The Ish with the Skinny Jean/Dress Code Debate

2016-5-25 Skinny Jeans

Today I read an article from the Washington Post about a school system in North Carolina that’s toying with implementing a new dress code that would bar anyone from wearing leggings or skinny jeans unless they’re wearing a top that covers their entire tooshie.

…to which I was like, blah blah blah how many more of the same article are digital journalists going to write until their fingers start bleeding out of protest? (I seriously don’t mean to diminish this argument. Of course I agree that telling girls to dress modestly is a huge way to control them/sexualize them/victim blame. But I’ve seen only those three arguments for like, two years now, and maybe school boards aren’t listening because the media isn’t telling them anything new.)

But this particular instance caught my eye.

WaPo tells us that according to Jeanette Nichols, vice chairwoman of the school board in New Hanover County, N.C. (the district in question, obvs), they’re thinking of this dress code because kids were bullying other kids for being too pudgy to wear skinny jeans and leggings.

“She was a bit overweight and she was being bullied and teased,” Nichols told the Wilmington StarNews.

Interesting…

Also interesting? New Hanover County actually opened the debate up to students and parents via Twitter, which is like, such a faux pas because doesn’t New Hanover County know that Twitter is where all trolls and harrassers live? But anyways.

Kids predictably jumped on the, “blah blah blah I can wear what I want/ I’m a feminist/ tell people not to objectify me,” bandwagon, which is like, whatever. Most of them look like they behaved with decorum, which is more than can be said for 99 percent of Twitter users.

One parent took the bullying bait, and astutely asked why the hell the school isn’t working on making the kids stop being such little assholes.

That was my first reaction, too. It’s kind of along the same vein of teaching people not to rape, as opposed to teaching them how to avoid being raped.

It’s a good argument, and an important one to point out to the school board. A ton of what sending kids to school is supposed to accomplish is teaching them how to function as acceptable human beings, right? Don’t make students wear baggy pants; baggy pants are tacky and I hate them. Tell kids to just cut the bullying shit, instead.

2016-5-25 You're Tacky and I Hate You

But I think it’s also important to quickly touch on one thing that really, really bothered me about this whole ordeal. Let’s break down the chain of events into simple steps:

  1. Person wears skinny jeans
  2. Other person makes fun of them for being chubby
  3. Teacher sees, tells school board
  4. School board says, “well, she shouldn’t be wearing skinny jeans, so we’ll make a rule to stop her from that”

Isn’t that horrible? Is the school board not saying that the bully is right? That because someone is a certain body type, they shouldn’t wear certain clothes? Like, okay, out with any sort of body positivity at this school, I guess.

Am I (and that mom on Twitter) the only one who’s disgusted that an entire school board is about to be super complicit in a bunch of bullying?

Why A Vote For Clinton Isn’t Necessarily A Vote For Feminism

girl-voting-i-votedIn this 2016 Presidential Primary Season, there are obviously a ton of jokes going around – Kanye for President, Deez Nuts for President, Donald Trump for President (awk when not everyone thinks this is a joke)… And all of these jokes do a pretty good job of making me laugh.

You know what joke doesn’t make me laugh? The joke of women’s issues being taken seriously. Honestly, I’m sick of the fact that the most we talk about women’s rights – you know, the rights of approximately 50 percent of the voter population – is when a male candidate makes some unfortunate and probably offensive gaffe. We should be better than that, America. We should be discussing more than Donald Trump making insensitive period remarks and bringing to the forefront some of the more prominent women’s issues.

And one of the biggest issues I can think of right now is the fact that someone thinks they can tell you that you don’t support women’s rights if you don’t want to vote for Hillary Clinton or Carly Fiorina. Let me repeat that:

A vote for Hillary Clinton or Carly Fiorina isn’t necessarily a vote for feminism (but it could be).

One of the coolest parts of America’s democracy is that we as voters are empowered to pick whoever we want. There are no tests, no requirements, no bare minimum knowledge about the issues that you need to demonstrate – you simply need to be eighteen and you can sign up. Which is why I’m thinking it’s so f*cked up that people are saying that feminists vote for women, and everyone else votes for the other guys.

Because seriously guys, how anti-feminist is it to say you’re going to vote for someone simply because of their gender? How is that different from saying, “oh hey, yeah, I don’t want a woman in office so even though I’m totes team Carly Fiorina, I’m throwing my ballot to Ben Carson because he’s a dude.” I think the problem with that statement (or it’s inverse) is that it neglects to acknowledge that feminism is essentially gender equality. Saying you’re going to vote for one person just because of their gender (or race, or religion) is the minority really isn’t promoting equality.

I totally get it. A lot of women like Clinton and Fiorina because they want to see someone who has similar struggles and similar needs as them in the White House. Those ladies are getting a huge female vote because women want to see female representation in the presidency. But isn’t our end goal to live in a world where the gender of a candidate doesn’t even cross our minds? Don’t we want gender to be a total non-issue?

