At the end of March, a mother from New York took to her blog to express her frustration with her 13-year-old daughter’s middle school dress code. It was the second day in a row that her daughter had been sent home with a note stating that she had been dressed inappropriately for school, and her mother desperately needed to vent.
Dr. Catherine Guggenheim Pearlman, a licensed social worker and parenting expert, wrote the letter to middle school administrators, inviting them to shop for her daughter.
“She is 5’7” and 13 years old. Built more like her father, she has exceptionally long legs and arms. She doesn’t like anything pink or purple or frilly. She won’t wear pants because she gets overheated easily. Trust me I’ve seen this. It will cause a scene in the school yard. She absolutely will not wear a dress either. No item of clothing can have a logo visible because to her that’s not cool,” she says.
These are just the standards by Pearlman’s daughter! Now factor in the rules set by the school, and parents are left with little clothing options for their children.
Most middle school dress codes ban shorts and skirts shorter than the length of the individual’s fingertips, even if leggings are worn underneath. Spaghetti straps and strapless tops are also banned, and in some schools, tank tops of any kind are not allowed. Students are also not allowed to wear flip flops, oversized clothing, or frayed/ripped clothing. Pearlman’s daughter has even been sent home for wearing yoga pants.
“Your child’s ‘likes and dislikes’ do not supercede the rules and regulations set forth by your current school district that you reside in and pay taxes to,” one person wrote in the comments section under Pearlman’s blog post.
Pearlman is not against the school dress code, but when it singles out girls, especially girls who are more developed than others, it becomes sexist. Sexism is what she is against.
The fact of the matter is, even though these rules apply to both genders, school dress codes normally end up body shaming girls. When Pearlman’s daughter was forced to change out of her yoga pants, she was told it was because that type of clothing is distracting and “boys aren’t able to control themselves.” What kind of message are we sending young girls when we reprimand them for showing the slightest amount of skin? Especially at an age when girls are just starting to hit puberty and really take notice as their bodies begin to develop.
“As a woman, I know almost no women who like their body, who feel good about their body, almost none, but you don’t know how you got there,” says Pearlman. “But when you have a daughter, you see, I can literally see it happening, and it’s so subtle, but it’s all of these things. It’s the yoga pants. It’s the short shorts.”
Of course, Pearlman’s daughter is one of many, many girls who have been criticized for violating dress code. This has been going on for decades, and people like Pearlman are trying to bring light to the fact that it is wrong.
“We need to be teaching the boys what appropriate behavior is, instead of teaching the girls that they have to cover up to protect themselves from the boys,” she says.
Pearlman never sent the letter, but it received attention when it was posted on Today.com last month. She originally published it on The Family Coach, a blog focused on giving honest parenting advice to moms and dads. If you would like to read the entire letter, check it out here.
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