About Objectifying Women & Girls

TrekNorth Administration & Board,

Have YOU been shopping for Teen Girl’s clothing lately? In Bemidji? Unless you want every girl to wear the same outfit of a t-shirt and a pair of the same type of jeans you will find it difficult to find anything that isn’t going to unintentionally affect someone’s morals.

Actually, these days the PC Police are getting out of control. You can’t blink without unintentionally making someone angry with your joke, your hair, your clothes, your music, your choice in food or even furniture! Let’s get back to clothing though, heck I’m 46 and people judge what I wear. It’s no one’s business what I wear, what you wear, or what our kids wear. It’s no one’s business what I think about what I wear, what you THINK about what someone wears, or what they THINK about what they wear. It ONLY matters about what someone is wearing when someone ACTS on what they are thinking. Then it becomes an act of bullying, or even a crime such as a hate crime or even rape.

Trek North’s original Dress Policy that is in the Student Handbook just should have been tweaked a little bit. However, it is a subjective explanation of opinions of what might be respectful of self and others and what might promote an academic environment. It does go on to state the TrekNorth community will not discriminate nor judge students based upon their appearance, yet that too is subjective and based on WHO’s opinions? Did you take an opinion poll of the parents? Of the Students?

A list was given of clothing considered inappropriate for the learning program at TrekNorth:

Clothing with sexual innuendo-this could mean just wearing a shirt with a picture of chocolate on it, if you ask today’s youth. So, how do you police this? They (youth) have such subtle, unknown words to adults that we don’t even know about.

Clothing with messages or logos that promote or advertise drugs, alcohol, or violence – that is clear, precise, and can not be argued with about what it means. It is fact, not opinion. The kids can’t mess with this one.

Clothing that exposes cleavage, buttocks, or midriffs – how much cleavage is too much according to whom? My definition of what shirt is too low will be different from Joe Shmoe’s.  Hello, have you met low-rise jeans anyone? That’s practically all they sell for teen girls, and it IS very difficult to find any other kind. Girls can’t wear cropped shirts, but if we had a football team, the boys could? You have seen the boy’s cropped sports jerseys like Zac Efron wore, right?

Clothing intentionally designed or intentionally sized to expose undergarments – again, back to the low-rise jeans. Unless you plan to go shopping with the families and help them TRY to find teen girl jeans that aren’t low-rise, have fun policing the undies. However, I DO agree with telling the boys to pull up their jeans and NOT purposefully wear their jeans belted at their knees as if they were in prison. Then, tell them how and where that look originated: in prison, as a way to let other prisoners know you are sexually available.

Clothing that promotes or represents gang activity or gangs – sometimes the kids don’t even know that what they are doing/wearing is a gang symbol. We need to educate. We have the gang task force come in to talk to our parents about what are gang symbols, but the kids need to know, too. Many of our parents don’t even know what the kids are wearing when they leave for school. Some are simply ignorant, and some WANT to flaunt the symbols to feel cool. Plus, there is an exorbitant amount of drug activity at TrekNorth that might be related to gang activity, I’m not sure. I was told that almost every incoming freshman this year was a dealer, and many of the more affluent students at Trek are dealing or know dealers.

Anyway, today the dress code went further to say girls, and ONLY girls, couldn’t expose their shoulders or wear shirts that show their chest. This is simply going too far. Really, no spaghetti straps? What, are we back in the Victorian Era? The kids are having SOOO much fun with this on social media now. Videos of guys showing off their shoulders to girls and the girls going crazy. Videos of girls showing their shoulders and guys writhing on the ground screaming, “oh no! I’ll never be able to study ever again! What WILL I ever do?!!!!!” My son is a self-proclaimed “leg” man. I asked him if he is getting a D in his class because the girl’s wear skirts? He said, “No, I’m getting a D because the work is hard and I don’t get it. I don’t give a crap what the girls wear.” NONE OF THE KIDS CARE WHAT ANYONE IS WEARING! Only the adults are pointing things out and making a big deal out of nothing.

It is the adults that are perpetuating the rape culture that THEY have grown up with, that the media and social culture molded for them and told them that if you dress in a certain way it is the clothing that will make you a sexual object. WRONG! It is thoughts that make someone into an object, and today TrekNorth made our girls into sexual objects. Today TrekNorth used Male Privilege to objectify the female body. Instead of having a conversation with the kids about respect for our human bodies, or having a teachable moment where we could have tried to change the future of rape culture by not buying into the mass media telling us that what we wear defines our sexuality, TrekNorth told girls that by what they wear they become an objectified thing and they distract males. But males aren’t an object only girls are. The boys don’t need to learn to respect the girls.  We told them Men are entitled to leer and it’s OK, cuz women have to change and men can do whatever they want to. Is THIS really what TrekNorth wants to teach?

TrekNorth has much bigger problems than what the kids are wearing that they should be worrying about instead. A kid gets his ears pierced in the middle of class while he is stoned out of his mind in front of a paraprofessional and all she says is, “it’s none of my business.” The front desk worker hangs up the phone on parents she doesn’t want to speak to. She just happens to be rude to parents and students often, and is rarely found smiling when approached at her desk.  The School Social Worker forgets which kids are in which grades and forgets to send out pertinent information to parents about the ACT test. TrekNorth often touts being proud of being a small school, so the staff should be able to keep track of their duties. As a LSW myself and knowing many of the local public school personnel, if, by example, the ISD 31 School Nurse can keep track of over 500 students needing medical care out of an average of 5,000 I’m sure TrekNorth’s staff should be able to handle 240.

If TrekNorth really wants to be a better school than the surrounding local public schools and deserve the awards and attention it’s being given, maybe it should fix some of its current issues before it tries to grow into a K-12 school. Maybe, just maybe, it should listen to its own students when they say THEY don’t want TrekNorth to grow into a K-12 school and they want the school to stay small. I’ve always been an advocate for those who don’t have a voice, that’s why I’ve always worked with youth and nonprofits.When passions run high, it is easy to perceive those with whom you disagree as the enemy. But remember, you are only fighting with each other because you all care so much. In a year, two years, ten years, what you fought over will not matter. If your anger overcomes you, walk away. When adults fight, children get wounded. Right now it’s the adults up-roaring about clothing, and children who are getting the wrong messages.

How we respect each other, how we deal with differing ideas, how we argue, disagree, and resolve differences – will shape the culture of this school. Right now the students don’t respect the staff/administration very much. I’ve been told by students that they feel they are being left out of many decisions; dress code, K-12 idea, curriculum and that TrekNorth is just becoming like every other school and it isn’t like it was any more. A successful charter school results not from people being of common mind so much as from people of complementary skills trusting each other to make decisions. Where there is expertise, defer to it, even if it runs contrary to your own opinions on a matter. Students at TrekNorth really CAN be part of that expertise, because WE,parents & staff, have taught them to be, however now we are pushing them into the background and stifling their voice. The founders of TrekNorth didn’t create the school just for their child, they created a school for all children and didn’t vote or design from their child’s desk but right now TrekNorth is leaving the kids right out of the decision making processes. This school was created to hopefully educate empowered effective community leaders, so; let them lead without stifling their individuality, yet finding these teachable moments to change social mores and rape culture that are hundreds of years old.

Thank you for listening,

LSW Karen A. Kimbrough

 

(This was a letter I sent to the School Board of my son’s school. MANY letters were sent in from angry parents, but the dress code was not changed.) Grrrrr.

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