You know what? I’m a woman, I want equality, and I’m not going to vote for either of those women (or maybe I am. It’s not really anybody’s business who anyone else is voting for).  Being a woman and being empowered means taking the initiative to educate yourself on the issues, developing a standpoint, and choosing the candidate whose plan matches yours the most.

Don’t get me wrong. I really, really respect these women, and I understand the great step forward they’re making for womankind by putting themselves out there and running to be the first female to lead in the Oval Office. But I also respect the women all over the nation who don’t plan on voting for them. I respect their intelligence, I respect their instincts, and most importantly, I respect their autonomy as women to check of whichever box on a ballot they damn well please.

Featured image via flickr

Why My Daughter’s Nursery Will Be Pink

girl-toy-pinkWhen I defended my senior honors thesis about Disney, it inevitably resulted in a conversation amongst the faculty in attendance about what Disney material is and is not appropriate for children. Something that kept on popping up was whether or not little girls should be watching princess movies. It’s a really tough call, you know? On the one hand, you really don’t want your kid thinking that her value depends on long, luscious locks and big doe eyes, but it’s really hard to uphold that decision when she’s surrounded by these images all over the place.

And then one of my professors said something that completely changed my view on parenting: “I let my daughter watch it, but with trepidation,” she said. “I’m just more scared nowadays of her growing up thinking that things typically categorized as ‘feminine’ are bad.”

So now I’ve decided that when I have a daughter, her nursery will be pink.

It has nothing to do with me wanting her to wear ribbons and ruffles and all kinds of frills, nor do I want her constantly worrying about what’s staring back at her in the mirror. It’s just that fundamentally, from a young age, I want her to know that in a world that sometimes isn’t so fair to women, it’s still okay and cool and awesome to be one.

But that doesn’t mean I won’t let her play with trucks, or wear blue, or play in the dirt. The minute she tells me she doesn’t like pink, or that she wants a Thomas the Tank Engine, or anything more traditionally associated with little boys, it’s all hers. It’s not like I’ll have a problem with my little girl playing with toys other than princesses and tea sets, it’s just that I want her to know that those things aren’t bad either. Above all, I want her to feel empowered to make a choice about who or what she plays with, and I want her to respect other girls’ empowerment, too. I want her to know that for every little girl who wants to make model rocket ships, there’s another little girl who genuinely wants to play with baby dolls, and both are equally rad.

Because for me, that’s the biggest part of this feminism thing. Beyond men and women being seen as equals in all aspects of life and society, I value being empowered to make my own choices. Like when feminists scoff at my waist-length hair that’s almost always done, or my shaved armpits, or my pink painted finger nails — how dare they. How can they call themselves feminists while simultaneously tearing down me, a fellow woman? Aren’t we all supposed to support each other, regardless of our choices to look more traditionally ‘feminine’ or more gender neutral?

I guess that’s how I want to raise my daughter. To be ready to accept anyone – no matter of the choices they make – and to be ready to accept herself as well.

First Ladies, feminism and the freedom of choice.

As we New Englanders were in the midst of Snowpocolypse 2015, First Lady Michelle Obama accompanied her husband, President Barack Obama, to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to meet the U.S. ally’s new king, Salman bin Abdulaziz.

And may I just say the First Lady looked stunning? She rocked a royal blue tunic top with a robe-style sweater over it, and classy black pants. Gorgeous as ever, Michelle.

A lot of other people are pretty concerned with her attire to meet King Abdulaziz, too, including Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who, according to multiple media outlets, Facebooked out “kudos” to Mrs. Obama for “standing up for women” by “refusing to wear Sharia-mandated head-scarf.”

While it’s a lovely change of pace to see a staunchly conservative senator give praise to any member of the Obama family, I still find it a little unsettling that Senator Cruz thinks that First Lady Obama’s choice not to wear a hijab is some groundbreaking move in the feminist agenda. Because it’s not.

There are a lot of negative connotations that Americans associate with head scarves. I totally get it—believe me; I wrote my honors thesis on cultural and historical approaches to media representations of Middle Easterners. We’ve been taught, mostly through movies but also through news coverage, that the reason why Middle Eastern women don head scarves is because they are simple cogs in some female-repressive culture. There are several reasons why our media represents the Middle East this way, but the main thing to take away is that these representations are often misguided.

Don’t get me wrong—there are a lot of repressive aspects of Middle Eastern culture (the stoning of female adulterers, anyone?), but I’d argue that, in this day and age and in a country like Saudi Arabia, the hijab is not one of them.

Many women of modern Islamic culture argue that wearing their hijab is, in fact, very empowering for them. I could cite so many articles about this, but I’ll point you in the direction of a recently-published Buzzfeed video entitled “Women Wear Hijabs for a Day.

