Kate Wilson, 16, woke up late on a Monday and threw on some comfortable clothes to get her through her day at Honesdale High School in Pennsylvania. Choosing a pretty normal outfit for any teenage high school girl, she put on a baggy long-sleeve shirt and some leggings.
She did not anticipate, however, that her pretty regular outfit would cause her a lot of trouble with school administrators. Wilson shared the harrowing tale of her “dress code violation” on Facebook this week, expressing outrage and anger towards the male teachers who called her outfit “distracting.”
Wilson was pulled from her first-period class and sent to the Vice Principal of the school after a male teacher said that when Wilson walked up the stairs, it was “distracting him.”
Enough is enough. I wrote this from the nurses office of my school. I was reprimanded for a so-called “violation of the dress code”, but I truly believe the only thing that has been violated is my right, as a student, to learn.
Today I wore leggings to school. It was cold, I woke up late, so I threw on a comfortable outfit to get me through my Monday- leggings and a baggy, long sleeve shirt. Not something I would call the epitome of promiscuity. Yet I was called down to the office and told to change my pants. But seeing as many of my female friends agree with me on this, I decided to defend myself and all other girls who have been in my position.
I was told that my pants were making teachers ‘uncomfortable’ as I walked through the halls. The VP made a point of how distracting it was when I walked up stairs.
This makes me sick. I’ll admit, I was dumbfounded. How could a grown man so confidently say that I was the problem in that situation? The sixteen year old girl, the student, was making grown human beings uncomfortable by existing. If that is the kind of teaching staff you have here in this school district, it is unacceptable. I will not allow another little girl to stand in that office, being told she needs to change to assure that grown men (who are constantly surrounded by young girls) won’t be turned on by her walking up the stairs.
This is a common fault in our society, and it is disgusting. By telling the victim of a potential assault that she is the problem, you are perpetuating the notion that the female body is a thing for men to use, and therefore, you are perpetuating rape culture.
Today, I was told that the discomfort of a middle aged man who seemingly can’t keep his eyes off of a sixteen year old’s rear end takes precedence over my education. I was called disrespectful for defending myself. The only disrespect that occurred in that office was the blatant disrespect of my rights over my body, my education, and my rights as a human being.
Please, let me know if you believe this outfit makes you “uncomfortable” or you find it “distracting”.
Many people were leaving comments on Wilson’s post saying that her anger was “out of context” and she should play by the rules in school if she doesn’t want to be singled out. She added to her post saying:
I think some of you are taking my anger out of context. A lot of people are saying “just follow the rules” or “you knew the consequences”. I did understand the consequences. My issue is with the way it was handled and the language that was used, and the fact that my school is seemingly protecting middle aged men who can’t keep their eyes off my legs rather than myself. I’ve gone to the same school district my whole life. When I was younger, we were allowed to wear leggings with shirts that covered our rear ends. I assumed the rule carried into highschool, and so I inquired why I was in trouble when I was told to change. That’s when I was met with the “teachers are uncomfortable” narrative. If I had been told “The rule is different, we’re trying to maintain professionalism”, I would have been less likely to protest. But instead, I was told to protect myself from the wandering eyes of people who are constantly surrounded by by young girls. That’s where my issue lies. I’m not throwing a hissy fit about not getting to wear leggings to school (even though I do believe that rule is ridiculous). I am standing for all the other girls who have been in my position, or could be in my position in the future. I am protecting the right to be female and learn. I am protesting the institutionalized sexism that was on display, and runs rampant throughout society. I am doing this for larger reasons that’s just “I want to wear leggings”. Please stop reducing my argument to that one point to further your own. Thank you.
That being said, I truly do appreciate all the support I’ve been getting. You are all amazing, and thank you for sharing all of your stories of similar nature. It means the world and serves to show how widespread this antiquated, male dominant mindset is.
Other Facebook users commented on Wilson’s post commending her for her bravery and for speaking out against the administrators and teachers in her school that made her feel uncomfortable.
As a nation, I think it’s time to revisit the way we make young adults feel about themselves and their time. What’s more important to a school–a teenage girl obtaining an education, or making the male adults in the school feel “comfortable?” Do better.