You paper cuts. Young, impressionable girls are

You send your child off for their first day of school – they sit there in the back of your car, squirming uncomfortably and tugging nervously at their restricting collar. Out of place and ill fitting, your child wonders for the thousandth time, why? I wonder if you truly understand the magnitude of your words – when you take away our freedom of choice and teach us that revealing skin is inherently dangerous, you are contributing to rape culture. Rape culture is a sociological concept used to describe a setting in which rape is pervasive and normalized – it consists of buildings blocks starting with victim blaming and ‘slut shaming’. This is what uniform does. At first glance, it creates a standardized image, but has darker roots that restrict students from self expression; altering a skirt a few inches may result in a punishment and further imprints us with the knowledge that showing skin will clearly result in a punishment of some form. I can see both sides of the argument – you simply want to protect us and make sure we aren’t “that girl” that was found in a ditch on the news, not just another “1 in 6 women” statistic on a pie chart. However, that only leads to victim blaming; she must have been asking for it after all – how dare she reveal her shoulders! Notice how I put emphasis on girls? Notice how boys are dress coded for the language on their clothing but not for the amount of shoulder they expose? Notice how girls have been sent home for the smallest infractions? I’ve certainly noticed. In June, several students from the South Orange-Maplewood School started a social media campaign using the hash-tag “IAmMoreThanADistraction.” It’s the little things you teach us, that lead us to believe that to dress a certain way, is to send out certain signals. Boys are then depicted as frenzied beasts that cannot control themselves in what should be a modest classroom environment and girls are seen as the amount of “distraction” they cause. Despite the resurgence of the feminist movement, we are still stuck in the old ways and the issue of sexism is not one big stab wound, but a thousand tiny paper cuts. Young, impressionable girls are impacted the most as they learn to ostracize and look down upon other girls simply trying to empower themselves through their own clothing choices. Uniform also forces some students into unwanted spotlight attention – have you ever unintentionally stared at that one student wearing those strange shoes that just stood out so much? I guarantee you they noticed you noticing. You seem to promote individuality and self-expression all the time – we chant them in our school mottos and listen to guest speakers preach about the importance of being you. Constantly. Yet, as soon as the dreaded non-uniform day rolls around, students simply trade one uniform for another; no midriffs, no shorts, no shoulders and no flip flops… what are we but a sea of modest sheep cloaked in long sleeves and long pants – in 40 degree weather. I believe we can do better. I believe that by abolishing these uniform and dress code rules, we will be able to express ourselves authentically. We can begin tearing down the pillars of misogyny one small step at a time. It all starts with you – those who hold this power to change the lives of over a thousand young impressionable students and move forward as a progressive society.