Camel Toe and Common Sense

Let's talk about what is and what is not slut shaming.

Is it slut shaming for a teacher to tell a student, "I get that you want to be comfortable, but you probably shouldn't put your ladyparts on display? Maybe size up?" Or is it slut shaming when a teacher says, "You look like a streetwalker. Change your pants."

I've been watching/reading the ban on leggings fracas for the last week or so, from the sidelines, mostly because there are some very passionate opinions out there. My inner voice has been screaming at me, for sure, but I don't want to make waves. Still.

When people ask me if I'm religious, I tell them I attend the Church of Common Sense. It's common sense for me to follow the Golden Rule. It's common sense for me that one does not walk down the middle of the street during rush hour. It's common sense that chocolate chip cookies always come before the main course. And it's common sense, at least for me, that my 12-year-old daughter does not wear pants that put her hoo-hah on display for everyone to see.

My admittedly casual following of the fracas at Haven Middle School in Evanston, Ill., leads me to believe that while the administration made some serious public relations missteps, and did not adequately think through their interpretation of their dress code, they're largely misunderstood. (HUGE DISCLAIMER! MY OPINION! I ONLY PICKED 7 TEAMS CORRECTLY IN THE SWEET 16, SO I COULD BE WRONG!) Is it possible the dress code isn't enforced consistently because teachers, for the most part, are exercising common sense?

Maybe—just maybe—instead of jumping to the conclusion that a person was unfairly targeted for inappropriate dress, a teacher is trying to help a kid. Maybe the teacher is aware of leering and snickers coming from kids, and not just boys (girls can be so damn mean), and is trying to help someone navigate the social complexities of tween and teendom without the fatal mortifcation that comes from finding out everyone could make out your underwear with little kittens through your leggings? And the girl that isn't being dress coded is wearing leggings that look two sizes too big because she hasn't quite developed yet and is equally embarrassed about that?

Teachers should be allowed to exercise some common sense in choosing how to address the dress. Should snickering boys be disciplined? Of course. Should "boys being distracted" ever be an excuse to tell a girl what she can or can't wear? Of course not. But this is school, not the bar. I would hope girls—and boys—are dressing appropriately. Lest anyone think boys never get targeted for what they wear, let your mind drift back a few years to the height of "sagging." Or, flat-brimmed caps. Or, gang colors. Boys are targeted, trust me. And inconsistently, I'm sure.

I went to my expert source on the scene, my 12-year-old daughter, and asked her about dress coding at her school. Her take is that yes, there are teachers who seem to have issues about dress coding and may or may not pick out some students over others for admonition. Not cool. But as a parent, if my daughter were to escape my house wearing something less than appropriate for a learning environment—camel toe-inducing pants, a bare midriff, shorty-short shorts, I'm glad there is a teacher there who may offer some sage social advice.

Should women be allowed to walk across a college campus at night? Should girls be able to wear a form-fitting T-shirt or leggings without being ogled? Abso-fricking-lutely. But there's that pesky common sense thing that just rears its ugly head. This is real life. It's a dangerous, unfair world at times. Women can walk alone across a campus at night, but it's never a good idea. And girls can wear tight T-shirts, but if you don't want to get ogled, maybe you shouldn't. I'm large-chested, and I'd never put the girls on display at work. I'm not ashamed. I'm not covering up. I just know it's a professional environment and I wanted to be treated like a professional. Just not that kind of professional.

I'm teaching my daughter to respect herself, respect her body, and know that it's her mind she should put on display, not the hoo-hah. That's just my common sense.

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