I’m completely fed up with seeing articles about schools banning girls from wearing short skirts or makeup. The headteacher’s justification is always the problematic notion that it’s ‘distracting to the boys’ which irks me more than enough, but one that really got to me today said “School bans short skirts because they’re ‘distracting’ to male teachers”
In the article they don’t seem to offer any proof, but even still, the idea that girls will be sent home for not wearing ‘school appropriate’ skirts is outrageous, for so many reasons. For a start, telling girls that wearing makeup distracts them from work, and then sending them home AWAY from work, seems a little contradictory. I would have more time for the concept if it was five hours extra school a week in return for wearing a full face of makeup. Well, I wouldn’t, that would be monstrously draconian, but still it wouldn’t be as bad as damaging a girl’s education because she doesn’t fit into the school’s idea of the perfect female student, would it?!
Now, objectively, I’m a well educated, intelligent, successful woman. I’m 25, so measure that success how you will (I’m not exactly a CEO). I refuse to submit myself to the idea that saying that about myself is arrogant because I’m sick of society forcing me to be modest about my entire existence – fuck that – I have a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Philosophy from a great university, I’m writing a book, and I’m a Digital Marketing Executive. I’m happy with where I am and how I’m doing.
What was the point of all that? Well, I wear makeup and revealing clothing, and I have done since I was about 15. I love showing my waist off and making my eyes look bigger, I love accentuating my chest and my full lips. Why the fuck shouldn’t I? My body is a part of who I am, just as much as my arguing skills, my compassion, or my complete inability to organise anything. Is it shallow? Is it really? I could take you on in a debate about the mind body problem, I’ve almost cried whilst trying to understand Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (like every other Philosophy student), and I’ve written essays on dasein whilst trying to push to the back of my mind the feeling that Heidegger is one of the most useless philosophers ever to write anything. The concept of ‘shallow’ is, ironically, pretty shallow. Mindless consumerism and an obsession with the aesthetic can be flaws, but only when they aren’t accompanied by anything else. To be purely shallow is a rare thing, and the idea that teenage girls, some of the most complex and confused creatures on the planet, fall into that bracket, is absurd, reductionist and misogynistic.
In our society women are expected to look beautiful, no matter what they do. You can be a doctor, police officer or a politician, it’s nigh on impossible to escape the ‘does she look good enough’ magnifying glass. It’s not just celebrities who look perfect – your teacher probably knows damn well how to do her makeup, the woman who serves you in the shop, and lets not forget, the women that teenage girls watch on youtube for entertainment. Girls see women wearing makeup every single day, and teenage girls are in the process of turning into women. In just the same way as boys learning the rules of masculinity during their teens, girls are learning the rules of femininity. Of course they want to conform, wear makeup, shorten their skirts and act like women. They’re about to turn into them.
Lying to girls that wearing makeup and short skirts distracts them from their education is bad enough, but telling them they distract BOYS is worse still. We NEED to stamp out this disgraceful, archaic idea. I have a higher sex drive than anyone I’ve ever met, I’m attracted to women, and I’ve never had a hard time concentrating because a beautiful woman is wearing a short dress in front of me. Not because I’m not a man, it’s because I wasn’t raised to think that women are objects for me to look at. Is it therefore contradictory for me to want to wear tight tops and lipgloss? Actually, it probably is. But that’s because some of the things society teaches us are wrong. Despite my parent’s best efforts, I was still taught by society that women need to be sexy and attractive to feel good – and because I was taught this while I was growing up I genuinely feel that way.
Society needs to change – there’s no doubt about that. But confusing the messages girls are sent – that makeup is a bad thing and wanting to wear it means you don’t care about school, whilst simultaneously marketing products to them and making physical appearance unbelievably important, just confuses women and girls and makes what they want versus what they know is right completely different. These ideas confuse boys and men in exactly the same way – how often have you thought “What is up with men, they say they like women to look natural but then react with disgust the second they see an acne scar”? None of us understand what we want, because from the get-go we’re taught things that are wrong. We want things because marketing departments know how to make us want things – and you cannot trust a marketing department to act with your best interests at heart. I’ve been lucky to work for ethical companies but believe me, they are rare. This, combined with the fact that no one seems to realise how much of an effect the society we grow up in has on us, has made for a pretty confused group of people. Teaching girls that something as innocuous as makeup and a short skirt is wrong makes them feel bad about what they want. Teaching boys that girls should hide from them fetishises girls in their eyes – makes their bodies into objects, and means they can’t respect us.
We NEED change, and schools are a damn good place to start. Let girls wear what the hell they want, teach boys that girl’s bodies are not there for them to look at, or enjoy, without expressed, enthusiastic consent, and we’ll end up with a more balanced, happier generation than we’ve had in a long time.