The Oracle debates appropriate dress: Cons On Slut-Shaming

“Slut,” “ho” and “whore” are three completely inappropriate, degrading and misogynistic hate words used to describe the way females act and dress. As much as they should be, these words aren’t seen as “off limits.” Instead, they are used with surprising regularity. It’s human nature to label and criticize people, but this does not make it right. We judge people for all sorts of petty things—their grades, the kind of car they drive, how new their phones are, etc. But first and foremost, we judge people, particularly girls, based on their appearances. With a single glance of a girl’s dress or shorts, we assume that we can determine her work ethic, mental well-being and even the number of people she’s slept with. It’s not the role of others to scrutinize the amount of clothing girls choose to wear. By doing so, we intrude upon a personal decision that need not be questioned.

Just because a girl is wearing a supposedly promiscuous outfit doesn’t mean that it’s an accurate representation of who she is. Sure, Mark Twain said that the “clothes make the man,” but who ever said that he was right? Simply put, the way people dress is a personal choice that does not impact anybody else. It is up to the wearer to decide what kind of presentation she wishes to put forth, no matter what sort of display it may be. However, society, and high schools in particular, have put certain rules in place prohibiting what students can wear.

For example, the Gunn dress code specifically states that “appearance and dress must be within the limits of decency, cleanliness and appropriateness for school, and shall not interfere with teaching and learning.” What constitutes as decent or appropriate? Who has the authority to decide whether the way a girl dresses is right or wrong? While the Palo Alto Unified School District (most likely) has the best of intentions, its restrictions deny students the right to take ownership of their bodies. When an administrator instructs a girl to cover up, he or she is taking away that right by saying that it’s wrong to look or dress a certain way. By telling a girl that she needs to change her clothes, the administrator is promoting the idea that her body is improper and tasteless.

Although it’s not typically spelled out on paper, restrictions on what girls can wear are put in place to avoid “distracting” other students, specifically males. It’s not the 1800s anymore. Women have equal rights and should be able to wear what they want, when they want. If students are so immature and lacking in self-restraint that a pair of legs or a belly button are distracting enough to leave them unable to take a test or pay attention to a lecture, that’s a serious issue. However, it’s the juvenile student’s problem, not the owner of said legs and belly button. Students should not have an issue with the way their peers dress. If they don’t like somebody’s choice in clothing, they don’t have to look at them. It’s a cut-and-dry issue that shouldn’t even require a debate.

No matter the intention of their attire, it is up to the girls themselves to decide what kind of clothing they want to wear. When a girl gets dressed, she is aware of the message she is putting forth. The final, executive decision in the mirror is personal and hers alone, regardless of the motivation.

As teenagers, we should be able to appreciate the right of self-expression no matter what the form. If we judge people, with either hateful words or mean looks for dressing a certain way, we’re oppressing the individual’s freedom to choose what he or she wants to wear.

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