No, Your Skirt IS Too High

Jose VilsonEducation, Jose10 Comments




A few weeks ago, when the sun’s heat rapped on my classroom window like it was trying to get away from itself, I noticed a glorious coming out party for some of my female students’ legs. As a male teacher, I’m often put in different predicaments where I’m asked to tread thin lines all the time, and my adolescent girls’ behavior is one of them. On the one end, I’m encouraged to point out things I don’t deem appropriate or fitting for the school culture, and on the other, I’m asked not to say too much to the student directly or be too observant as I might be labeled, irrationally, as some sort of sexual deviant. I’ve run the gamut from girls telling me about their pregnancy to girls telling me they have a crush on me, and in all manners, I’ve learned how to navigate all that. 

But this? This issue was too widespread for me to deal with on my own.

As usual, I stand in front of my classroom door when I see four of my girls walk in. One of them had capris on. No big deal, but still out of uniform. The next girl comes with those trendy sweatpants with some word sweeping across the area between her lower back and her butt. The next girl’s wearing tight jean shorts just above her knees. And the last one decided it was appropriate to wear a skirt about 6 inches above her knees, and equidistant from her pelvic area.

And every time I asked each of them if they thought their dresses of choice were appropriate, they all said successively and succinctly, “No.” Little did they know that I’d already made my judgment. There’s a reason for our school having dress codes and uniform. So when, for example, one of my boys decides to “accidentally” drop a quarter right near girl #4’s dress, I’m not inclined to wack the boy over the head. In all fairness, Girl #4’s not that type of girl and she was wearing (not visible until she lifted up her skirt a few more inches) black shorts. But I didn’t want to take a chance.

Of course, I told the dean, who agreed with my perspective. Girl #4, who didn’t have the cojones to do 1/2 of what she’s up to this year, says, “Mr. Vilson, did you tell The Big Dean about my uniform?” I said, “No, I merely mentioned that he should check for uniforms, and it’s getting a little insane.” She wouldn’t let it go, not even until the next day, and she asked the dean. The dean mentioned exactly what I told him, and she said, “You see, you did blow up my spot!”

That made me fume. If anything, I’ve proven that they could trust me. I’d already spoken to my class about dressing appropriately, but it seems my message didn’t get through to them. I call the dean back and said, “Let me ask you a question: if a girl dressed in that skirt that she wore yesterday …” and before I even finished, he said, “I’m telling you, I’d put her in her place right there. She’d have to take that off. She wouldn’t even dare. I have a daughter now, and God forbid if she ever dressed like that. I’m an animal, I don’t care. When it comes to my daughter, I’ma protect her. And that’s why we keep telling you kids, you need to dress right, and come to school right. You wanna look like some trash in the street or that you’re some sort of prostitute? You’re not. You’re in school.”

I smirk and stare directly at Girl #4, who turned on her signature innocent smile.

“And you know what else? Girls and boys that wear their pants or skirts up to here,” motioning his hands right around where his butt starts, “that usually means they’re selling themselves. Yeah, believe it. It means they’re someone’s play thing. And none of you are that.”

You think I got any other questions after that?

Jose, who’s become a bit conservative when I’ve started teaching …

Comments 10

  1. *applause*

    that’s right. speak to these young girls. somebody has to. I hope my daughter has teachers and deans like you. I’m going to be on her like white on rice, but it takes a village. these kids need guidance, even if they don’t think they do.

  2. me gusta!!! I tell my daughters that everyday and lucky for me, they hear it from their father, too.

    It pains me to see young girls putting themselves out there like that, and sometimes it takes a man to point out that dressing like that will only bring them face to face with the kind of attention they’re really not ready for.

    I should know; I spent my adolescence dodging dirty old men and I dressed in oversized clothes! I can only imagine what I would have had to deal with if I hadn’t been so conservative with my clothing!

  3. As a principal I applaud you! It’s a never ending DAILY battle. Our girls are worth so much more. Mine need to be called on their shit EVERYDAY. Trying to get creative with the uniforms by wearing skinny jeans, etc. I swear my mother was right when she said, “If you wear everything and do everything now, what will you have to look forward to when you “get grown”?” I just got home. I’m exhausted but it’s worth it.

  4. Thus the reason I am an advocate for uniforms.

    We also need to teach young people – boys and girls -what self-respect is, and that one doesn’t develop it by showing his/her butt – literally.

  5. Sigh.

    People it’s a skirt.

    It doesn’t mean she’s selling anything or any such foolishness. It may be inappropiate for school – no arguements there – but all this making a mountain out of a mole hill is RIDICULOUS.

    Instead of suggesting that the girl is up to no sexual good (which is basically sexist and ridiculous) the simple explanation of age appropriate and place appropriate clothing is sufficient.

    Girls who wear short skirts aren’t whores or whores in training – equating the two is ridiculous.

    The Single Black Woman

  6. Post

    What’s interesting about this post is that all of you are women replying to this post. There’s certainly a diversity of opinion within this little enclave when it comes to social ideology (like how women should look at sex for instance). However, one thing I like is that we ARE making a mountain out of a molehill. I don’t consider myself the standard-bearer for the human experience, or some elder of any nature. I just don’t like to think that one of my students is wearing next to nothing prancing around devaluing herself. If that’s sexist, what does that say about this patriarchal society that this sort of advertising is acceptable?

    I’m all for women having these sorts of freedoms because they’re women. As in full-grown and able to make their own decisions and fully understand their consequences through various lenses. I don’t believe that about 11-13-year-old girls. Everyone’s allowed to explore their sexuality, especially when you’re just discovering it, but there’s a reason why we have some of the laws we do about child predators, because there’s too often times when older people (men and women) that treat younger people (girls and boys) like they’re experientially their equal.

    But in the grand scheme of things, she may just be exploring this idea of her sense of style, but I don’t think I overstepped my bounds. This is good discussion, nonetheless. Good talk.

  7. You’re right. It is just a skirt. But when that skirt resides on the upper, upper thighs of my 11-14 year old students? Then people, it’s more than “just a skirt. I don’t know where you live but the streets I traverse everyday have GROWN ASS MEN (with no shame) trying to ‘holla’ at these same 11-14 year olds. This is not an episode of “Gossip Girl”. This post was about keeping early high school and middle school girls out of their own fuckin’ way. (Sorry for the language but this is a topic close to my heart.) Not about women, over 18, who have “choices” about the clothing they are entitled to wear.

  8. I’m so happy that instead of doing your job, you’re too concerned with oppressing girls. If we didn’t have GROWN ASS MEN (with no shame) yell ‘holla’ to girls they wouldn’t have to deal with being constantly harassed in a school setting, where everything should be safe. Because of people like YOU, young girls are constantly worrying about losing class time and spending it sitting in the office because math teachers are sucked into the rape culture that we called Earth. Next time you’re worrying yourself over whether or not skirts are finger tip length maybe you should stop, think about how this doesnt bother you, and go back to grading papers.

    1. Post

      Peyton, I tend to agree. This is back in 2009, mind you. I think I’ve evolved somewhat. Even though I do understand the perspective the 2009 me held above, I also agree that onus isn’t as much as young girls but grown men. Thanks for bringing this up.

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