  27. La Lubu
    La Lubu April 2, 2010 at 5:11 pm |

    Funny how “good taste” tends to mean having an “appropriate” female body shape. I’ve been told I was revealing too much in a fucking turtleneck. With an industrial-strength bra on (and lemme tellya, those things ain’t cheap).

    It’s not about the clothing, Flash. It’s about the body.

  28. ojd
    ojd April 2, 2010 at 6:13 pm |

    What would a thread about female bodies be without some good old mansplaining? It’s not like we would know about our experiences living in these female bodies, and share with other women, and live with other women as sisters and roommates and some of us as lovers and have opportunities to see and talk about differences in treatment.

    Also, even more than just the body, the age of the body makes a difference. A young teenager wearing say, a 34D, might be deemed to be busty and revealing too much by wearing the same dress as her 32B-sized friend. When the same young woman with the same size body is 24 or 34, she is considered to be of a perfectly appropriate size but still carries the shame from being told she had the wrong body for a teenager. It’s maddening. The rules are always changing and we’re always wrong.

  29. Zes
    Zes April 2, 2010 at 6:19 pm |

    Are they seriously requiring teachers, many of whom are likely married, to engage in a sexual act with a person not their spouse? Surely that is more antithetical to a godly society than seeing a bit of skin.

  30. PromMom
    PromMom April 2, 2010 at 7:21 pm |

    Just so you know, the letter sent to parents specifically states that this in NOT a school sponsored function. If it is not school sponsored, how in the world can they have the audacity to dictate school rules to this event. Oxford City Schools needs to be looked at closely for more “stuff” like this. This is the most “controlled” system I have ever had the misfortune of being involved with. It is full of double standards (athletes get special treatment), nepotism and the “good ole boy” syndrome. If I had known what kind of system this was, I would never have purchased a house in this area (as suggested by my realtor).

  31. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable April 2, 2010 at 7:22 pm |

    La Lubu, I was going to say that it’s funny how “good taste” is determined by men.

  32. Aydan
    Aydan April 2, 2010 at 9:42 pm |

    Probably everybody knows this, but I just wanted to point out that fulfilling that school’s dress code is more like an impossibility than a choice. The breastbone runs from the collarbones down, so ostensibly, administrators could remove anyone– sorry, any female, I didn’t see a breastbone stipulation for men– who had their collarbones showing. Now, it is possible to find formal or semi-formal wear for women that covers your collarbones, like a nice blouse… but not an evening gown or cocktail dress, which was specifically stipulated in the dress code (and definitely not if it has to cover your shoulders as well). As was pointed out in the article, prom dresses just don’t come like that. Which raises the question of, since most of the women attending the prom were probably violating this dress code, why were those 18 singled out?

  33. Naamah
    Naamah April 2, 2010 at 11:26 pm |

    No it doesn’t. It implies that certain bodies in certain types of dress are more appropriate or inappropriate than others– the commentary isn’t on the body, it’s on the appropriateness of matching body to clothing, which is what people outside of Feminist Bloglandia call “good taste”, which, yes, is within the purview of schools to compel… nay, teach.

    Hey, “Flash.” When you have a body where the “appropriate” dress is to not be seen outside at all unless you are covered wrists to neck to ankles in something no tighter than a burlap sack, i.e. being fat, that is a judgment of your body.

    When you have a body part that, because it is different from the norm, you are expected to conceal or de-emphasize or reveal and emphasize for the comfort or enjoyment of others; for example, a badly twisted arm or large breasts, that is a commentary on your body.

    Commentary on what is appropriate clothing turns into commentary on the body inside of it the minute you are applying a different standard for one group of people than for another.

    If you tell me I should not go out in the summer in shorts because I’m pale or have hairy legs or am fat, because that would be in poor taste, but it’s fine for someone with sweet legs, well fuck you very much. Yes, you are insulting my body.

    How do I know this?

    Because it happens to me and I find it very fucking offensive. Wow! Imagine that, me actually being able to tell the difference between reasonable fashion advice and being insulted!

    I have never had a conversation with someone who told me that an item of clothing was in poor taste who did not have an underlying problem with bodies like mine, thinking they are gross or unsightly or whatever. Assholes.

    There are basic rules about what is polite to wear in our culture. That’s fine. I think we should probably continue to dress nicely as a sign of respect at weddings and funerals and performances, for instance, and I think it would be tacky for a teacher or doctor or other professional to dress in overtly sexy clothing while on the job and dealing with the public. We bat the specifics around endlessly, they’re always changing. That’s how the world works.

    BUT.

    The fact that these standards change based on a person’s body type is bullshit. You apply the rules straight across the board or not at all.

    And you absolutely do not enforce it with threats or physical abuse.

  34. The Flash
    The Flash April 3, 2010 at 1:23 am |

    “The fact that these standards change based on a person’s body type is bullshit. You apply the rules straight across the board or not at all.”

    They are applying the rules uniformly– no cleavage. Not everyone can wear the same dress/suit/outfit to the same effect. And in fact, because men had to wear suits or tuxedos at this prom (as at most proms), the men weren’t allowed to show their chests either. Nobody could. It was just a more limiting rule for some people– well-endowed women– than others. But hey, some guys have deep trauma from childhood and that leads them to have severe aggression against women and be inclined towards severe misogyny, and so demanding that they behave like decent human beings is a steeper hill for them to climb. Not everything needs to be applied relativistically– if the rule about cleavage is being evenly applied, it isn’t really a problem.

