Every fall you can expect a flurry of articles clogging up your Facebook newsfeed, decrying the "body shaming" dress codes of someone's kid's school.
And no matter what the specifics of the article, the reader comments are the same:
"Boys need to just control their own thoughts."
"If you're looking at these girls in a sexual way, it's your problem."
"You don't have to look at it if you don't like it."
But something is missing in our conversations about dress codes. Where is the word "respect?"
To think about it another way, imagine that I walked in wearing a big sandwich sign with something offensive printed on it. It could be profanity directed at you, it could be a racial slur... use your imagination.
Sure, I could defend it by saying "I can wear whatever I want, if you have a problem with it then just look away!" But that doesn't make sense, not really, because if you've been offended it means you've already seen it. You've already been disrespected.
Yes, of course you can look away and forget about it, but wouldn't it be better if I hadn't worn it in the first place?
What benefit do I really gain from wearing it, anyway?
And even if I have the right to wear it, does it mean I should?
I wonder why those questions are also missing from the conversation on dress codes and modesty.
Like an offensive shirt slogan, suggestive clothes are distracting for all students, both boys and girls. Believe it or not, there are people who aren't comfortable seeing the private parts of a person's body prominently displayed (whether that means skimpy clothes that bare all, or skin-tight clothes that make every dimple visible from outer space.)
What about showing those people respect?
Somewhere along the line, it seems that being able to do, say, and wear whatever we want became more important than being considerate.
The fact of the matter is that no matter how well we teach our young men and women not to see each other as objects, we're all biologically hardwired to respond with a sexual thought when we see a sexual sight -- like someone dressed in sexy clothes.
There are amazing young men out there trying to be gentlemen, and amazing young women out there trying to be ladies, who look away and try to push objectifying thoughts out of their heads every day. But wouldn't it be nice if everyone dressed with more modesty in public (and especially at school,) if for no other reason than simple respect for those boys and girls?
I'm not saying that anyone is completely responsible for anyone else's thoughts, but that doesn't mean we can't be considerate of others when we get dressed in the morning all the same.
"Body shaming" has become a hollow buzzword, thrown around to silence any call for respectful dress in our schools. You want me to dress modestly? You are body shaming me!
Let's be honest about what body shaming really is.
Body shaming is hurtful self-talk, calling yourself fat, ugly, disgusting. Body shaming is telling someone else that they don't have worth because something's wrong with their appearance. That kind of body shaming -- actual body shaming -- has no place in a respectful society.
But dressing modestly does.
Jenny Evans is a writer, a perfectionist, a night owl and a mom of five who makes jokes at her own expense and blogs about her messy life with a houseful of kids at Unremarkable Files.
You can also visit her on Facebook.