In essence, these women all say that wearing a hijab makes them feel valued for who they are, the ideas and thoughts and feelings whizzing in their brains, instead of what they look like. They said that there was something really cool about that, and a lot of modern Islamic women say the same thing.

So there’s a reason why I’m miffed that people are calling First Lady Obama’s actions feminist.

But I’m not mad that she didn’t wear one, either.

We have this concept in America that’s really cool, and it’s called our freedom of choice. We can pick to eat hamburgers for dinner and pick if we’re going to actually do our homework tonight. We have so many choices that sometimes it can be kind of overwhelming, but still, we revel in that right.

So when she met the new Saudi Arabian king, First Lady Obama exercised her right to choose, and she chose not to wear a hijab to meet King Abdulaziz. I’m not living inside of her head or anything, but if I had to guess why she made that choice, it might be because she’s not a Saudi woman and she’s not a Muslim and she doesn’t wear a head scarf normally so why wear one that day? If I had to guess, she was just making a diplomatic visit; she wasn’t trying to take the world by feminist storm. She was just making a choice.

Just like many Muslim women.

They’re just making choices.

And they’re choosing to wear a hijab.

And to every self-important quasi-feminist who says it’s unfeminist to wear a head scarf, who says it’s unfeminist to participate in an ‘archaic’ and ‘repressive’ culture, I choose to say this:

Take a look in the mirror.

You’re telling a woman what to wear and what to think of it.

How are you supporting feminism?

Can we start talking about more than Barbie’s physique?

It’s almost been one week since Entrepreneur Barbie created a sh*t storm all over the internet; in honor of that, I’m going to share my own super unqualified and perhaps not very relevant opinions on the doll.Image

A lot of people seem pretty thrilled that Mattel has produced a doll that embodies someone so inspirational to young girls—a woman who is her own startup and who lives life #unapologetically. We can’t exactly take this away from Mattel. If little girls are going to be playing with Barbies, why not make them ones who are successful, ones who, like Dr. Barbie and Teacher Barbie, show little girls that they can literally be anything they want to be?

Except for the fact that all of that’s crap. While it’s beating a dead horse to discuss how Barbie, anatomically, is super unhealthy for little girls to play with, I’ll tell you what isn’t: a discussion of what Barbie’s appearance says about success for women in America.

I believe America has yet to reach equal rights. I believe that being a young girl and dealing with mainstream media is hard. I believe it’s crap that we’ve yet to have a female president. But I reject the notion that America hates successful women. Yup, you heard me right; I do not believe that America hates successful women. I think the world is a pretty tough place for women, but I think a blanket statement that America doesn’t want to see a woman in power is absolutely absurd. As a nation we celebrate so many women for their success and those women serve as role models for younger generations. We’ve got Hillary Clinton, who, while not 100 percent beloved around America, certainly has her fans; we’ve got the Kardashians, and although I’m not sure how they’re successful, they seem to be doing pretty well; and we’ve got Michele Obama, who’s on Forbes’ list of the top 100 Most Powerful Women.

And what do all of these very different women have in common? They’re all hot. So if I don’t believe that America hates successful women, what do I believe? You guessed it—that America only likes successful women if they’re “attractive”.

This isn’t to say those women don’t deserve to be loved by the American public due to their success (except maybe the Kardashians), but it’s important to highlight (to women and little girls) that female success is only really celebrated when the female in question has it all. That’s to say, we only like the successful women who are also beautiful, who dress well, who are married and straight and who have a good, wholesome family. So where does that leave the successes who aren’t “hot” by society’s definition? Who aren’t married, who are gay, who don’t want to have kids? Where does it leave them?

Maybe they’re not waiting to be a success; maybe they’ve got equal pay and maybe they’ve got that CEO position that they rightfully earned and they’re already a success. But you know what? Despite their success, no one cares. And I still think that’s crap. Because you know what? Whether a woman is conventionally good-looking or not (I won’t even get started on how those conventions are defined by men), they should be celebrated as role models for little girls. We women need as many role models as we can get; God only knows men have plenty.

So how does Entrepreneur Barbie factor into all of this? She factors in the same way every other hot success does: little girls, by seeing good-looking, successful role models and by playing with toys like Entrepreneur Barbie, will start to believe that if you want to grow up to beImage successful, you better grow up to be hot. Put away the fact that I think there’s something beautiful about every woman; little girls need to start hearing that success comes from what’s inside of your head, not what’s on it.

We all know that Barbie’s body is unrealistic and that her physique serves as a major controversy. And while I agree that she’s not the healthiest of toys for little girls, I’ve always admired Barbie because of the many jobs she’s held. I’ve always liked that she’s told me that I can grow up to be whatever I wanted to be; I just hope someday she tells me that while I’m out there being I can look however I want to look, too.