  35. Henry
    Henry April 3, 2010 at 3:53 am |

    Dress codes are fine if they are uniformly enforced. If they singled out particular body types that’s insane. Hemlines are hemlines – it’s either 6 inches or not. The fact that men were not paddled for breaking the dress code is because we really only have one formal chioce – a tuxedo and they all cover the same areas of skin – unless you get the Chippendale’s version – which most men would not because we are either too shy or would not look good in one. I admit I have no idea where a breastbone is – I suppose it’s below the collar bone? – otherwise it should have been fairly easy to to enforce their dress code equally for all students (though it sounds a bit puritanical to have such high collars).

    The paddling aspect is just creepy – it smacks of some sort of weirdo discipline fetish enacted on female students

  36. Doc Alpert
    Doc Alpert April 3, 2010 at 9:34 am |

    Paddling?! Perhaps we should let them know that The Simpsons was making fun of paddling as an outdated punishment 15 years ago (using one of its 80+-year old characters to really highlight the outdatedness)?

    Jasper:

    Talking out of turn? That’s a paddlin’. Lookin’ out the window? That’s a paddlin’. Staring at my sandals? That’s a padddlin’. Paddlin’ the school canoe? Oh, you better believe that’s a paddlin’.

  37. Athenia
    Athenia April 3, 2010 at 9:50 am |

    Flash,
    Actually, the school should require girls to wear suits because *all* suits would cover their shoulders, breasts and knees. Dresses come in many different styles.

    A size 4 strapless dress will look different on girls with different chest sizes. The more cleavage, the more cleavage you’re gonna see.

    The simple solution would have the girls wear coats with their dresses, but alas, they don’t sell many of those anymore unless you make it yourself.

  38. William
    William April 3, 2010 at 11:24 am |

    Dress codes are fine if they are uniformly enforced.

    Why? I know thats an uncomfortable question but really, why are dress codes fine if uniformly enforced? I can understand dress codes for certain kinds of jobs with safety concerns (you probably shouldn’t wear hot pants in a steel mill), but beyond that I simply fail to see either the utility or the authority for a dress code.

    Dress codes are fundamentally and explicitly about policing bodies and excluding certain kinds of people from certain social spheres. At a minimum they are overtly classist and this one is pretty overtly racist as well (unless you have some compelling explanation for why baggy outfits were also banned). At their core dress codes are about powerful persons requiring that others conform to their aesthetic (which is always rooted in values and virtually always organized in such a fashion as to dictate a specific system of power) or be excluded. How is that fine? “Hey, oppression is OK so long as everyone is equally oppressed.” What kind of Harrison Burgeron socialist/fascist/authoritarian nightmare is that?

  39. queen emily
    queen emily April 3, 2010 at 3:47 pm |

    Well said, William. And I’d add that school codes are already multiple, organised by binary – this range of acceptable options for “boys,” this for “girls” (I use quotation marks because at schools these groups are cissexist assignations and given the odds *always* contain trans students). So you know, trans girls are very often disciplined at school in the name of “uniform codes,” no matter how demure your outfit may be.

    So “uniformly enforced” is already a misnomer, unless everyone’s wearing a Star Trek-style uniform.

  40. BW
    BW April 3, 2010 at 5:20 pm |

    @38 Henry,

    Yes, men WERE paddled for violating the dress code- the same as women. The article states that a total of 18 male and female students were cited for violating the dress code. The students were given the choice between paddling and suspension. The article highlights one female who chose the suspension, stating that all other students chose paddling. Therefore, of the 17 who were paddled, some were male.

  41. Henry
    Henry April 3, 2010 at 5:49 pm |

    If there is no “dress code” then public nudity is allowable too – at some level we all have an expectation that others around us will engage in some form of conformity (e.g. cover you genitals in Western society while in parts of Africa decorating and exposing your genitals is the norm). I said they were “ok” – “ok” does not mean enthuisiastic support for some puritan ideal of covering women in a certain way while still forcing them to wear female-type clothes. The school holds a dance where men and women are expected to dress a certain way, just like many other events in society. Wouldn’t requiring everyone to wear unisex uniforms also be a form of oppression? “We don’t like dresses because they turn women into objects”. Personally I feel like meat when I wear a tuxedo – penguin meat. If you define consenting to every societal expectation as oppression, then the list of oppressions will be long indeed. I guarantee I can find female or male clothing on certain fetish clothing sites that everyone here would think was inappropriate for the prom. The way this district enforced the dress code was indeed rascist – hence – non-uniform – they went after black girls with large breasts.

    My post wasn’t about the baggy outfits restriction – I didn’t see that part of the article – many districts outright ban baggy outfits year round (and certain colors) since they are gang-associated and were originally used by street gangs to hide weapons from cops cruising through town – granted that can be solved by the use of metal detectors which unfortunately many school districts now have to use. I went to high school in a town with lots of gang violence – we were prohibited to wear any blue or red t-shirts, hankerchiefs/bandanas were out (because all the colors were taken by various Latino gangs), baggy clothes were out too. If a white kid accidentally wore “gang-type” clothing they could expect a beat down from the other students, the minority kids could be killed on the street. So yes what you wear matters – it sends a message to others (e.g. I am part of an organization, I am part of a group etc.) – it’s a form of communication. Otherwise we should let individuals wear Nazi uniforms to the prom too.

  42. Marksman2000
    Marksman2000 April 3, 2010 at 5:58 pm |

    Paddling may not be something that teens “fear” the way they did when they were young children, but it’s still humiliating. I mean, first you get fingered at the your prom–which is a big event for most teens–then you get paddled like a child who’s thrown a tantrum in the checkout line. Humiliating, if you ask me.

  43. Sei
    Sei April 3, 2010 at 6:14 pm |

    I have a serious problem with punishing the students after the fact instead of refusing them entry at the door (and -especially- using corporal punishment) but I don’t have an issue with the dress code itself.

