Today you held an assembly for year nine. It’s a precarious age, 13 and 14 year olds. Their bodies and minds are changing on a daily basis and the air around them is thick with hormones and insecurity. They often don’t know how they feel about themselves and worry about how they’re viewed by others.
They’re very much at a pivotal moment in their lives. A year ago they were still quite childlike and yet this time next year they’ll be knee deep in revision for exams that will influence their future careers. Now more than ever they need the support and guidance of the adults on their lives.
You chose to use the assembly to discuss uniform standards and one over of uniform in particular – skirts.
The issue of school skirt length is decades old and I’m sure it’s frustrating. But I’ve never heard of a teacher going to quite the lengths (pun intended) that you chose, to make your point.
“The uniform rules state that your skirts must be knee length and yet the girls in this year seem to wear their skirts shorter and shorter.
“I actually find it disgusting. I just wonder how low your self esteem must be to feel the need to wear your skirt THAT short.
“Do you like people looking at you? I mean, do you really need all that attention to feel good about yourselves? ”
Luckily Beth has been raised around a lot of strong women and men who respect them, so she didn’t take on board the potentially damaging statements you made. But let’s just consider for a second, the implications of what you said.
1. You suggested to a room of 13 and 14 year olds, that females who show their legs do so because they have low self esteem.
2. You stated that the either sight of young girls legs was disgusting. You implied that they should be ashamed of their body and cover it up lest they be found, ‘disgusting’.
3. Dangerously, you suggested that if a girl wears a shorter skirt then they do so to attract attention. This sounds alot like ‘asking for it’ to me.
Basically you slut-shamed an entire room of teenage girls and made comments that promoted rape culture. You did this to try and enforce a school rule that effects neither their education nor their safety.
I know many teachers and have the utmost respect for those who educate our young people. However I’m concerned about what you’re teaching them.
You have a massive responsibility and an opportunity to teach some great life lessons.
You should be teaching teenagers that their bodies are incredible, beautiful and that they have complete ownership over them.
You should be building up their self esteem, not publicly questioning it and essentially invited their classmates to measure it based on skirt length.
You should reassure them that self expression is okay and that we shouldn’t judge people by their appearance.
Above all, you ought to be making it clear to them that no matter what a girl wears, she is not ‘asking for attention’. She can wear whatever the hell she likes.
Obviously as a parent I respect and support the school uniform rules. I try to ensure that my daughter respects them and her teachers, but I’m proud that today she came home and told me she was angry with you.
As a mother of two daughters, as a fellow woman, I’m angry with you too.
You’re their teacher. While my daughter’s at school, you’re in charge of her and her friends and I have no choice but to trust you with her well-being. You have at your disposal punishments and consequences that I can’t match! Night time detentions, lunch time detentions, lines, litter picking, removal of privileges, letters or calls home. You could explain to them about corporate dress and how they may be expected to present themselves in the future. You could reiterate the fact that the school rules are non-negotiable. Why oh why would you feel the need to resort to slut shaming the young women in your care?
I beg you, consider the impact of your words and choose them more carefully. Build up our young people instead of beating them down.