From an early age, there are a lot of societal expectations placed on girls to look a certain way. I grew up without social media, and I’m glad I did because I can only imagine that the pressure to constantly look good is greater in the age of the selfie.
A sad reality of being female is that we are constantly sexualized, even when we are still children. When I was in a girl guides group as a young teen, I was told to change the skirt I was wearing because it would give boys the “wrong idea” about me.
This sexualization is the reason Tony Alarcon was outraged when he received a call from his 13-year-old daughter Demetra’s middle school saying that he had to bring her a change of clothes because the romper she was wearing (pictured below) was “too distracting to boys”.
Demetra attends Fisher Middle School in Los Gatos, California. It’s no secret that the area frequently has extremely hot weather, and Demetra had decided to wear the above outfit in an attempt to keep cool when she went to school on August 28.
However, what happened to Demetra on this particular day was not an isolated incident. “When I got dress coded one-time last week, they said my bra strap was showing,” Demetra said in an interview with The Mercury News. “Lord forbid I might be wearing a bra.”
Tony was upset not only because his daughter had been told that her outfit was sexual, but because the dress code has made her uncomfortable at school. Now Tony’s taking on Fisher Middle School in a bid to have their stringent and sexist dress code changed.
“I mean, today it’s 90 degrees outside and she’s wearing leggings because she doesn’t want to be dress-coded for wearing shorts,” Demetra’s father Tony said to CBS Local. “And it’s not OK. It needs to change.”
Pupils at Fisher Middle School are informed about the expectations of what they are supposed to wear in the school handbook. However, the guidelines apply almost exclusively to female students, perpetuating the preexisting over-sexualization of young girls.
“Underwear and midriffs may not be visible,” the handbook dictates. “Cut-off tops, halter tops, strapless tops, tank tops with spaghetti straps, pajama pants and short shorts/skirts/dresses (inseam less than 4 inches) may not be worn to school.”
When Tony brought Demetra a change of clothes on August 28, she was told that what she was wearing still wasn’t appropriate because the shorts he’d chosen for her didn’t have the 4-inch inseam required. Luckily, Tony had brought a pair of leggings just in case.
Tony was infuriated by Fisher Middle School’s dress code, however, he made a point of saying to The Mercury News that he is not arguing for girls to be able to dress any way as they please in revealing outfits, but appropriately and comfortably.
“The dress code should require clothes to cover body parts—nothing should be hanging out—I agree 100 percent. But wearing spaghetti straps and tank tops does not make them disrespectful or inappropriate.”
Demetra isn’t alone. Just sit in Fisher’s parking lot and you’ll see that. I’ve heard from multiple girls that they just want to be comfortable, but they feel like they’re being pushed into wearing leggings in 100-degree heat. I was told by an administrator that the girls’ clothes are a distraction to the boys. That shouldn’t be a concern.”
Frustrated, Tony took to the Internet to discuss the issue with other parents, many of whom agreed with his stance on what young girls should and shouldn’t be allowed to wear to school. He is concerned about the psychological impact this system could have on them.
“We have to have dress codes that are fair and reasonable, and don’t cause them emotional issues – cause them to question their bodies or feel like they’re sex symbols at 13 years old. Because they’re not. They’re just kids.”
One of the people who read Tony’s post on NextDoor.com wrote:
“Your post has reminded me of some fairly serious body image issues of my own that have stemmed from our cultural shaming and sexualizing of girls’ bodies.”
Demetra made a point of saying that Fisher Middle School’s dress code did not allow hats, yet she had seen male students wear them consistently and never once get challenged on their choice of attire – reinforcing the blatant sexism of their dress code.
Fisher Middle School met on September 11 to discuss reviewing its dress code, which Tony has formally requested to be changed. Los Gatos Union School District Superintendent Diana G. Abbati said that a decision about the dress code would be reached in the near future.