    Part of the education students are supposed to receive in school is how to behave in society-at-large. Society-at-large, for good or for ill, has rules on what is acceptable and what is not at a formal event, and the rules imposed by the school seem pretty run-of-the-mill. If a woman wears a cocktail dress or shows cleavage at, say, a banquet or a philanthropy ball or a formal wedding, it would be considered highly inappropriate.

    Should society’s rules be different? Yes. But if the students were not AWARE of those rules, they’d be grossly handicapped once they graduated and were out trying to build and maintain careers; the alumni who would be disproportionately impacted would be the women, because a woman who dresses inappropriately at an event can often be pilloried for it. Teenagers today have very, very few opportunities to be involved in any formal setting – prom is basically it. Best that they learn now that they can’t get away in real life with dressing the way women do on television, before they get a reputation as the “office slut” or someone out for a “Mrs” degree or what-have-you.

  44. La Lubu
    La Lubu April 3, 2010 at 6:28 pm |

    Best that they learn now that they can’t get away in real life with dressing the way women do on television, before they get a reputation as the “office slut” or someone out for a “Mrs” degree or what-have-you.

    Nonsense. Punishing students for wearing evening gowns that display cleavage at the prom is equivalent to punishing students for wearing “revealing” clothing at the beach or swimming pool.

  45. chingona
    chingona April 3, 2010 at 7:44 pm |

    If a woman wears a cocktail dress or shows cleavage at, say, a banquet or a philanthropy ball or a formal wedding, it would be considered highly inappropriate.

    Really? Are you sure about this? I’ve seen plenty of cleavage and cocktail dresses at formal events.

    And either way, the girls were required to wear evening gowns or cocktail dresses. That’s part of the problem. It’s very hard to find dresses of that type that don’t show off some part of the body that was delineated in the dress code. These girls were set up.

  46. Sei
    Sei April 3, 2010 at 8:28 pm |

    Well, I’m an attorney in the northeast (not a major urban center) and have to go to formal functions on a relatively regular basis. When women have worn cocktail dresses or gowns that show cleavage, too much breast bone, or are above the knee in this area, I’ve heard nasty comments. I also spent a good deal of time in the Deep South, and it was similar down there – no “decent” woman would have been caught at a formal gathering wearing a dress with cleavage. YMMV, but if I were one of those young women I’d much prefer to know before-hand what the prevailing social attitudes consider appropriate and inappropriate, regardless of what other students in other schools have been wearing to prom.

    And, for the record, I have almost never had difficulty finding attractive dresses for any function – formal, semi-formal, after-dinner drinks, what have you – which fit those parameters while shopping at major department stores.

  47. RD
    RD April 3, 2010 at 8:30 pm |

    If a woman wears a cocktail dress or shows cleavage at, say, a banquet or a philanthropy ball or a formal wedding, it would be considered highly inappropriate.

    Uh whoa. Talk about *class privilege*.

  48. Bunny Mazonas
    Bunny Mazonas April 3, 2010 at 8:39 pm |

    Man, Flash kinda doesn’t quite get it, does he?

    Big breasts do not confer advantages on the bearer. You getting to oggle big titties does not give me an advantage over anything.

    You know what I do get for my trouble? Back pain. The need to buy expensive bras because A- cheap ones don’t come in my size and B- relatively cheap ones in my size exacerbate the back pain. I get not being able to find clothes that fit my body in 90% of clothing shops. I get having to compromise with clothing that doesn’t adequately cover my breasts, which I compensate for with extra layers, then I get to sweat in the heat. I get being called a slut, being accused of showing off my body, being assumed to be easy and available if I dare wear anything that shows even the outline of my breasts – and the outline of G cup breasts is kinda hard to conceal! I get disciplined at work for wearing “provocative” or “revealing” outfits whilst the smaller-breasted person disciplining me is wearing something showing considerably more flesh than me. I get men in bars thinking they can physically put their hand, in my clothing, under my bra to grab my breasts at the bar (this has happened to me twice now). I get talked down to when I speak with my peers, because I am assumed to be stupid. I get turned down for interviews with feedback including that I looked “provocative”. I get to enjoy the fun of meeting new people, and watching them try not to stare at my chest.

    I’m not sure what positive aspects I’ve been enjoying. Care to enlighten me?

    And to the other people here stating that it is okay to enforce dress codes that target women with bigger breasts and hips; please, feel free to come shopping with me one day to help me find the mythical dress that will cover me modestly without looking like something out of another era. Or, if you please, I would be happy to receive donations to allow me to purchase clothes from bespoke tailors.

  49. William
    William April 3, 2010 at 9:36 pm |

    If there is no “dress code” then public nudity is allowable too – at some level we all have an expectation that others around us will engage in some form of conformity

    Public nudity would likely be covered by indecent exposure laws, what we’re talking about is a more extreme restriction of dress based not upon the generally accepted standards of a larger society but the taste of administrators in a position of power.

    Even if that wasn’t the case, though, you’re immediate “what about public nudity?” response is foolish. My grandparents live rather far from me and I tend to make the trip out (two hours in each direction) maybe twice a month. Along one of the roads there is a town, and in this town the speed limit on the highway is 25 MPH for one mile, while the mile before and after have a speed limit of 75. There is nothing special about the mile, no school, no industry, no cross walks, no unusual access roads, no blind curves or bridges. I think that speed limit is ridiculous, but that doesn’t mean I believe that all speed limits are wrong in all cases. The choice here isn’t between a tuxedo (or cleavage-baring prom dress) and streaking.

