Giving men a dressing down

Giving men a dressing down

SINGAPORE - Do women invite rape by the way they dress? It's time to stand up for what's not right.

School assembly talks are usually snooze fests, but not the one last week that our elder child couldn't wait to tell us about.

"Ms T talked to us about the dress code," she said.

Life would be so much simpler if public schools here had uniforms, like they do in Singapore. Instead, kids can wear whatever they want, so long as they don't violate a basic sense of decency by showing their tummies, brassieres or buttocks.

Good luck enforcing that, given the season's cropped tops and hotpants.

Indeed, the dress code must have been violated so many times that the principal saw the expediency of speaking to the student body about appropriate clothing. Unfortunately, instead of appealing to their respect for school rules, she fell prey to the idea of good taste.

"She said," our daughter's voice rose in pitch, "that there are some girls who shouldn't be in short shorts. She said,'You wouldn't want to see ME in short shorts now, would you?'"

Budding feminists' jaws dropped in unison.

When students were invited to give feedback, one 15-year-old girl stood up and noted that neither she nor any other female student should be made to feel ashamed of their bodies.

Drawing attention to how girls look in clothes simply contributes to their objectification, she argued.

I agreed: The principal had missed the point.

She could have taken the chance to impress upon her students how their choice of clothing says a lot about them, and their attitudes.

You don't dress the same way for work as you do a beach holiday, for instance, and school deserves your dressing in a manner that connotes respect.

Instead she got called out - and for the same reason that has led hundreds of girls and boys to walk out of their high schools all over the country or deliberately break the dress code, this summer.

The walkouts were in protest against the tendency to judge girls by what they wear, enshrined in school policy, as well as in unequal treatment. Boys are far less likely to be sent home for dress code violations than girls.

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