Dress codes have become a point of contention this week, with the UK campaign to prevent women being forced to wear heels in the workplace being rejected by the government. However, a smaller victory for sexist dress codes has been made across the pond thanks to a 12-year-old school girl.
Molly Neuner, a pupil at King Middle School in Portland, has hit headlines for challenging her school’s rules about strappy tops.
The Portland Press Herald reports that Neuner claims she was challenged and threatened with detention for wearing a racerback top to school.
Portland’s school dress code says that students cannot wear anything that could cause a “material and substantial disruption” in school – seemingly to male students. This led to Neuner’s straps being measured to determine whether they infringed the code.
To defend herself and campaign against the school’s double standards on dress code, Neuner and her classmates arrived at school with the popular hashtag #IAmNotADistraction on their arms. They also purposely broke the dress code by wearing strappy tops.
As a result, the school’s head Principal Caitlin LeClair met with Neuner’s parents and she listened and acknowledged the school’s error. She said that their daughter’s feedback would be taken on board for next year’s dress code rules.
The area’s Superintendent Xavier Botana also agreed that the code should be reconsidered, telling press: “I don’t believe we should be dictating fashion or measuring the length of shorts if it’s not a material and substantial distraction.”
He then added about strap tops: “I would be hard-pressed to understand how the size of a strap makes a substantial and material disruption.”
Neuner’s story has gone viral, and her mother Christina couldn’t be prouder of her daughter. In an Instagram post she summed up perfectly why it is important for girls to stand up for autonomy over their bodies from an early age.
“Some may read this and think it’s “just a strap” or that “rules were meant to be followed” or that “girls should cover up” or (my personal favorite) “it’s a distraction to boys.” But my question to you is, why? Why do you feel like this? Why do you jump to those conclusions? It’s because of what we are taught,” she wrote alongside an Instagram of her daughter sporting the hashtag.
“We are taught that our bodies are inherently sexual objects that WE need to cover so WE stay safe,” she continued.
“We need to teach our beautiful, young, innocent daughters that their bodies are beautiful and powerful and their own to display or portray in any way they wish WITHOUT consequence,” she added. “
“And we need to teach our young, kind, brave sons that they are smart and strong and capable of controlling their own bodies. And don’t even get me started on the issues of the LGBTQ kids who are completely overlooked on this issue.”
She then revealed that in a meeting between students and staff about reviewing the dress code a young female student was informed that the code was to prevent girls from distracting their male peers, to which she concluded: “This is not just about a tank top, it’s about years of underlying messages of shame to our girls that MUST stop.”