    I said they were “ok” – “ok” does not mean enthuisiastic support for some puritan ideal of covering women in a certain way while still forcing them to wear female-type clothes.

    Support is support, your level of enthusiasm is irrelevant. Either you feel the administrators overstepped their authority or you do not. You have said that you feel the dress code was “ok,” thats support. Whether you’re willing to take to the streets over it is neither here nor there.

    The school holds a dance where men and women are expected to dress a certain way, just like many other events in society.

    Most other social events do not have the ability to punish those who fail to conform except through exclusion to that event.

    Wouldn’t requiring everyone to wear unisex uniforms also be a form of oppression?

    Yes.

    If you define consenting to every societal expectation as oppression, then the list of oppressions will be long indeed.

    The list of oppressions is long indeed. What we’re talking about here isn’t consenting to social expectations. What we’re talking about is an unusually extreme expectation that is being enforced upon people of relatively little power through the use of violent force. Indeed, we’re talking about threatening high school students with violence or suspension for violating a restriction which resulted in no material injury to anyone. Maybe that doesn’t strike you as fundamentally oppressive, that strikes me as sad.

    I guarantee I can find female or male clothing on certain fetish clothing sites that everyone here would think was inappropriate for the prom.

    Really? Even if that were true, which I find difficult to imagine, you’d likely end up with clothing that wouldn’t meet legal standards of decency. Even so, your constant resort to the most extreme of examples is troubling. Why is it so difficult for you to engage with the situation at hand, why do you need to keep invoking “fetish websites” and public nudity?

    The way this district enforced the dress code was indeed rascist – hence – non-uniform – they went after black girls with large breasts.

    So if they’d went after white girls with small breasts just as aggressively it would have been good? As long as everyone is exposed to the same ridiculous regulations, then its fine? Oppression is fine so long as its uniform?

    That argument is thin for a simple reason, uniform application does not imply a uniform rule. Say a school banned cornrows, afros, multiple braids, shaved heads, and elaborate “process job” hair styles. They applied the same punishment to any student who showed up to prom with those hairstyles. They argued that those kinds of hairstyles were not especially traditional and were inappropriate for a formal event. Would you see a problem with such a policy?

    My post wasn’t about the baggy outfits restriction

    Even though one is intimately related to the other…

    many districts outright ban baggy outfits year round (and certain colors) since they are gang-associated and were originally used by street gangs to hide weapons from cops cruising through town

    And we have seen how well those kinds of rules have restricted gang activity in our nation’s schools. Aside from the fact that the situation you describe is…questionable, at best, I hardly see how such a restriction would apply here. Are we concerned about young women showing their gang affiliation through the display of cleavage? Or maybe they’re hiding a gun in there, I saw a movie like that once, so its totally historical and I’m sure it wouldn’t take long to find some fine, upstanding law enforcement official who would swear that he’d seen the same thing and needed to pat down the suspicious young slattern. For our safety, of course. Can’t be too careful with those poor young blacks, they’re statistically criminal, after all.

    granted that can be solved by the use of metal detectors which unfortunately many school districts now have to use.

    Yes, those poor, burdened, school officials. They’re just trying to hold back the tide of chaos. I mean, if you allow students to wear what they please dancing can’t be far behind. Followed by an epidemic of marijuana psychosis-fueled rape and murder. Or something, I’ve always had trouble following the thought process of the Beck set.

    I went to high school in a town with lots of gang violence

    I went to school in Chicago and provided both individual and group therapy at a tough high school in the Humboldt Park neighborhood. Now that we’re done measuring, care to get back to making an argument?

    we were prohibited to wear any blue or red t-shirts,

    The high school I provided therapy at had a very strict uniform. One of the groups I lead was for gang-involved males between 14 and 17, they were all more or less wearing the same clothes and somehow they still all knew who ran with what gang.

    hankerchiefs/bandanas were out (because all the colors were taken by various Latino gangs),

    And you don’t see….you know…nevermind…

    If a white kid accidentally wore “gang-type” clothing they could expect a beat down from the other students, the minority kids could be killed on the street.

    Surely this was what officials were worried about when girls showed too much chest at prom.

    So yes what you wear matters – it sends a message to others (e.g. I am part of an organization, I am part of a group etc.) – it’s a form of communication.

    Or, in some cases, “I could give a shit about your rules and if you try to paddle me for it I’ll make you look like an asshole in the media.”

    I know you’re all lathered up in your derail, but this entire line is more or less irrelevant. Even if it wasn’t, the continued and serious problem of gang violence in schools that we have experienced over the last couple of decades essentially disproves the utility of dress codes. You can keep flailing, but you’re demonstrably wrong.

    Otherwise we should let individuals wear Nazi uniforms to the prom too.

    I almost feel silly bothering to engage you in a discussion and writing this long post only to find that I won the argument from the moment you hit “send.” Nice Godwin.

  50. Rebecca
    Rebecca April 3, 2010 at 11:37 pm |

    I would love to know who’s administering the punishment.

  51. La Lubu
    La Lubu April 4, 2010 at 7:34 am |

    Nice takedown, William.

    And, for the record, I have almost never had difficulty finding attractive dresses for any function – formal, semi-formal, after-dinner drinks, what have you – which fit those parameters while shopping at major department stores.

    Good for you, Sei. I take it your breasts are also considerably larger than the rest of your body, no? So….you have no problem buying a dress with the horizontal measurement across the chest being large enough to fit without any movement of your arms ripping the back out, while simultaneously being cut to a length that fits your body? Huh. Sure would like to see a list of those department stores.

    But that’s not really the point. I’ve been to department stores too, and all the prom dresses I’ve seen looked pretty much like the prom dress the young woman featured in the link was wearing. In other words, this school was punishing young women for what is generally regarded as standard prom wear. It’s like requiring “jeans”, and then punishing folks who show up wearing blue jeans instead of another color.

    I suppose you were one of those people bent out of shape when Michelle Obama wore a sleeveless dress to a State dinner. It didn’t even occur to me that anyone would think that was controversial—sleeveless dresses are the go-to formal dress uniform for those of us with larger shoulder and/or chest measurements, because they have more “give”. (that, and they always look tasteful. No poofy sleeves tryin’ to make the wearer look like a child. No problem with sleeve length being considerably longer than one’s arms.)

    But the Internet ought to tell you that outside of extremes, there is no consensus on the “rules”. Except for the fact there are more of them for women, and mostly unspoken.

  52. lizzyj
    lizzyj April 4, 2010 at 12:40 pm |

    Maybe I missed it in your comments, but what do exactly these corporal punishments consist of? It seems quite odd to me. I mean, it’s a school, not a jail (and even in a jail I wouldn’t understand)…

  53. Sei
    Sei April 4, 2010 at 7:31 pm |

    @RD – Yeah, it is class privilege. Any formal event reeks of class privilege. That’s why formal events exist, in order to reinforce socioeconomic classes and separate them.

    @LaLubu – You have no idea what my body type is, so lay off the assumptions; I, like everyone else, have to pay the nominal tailoring fee to get clothes to fit properly. That’s just the reality of buying off the rack.

    I also have not made any comments suggesting that I, personally, reinforce or approve of these social rules, so also please lay off the “you must have been one of the people who” remarks. The “you don’t agree with me so I’m going to put you into X category” line is really old.

    The fact of the matter is that people DID whinge about Michelle’s attire, didn’t they? And if she hadn’t been the First Lady – if she had been, say, a young female attorney (especially a African American female attorney – let’s not pretend the rules aren’t stricter depending on skin tone) wearing that dress without a wrap to an award ceremony for her partner-mentor, maybe she wouldn’t have gotten a partner offer at the firm. Regardless of what WE think of the rules, THAT is the reality these women will have to deal with. Would you prefer they go into that firestorm unaware of what they’ll be up against?

    If your objection is that they wouldn’t be able to find a prom dress which fits those qualifications, my answer would be, “Duh.” You will rarely find a dress designed for prom which is appropriate for a formal event.

    But just because certain kinds of dresses have now become the status quo for prom, that does not magically make them appropriate formal attire. If the school (and class funding the event) was/were trying to make their prom a formal event, they did nothing wrong by imposing that dress code.

  54. RD
    RD April 4, 2010 at 7:40 pm |

    Well ok but the stuff you list is over the top with the class privilege. Like who goes to “a banquet or a philanthropy ball or a formal wedding”? That is like the upper-upper-uber-upper crust.

  55. piny
    piny April 4, 2010 at 8:06 pm |

    They will probably face a great deal of racism, sexism, and classism in every sphere of adult life. Should school authorities display that, for learning purposes? Profiling, policing, maybe a grading curve based on future earnings and hiring discrimination? You could do away with the valedictorian slot and simply nominate the student least likely to be denied recognition as an adult, or eject children from high school in just the same the way that corporations lay off marginalized workers. They can see how the world works before they have to contend with it.

    Treating bigotry as a social norm conditions people to accept it as a social norm. These adolescents are not being given the tools they will need to succeed in adult life. They are being told that inequality is simply their lot in life, and that they need to buckle under authority before authority humiliates them. That’s not good.

    It is also very difficult for anyone in a position of power to perpetuate inequality without rationalizing it. As here.

  56. piny
    piny April 4, 2010 at 8:08 pm |

    @LaLubu – You have no idea what my body type is, so lay off the assumptions; I, like everyone else, have to pay the nominal tailoring fee to get clothes to fit properly. That’s just the reality of buying off the rack.

    “Like everyone else,” is a pretty good indication that you don’t have an unusual body type.

  57. La Lubu
    La Lubu April 4, 2010 at 8:21 pm |

    nominal tailoring fee to get clothes to fit properly.

    Translation: Minimum ten bucks per item. So, a twenty or thirty dollar shirt….tack on another ten bucks. And there isn’t any tailor at women’s clothing stores. That’s my world. That’s why I love that I don’t have to go through any of that rigamarole.

    This is a high school we’re talking about. High school proms shouldn’t have dress codes so strict it effectively keeps most of the student body from attending. If you can’t get a prom dress off the rack at J.C. Penny and go to the prom, then the damn dress code is too strict. Prom is a dance, not a “formal event”. It’s a high school social event, fer crisssakes.

    And all those ridiculous rules about women’s dress? It’s about coming up with “reasonable” claims for slamming the door in our faces. Make no mistake about that. I understand that women in certain male-dominated avenues have to make compromises in order to make their way—-I’m a union electrician, so I know all about that. But. Once you’ve made your way? Break those fucking rules!! Break them, and ease the way for other women!! If we don’t willfully break these rules, these nit-picking rules that men don’t have to deal with will never go away.

  58. William
    William April 4, 2010 at 9:45 pm |

    Yeah, it is class privilege. Any formal event reeks of class privilege. That’s why formal events exist, in order to reinforce socioeconomic classes and separate them.

    I would argue that only people with a vested interest in the maintenance of class privilege would be willing to defend it. Sure, class privilege exists, but when it is seen it needs to be called out like any other kind of privilege, the fact that it is prevalent doesn’t make it somehow less problematic. This is especially true when the class privilege is linked to both racism and sexism and is then enforced through the bodies of captive victims.

    I, like everyone else, have to pay the nominal tailoring fee to get clothes to fit properly. That’s just the reality of buying off the rack.

    Nominal means “so small as to be insignificant.” The fact that you would use that word in this context betrays your unexamined privilege. Whether it is because you have a body-type that does not require extensive tailoring or because you are of a class where the cost of tailoring is insignificant hardly matters. The last time I bought a suit the cost of alterations came out to about 20% of the price of the garment. Thats hardly insignificant to me and I can imagine it would be a deal breaker for many.

    I also have not made any comments suggesting that I, personally, reinforce or approve of these social rules,

    No? This

    I don’t have an issue with the dress code itself.

    might not be an explicit approval of the policy but it certainly feels like an implicit approval. Also this

    Part of the education students are supposed to receive in school is how to behave in society-at-large.

    sounds quite a lot like an apologist stance, especially given that I find it difficult to believe that someone could make it to 18 in this society without an understanding of the ways others judge them based upon appearance, much less at a school that would enforce a dress code like this with corporal punishment. That isn’t the kind of policy which surfaces over night.

    You also argued that

    Should society’s rules be different? Yes. But if the students were not AWARE of those rules, they’d be grossly handicapped once they graduated and were out trying to build and maintain careers;

    Unfortunately, that argument rings somewhat hollow because, in this context, it is essentially a straw man. You have said that you do not have a problem with the dress code and then you defend that in the name of education. I fail to see how coercion and discipline are the most effective means of transmitting information. Your argument might be effective, but in the context of this discussion it appears to be a constructed defense. In other words, I simply do not believe it is an argument made in good faith. You see, when the effect of your argument is to maintain the system of discipline that is being discussed then your stated feelings about the system are irrelevant.

    The “you don’t agree with me so I’m going to put you into X category” line is really old.

    The problem is that no one has done that here. They have provided specific reasons why they suspect you to fall into a given category. You might protest that you do not belong to that category, but if your actions and arguments suggest otherwise you must reasonably expect that people will not take your protestations at face value.

    Regardless of what WE think of the rules, THAT is the reality these women will have to deal with. Would you prefer they go into that firestorm unaware of what they’ll be up against?

    Like several other people in this discussion you seem to be missing the context. The dress code and the corporal punishment which followed cannot really be separated from one another. The dress code is part of a specific and discrete sequence of events. By defending the dress code, even in the name of pragmatic education, you are also defending the rest of the system. Sure, you might object to the paddling or other punishment levied for violation, but you are granting your tacit support to the discrimination built into these systems by invoking The Way Things Are. What you are saying is that you don’t object so much to the discourse as to the degree of coercion deployed. Perhaps this is not what you mean to say, but it is the effect of your communication.

    If your objection is that they wouldn’t be able to find a prom dress which fits those qualifications, my answer would be, “Duh.” You will rarely find a dress designed for prom which is appropriate for a formal event.

    So these students have been put in an impossible position. They are told that they are expected to attend a prom, but that the normal costume for such an event is forbidden. This is for their own good, because if they are not subjected to this special situation then they will not learn a valuable lesson about how people judge them not by who they are or what they do but solely upon how they look. This lesson is so important that they can be punished (perhaps not with a paddling, but through something likely to cause them to internalize this message) in order to make sure they understand.

    If the school (and class funding the event) was/were trying to make their prom a formal event, they did nothing wrong by imposing that dress code.

    But they did not impose the dress code. That is simply not what happened. You keep fighting to obscure the actual interaction which occurred. Students were told what they could not wear, they ignored this rule, they were allowed into the event, and they were then punished for their violation after the fact. The form of this punishment was humiliating, sexualized, and socially loaded so as to underline the disparity of power and to suggest that the victims were immature. This is a system, with one portion leading to and demanding the other.

  59. Emily
    Emily April 4, 2010 at 10:44 pm |

    @ojd: I know exactly what you mean. As a teenager the girl with bigger breasts is labeled as promiscuous and it’s very awkward for her, but as adults the women with smaller breasts are constantly being told that we should be buying push-up bras or getting implants or whatever cause we’re not ‘beautiful’ unless we’re a D cup. I became happy about my bra size (or lack of bra size) because it made it easier to dress androgynously, or even sort of cross-dress from time to time… I don’t know if that’s a healthy reason, or if it’s offensive to people because I still identify as female and sometimes want to dress in keeping with female gender norms and I’m not so much into dressing specifically like a guy any more. Whatever, I’ve got issues and I’m off-topic.

    @The Flash and @Henry: The problem with trying to evenly apply rules like that is that they can only be easily followed by people with certain body types. For example, at a church camp I worked at, I was once told my shorts went too far above my knee. I pointed out that my friend, who was about my same height, was wearing the exact same cut of shorts from the exact same store and the person who told me off pointed out “Yeah, but since she’s wearing a bigger size, they come down further, so they’re OK for her.” I was infuriated. In a similar way, if a “no cleavage” rule had been instituted at my high school prom, said friend would’ve had to have worn a dress that went up to her collarbone, but I could’ve worn nothing but a push-up bra and still had no cleavage.

  60. Emily
    Emily April 4, 2010 at 10:54 pm |

    @ojd: I just came to a realization: We’re told that certain traits, like large breasts, are ‘beautiful’, and we’re told that women should dress in a certain way, but if we actually do look and dress like that, then we’re told that we’re being trashy, that “classy” women don’t dress like that, that showing (or perhaps even just having) our bodies is inappropriate, blah, blah, blah. It makes me want to move to Mars and start a colony free of all those silly hangups people have…

  61. Henry
    Henry April 5, 2010 at 12:56 am |

    William thank you for making my point for me…you argue that you are opposed to ALL dress codes in your initial post…when I point out how absurd such a position is (because public nudity/deceny laws are a legislated form of dress code for example – though you missed that entirely)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reductio_ad_absurdum

    You then seem to backtrack to the more understandable position that dress codes should not be applied in a nonunifom manner such that they result in racism (e.g. enforcing the rules only against blacks) or that they result in sexism (when they are enforced only against women of a certain body type) – whcih has been my position all along (I was never defending the school’s action shere in targeting black women). I stand by my initial argument – hem lines measured from the knee and set at some number do not by themselves discriminate – is the school in question a lot nutty? yes – we all saw the picture of the dress and it does not violate American social norms – but there has to be some line – certainly it’s not 0 or 1-2 inches or a micro-mini dress, same with the bust line, and same with the suit/tux requirement for the men which defacto covers their upper body and legs. You can’t say that there can never be a dress code for an event – the event would cease to exist (e.g. it would no longer be a formal it would be a rave or some other party where less clothing is the norm). If you are opposed to formals in general as a class structure issue that’s fine, but it’s not the issue – thanks for the derail.

  62. RD
    RD April 5, 2010 at 1:05 am |

    Yeah I didn’t mean to imply I agreed with that whole comment, I was just reacting to the “yes its class privilege” thing. Which “ok” it is class privilege, like I said, but its also way over the top class privilege. But I agree with others here that just because class privilege exists “in life” doesn’t mean schools *should* or *have to* reinforce it (and to a totally ridiculous degree).

  63. Naamah
    Naamah April 5, 2010 at 5:18 am |

    Sei said: I, like everyone else, have to pay the nominal tailoring fee to get clothes to fit properly. That’s just the reality of buying off the rack.

    I am almost 33 years old, and in the time since I moved out of the house at 18 it is only in the last three years, since my grandparents died and left me a sizeable inheritance, that I could afford “nominal” tailoring fees for my clothing. That is a privilege. A luxury. I still reflexively will not buy clothing I have to have altered just so it will fit me because alterations have never been a part of my reality. It’s not just something that everyone has to do to get nicely-fitting garments. It’s a luxury that, for most of my life, has been out of my reach.

  64. Nomen Nescio
    Nomen Nescio April 5, 2010 at 12:03 pm |

    i’m 37, and i’ve never owned nor worn a tailored item of clothing in my life.

    i’m not even sure where i might go to get something altered or tailored for custom fit, actually. i’d probably have to look in my town’s craigslist, or the local want ads, to see if someone was offering such services in their living room as a way to stretch their grocery money, or somesuch. i’m pretty sure that asking the salespeople at any of my local department stores for tailoring as an extra service would result in nothing more than giving them a good laugh for the day.

    and i consider myself lower middle class, at that; salaried job with benefits, keeping up with my mortgage payments, and a front yard quite lacking in broken-down automobiles.

    (can’t say much about proms, though, since high schools have nothing similar in my native country. they sound like a silly idea, something to make adolescents take their still-immature existence a bit too seriously, and put far too much weight on their high school experience. had i children, i’d encourage them not to care much about what happened to them during those years of their lives — which would be much easier if i didn’t have to get myself arrested for physically assaulting any school official that tried to paddle any offspring of mine.)

  65. kristinc
    kristinc April 5, 2010 at 12:30 pm |

    Paying the nominal tailoring fee like everyone else, what a frigging blindly privileged laugh. I’m 30 years old and have never known a single woman who paid a tailoring fee for clothes they bought off the rack.

    And I live in a fairly liberal, metropolitan area, not a complete backwater (no criticism here of complete backwaters, just contrasting). I grew up in an economically stable and comfortable extended family with plenty of dances and weddings and anniversary celebrations where we were expected to buy special outfits and dress up. We shopped until we found a dress that fit us (luckily, all of us fit into the standard sizes available, otherwise I’m sure a woman unable to find a dress simply wouldn’t go to the event) and then we wore it. I’m sure we all knew that there existed a class of people who did things like have their clothing tailored to fit “correctly” but we also knew that those people were from a class with distinctly more money and privilege than us.

  66. William
    William April 5, 2010 at 1:31 pm |

    William thank you for making my point for me…you argue that you are opposed to ALL dress codes in your initial post…when I point out how absurd such a position is (because public nudity/deceny laws are a legislated form of dress code for example – though you missed that entirely)

    Let me be entirely clear, since it seems my attempts at moderating my discourse mislead you. On a theoretical level, I have a pretty significant problem with most of the laws we have around public nudity and indecency. They’re unevenly applied and rooted in both sexism and (to my mind) harmful puritanical values which themselves exist to enforce a certain kind of discourse around the human body and sexuality in the name of oppression. That isn’t really the discussion here and it seemed like something of a derailment, so I set aside the most extreme of examples and focused on what we were actually discussing. I’m sorry if that somehow lead you to believe that I really do hold the same values as you and that I secretly agree with you.

    I stand by my initial argument – hem lines measured from the knee and set at some number do not by themselves discriminate –

    Yes, they do. On the broadest level they discriminate against women because, in our society, it is generally only women who wear dresses. Additionally, the kind of society which is likely to enforce rules about hemlines is also the kind of society which is likely to enforce rigid gender roles. I’d be willing to wager money that if a boy wore a kilt, or if a transgender student was present at all, then the school would have either punished them for some violation, turned their backs on any abuse the student suffered, or cancelled the whole even to keep out the perceived contagion of social transgression. So yes, rules about hem lines do discriminate in themselves by their mere existence. They explicitly discriminate against women, they discriminate against certain kinds of expression of experience, they imply a discrimination against transgendered/genderqueer persons, they discriminate against people of certain classes and races by enforcing the values of one class or race, they discriminate against men by defining acceptable gender roles. There is no such thing as a neutral rule. Rules require observation, observation leads to judgment, judgment demands “correction,” and those corrections exist to enforce a certain system of power.

    but there has to be some line

    Why? What is the valid interest society has in regulating the clothing of citizens? Put another way, who is materially and demonstrably harmed by a student showing up even in something so extreme as the fetish wear you referenced earlier? Who is the aggrieved party?

    The line does not exist to protect students but to protect the values of those with the power to enforce it. The people who are obsessed with spanking young women for wearing clothing are punishing the women for stirring up some feared and repressed sexual impulse. Put more crudely the reasoning is “if those whores want to flaunt their bodies we’ll show them what that gets them.” That is the underlying system of power we’re talking about. Its the same shit that leads to slut-shaming, comments about what women wore before a rape, and the horrifying comments we see in child molestation cases where an adult claims that a child they raped actually seduced them. It is punishing a weaker person for a stronger person’s reaction.

    and same with the suit/tux requirement for the men which defacto covers their upper body and legs.

    But men’s bodies are not subjected to the same discourse and projections as women’s bodies. It is not the same. Women are put on display but covered up, men are put into uniforms. Those are different roles with different messages and expectations. Just because they occur in proximity to one another and are related by way of gender expectations does not mean that they are either equal or similar.

    You can’t say that there can never be a dress code for an event

    What private individuals do amongst themselves is not my concern. This is not a private event, this is a school function. That isn’t what we’re discussing here. You’re attempting to argue by obscuring certain elements of the issue at hand.

    the event would cease to exist (e.g. it would no longer be a formal it would be a rave or some other party where less clothing is the norm)

    No, it would not cease to exist. The values of the dominant group would be violated. Losing power and privilege is simply not the same thing as being destroyed. The elements of the event which serve to enforce and propagate specific systems of power might fade, but the actual gathering of people and celebration of adulthood which prom has become would remain. It simply wouldn’t look the way an elderly southern school administrator embarrassed by their own erection while stroking their paddle would like it to look.

  67. RD
    RD April 5, 2010 at 1:37 pm |

    Yeah me neither, never had anything “tailored” or known anybody who did. I saw that and just kinda thought…wtf? Just bizarre.

  68. Georgie
    Georgie April 5, 2010 at 7:15 pm |

    Oh please, everyone who’s ever gone to a corporal punishment school knows that boys are paddled literally 100 times more frequently than girls. Our school would paddle football players for not running laps fast enough.

  69. William
    William April 5, 2010 at 7:46 pm |

    Yeah me neither, never had anything “tailored” or known anybody who did. I saw that and just kinda thought…wtf? Just bizarre.

    I think that depends on what your shape is, where you’re shopping, and what you’re shopping for. I had to buy a suit recently for an interview and I discovered that I just couldn’t wear anything off the rack because nothing is really made to fit my dimensions in a price range I can afford. If I buy any kind of formal clothes I need to get some kind of tailoring done if I don’t want to look like a fat guy in a little coat or a kid playing dress-up.

  70. piny
    piny April 5, 2010 at 8:14 pm |

    My women’s work clothes, slacks and blouses, have all been off the rack. I’ve never known anyone who’s had clerical wear tailored. If I ever graduate from business wear to an actual suit, I may have it tailored. And now that I know what it’s like to have a tailored outfit on my farmgirl frame, I’ll be looking into it when I go home.

    It’s much more normal, however, to just find your size on the rack and try it on. A “nominal” surcharge is a lot of money when you can’t spend more than twenty dollars on a blouse.

    Men often pay to have real suits tailored; so do many women. But we’re talking about a garment that’s nearly as rarefied as a ballgown: a decent suit costs a few hundred dollars, and a “nominal” tailoring fee is a small part of a big expense.

  71. William
    William April 5, 2010 at 9:06 pm |

    Oh please, everyone who’s ever gone to a corporal punishment school knows that boys are paddled literally 100 times more frequently than girls. Our school would paddle football players for not running laps fast enough.

    Surely nothing sexual there!

  72. r b-j
    r b-j April 5, 2010 at 9:57 pm |

    this almost reads as porn thing: young girls in too revealing attire getting a spanking. put it on the internet. i mean, holy crap, does any adult at Oxford High School read this policy and think about it for 1/4 second?

    seriously, this is pretty bad, but i’ve read about worse: a panty check at a high-school dance. i’ll see if i can find the story.

  73. La BellaDonna
    La BellaDonna April 6, 2010 at 11:21 am |

    Hey, Flash, some of us are still waiting to hear about those “advantages” you alleged our large breasts confer. So far, at least according to what you post, it means that our bodies are “inappropriate” for formal events.

  74. William
    William April 7, 2010 at 9:45 am |

    Hey, Flash, some of us are still waiting to hear about those “advantages” you alleged our large breasts confer. So far, at least according to what you post, it means that our bodies are “inappropriate” for formal events.

    Oh come on. You can’t figure it out? Big breasts make men like you! They’ll get the attention of your boss! And your teachers! You’ll land a rich husband! Get that big promotion! You’ll look good in your clothes because men like big breasts! Breasts!

    /snark

  75. keezee3
    keezee3 April 7, 2010 at 12:32 pm |

    There is one thing that is not mentioned. I’m very curious about who did the paddling. I would like to hear from their experience with the issue. What kind of person would be okay with hitting a teenager on the rear end with a paddle? Talk about creepy and perverted. It seems like it was just to humiliate them, since it everyone in the United States knows they were spanked. This type of psychological abuse is not okay, especially in a school setting.

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