While I was trying to find chalk and science books to teach my class of 6th grade Special Ed students, our mayor cited the need for school uniforms. Solutions for the lack of supplies, crumbling buildings, and poor-performing schools were to be resolved this way! Although 75% of students qualified for free lunch, they were required by the New York City Board of Education. That was a long time ago. However, we see required dress today not only in schools, but in the Olympic games, beauty pageants and in the Missouri legislature.
USA Today reported that for Olympic games, women’s beach handball athletes are required to wear bikini bottoms with a maximum side width of 10 centimeters – smaller than the size of an iPhone! “If there was any kind of advantage to having little fabric, the men would be wearing them too,” said Charlene Weaving, professor and chair of human kinetics department at St. Francis Xavier University in Canada. “If there was any kind of biomechanical advantage, then men would be in Speedos. But they’re not”. The women asked why they can’t just wear functional performance garments. Instead of just highlighting the success of female athletes, sexism found its way into their sports – via athletes’ uniforms.
The Guardian reported the story of a woman who died ‘after being beaten by morality police for wearing an allegedly loose hijab. Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurd, died after ‘violent arrest’ amid Iranian crackdown on women’s dress. In street protests, some women tore off their mandatory headscarves, demonstratively twirling them in the air. Videos online showed two women throwing their hijabs into a bonfire. Another woman is seen cutting off her hair in a show of protest. Many died.
Although I never watch beauty pageants, The Times did a story on the 71st Miss Universe competition. Supposedly, the pageant strives for seriousness, interviewing women about world peace and domestic policy. We are reminded that contestants are there as eye candy. They create programming that sells products. Although they distinguished themselves according to their country of origin, the festival is one of uniformity. Every one is tall, slim, long eyelashes, and perfect teeth, poured into skintight, revealing dresses modeled on stiletto heels. How does this amount to anything serious or to promoting world peace?
The Missouri State House of Representatives revised its dress code for female legislators requiring them to wear a jacket. It was criticized as sexist and pointless by some Democratic lawmakers. The initiator of these new rules claimed that they are essential to maintain a formal and professional atmosphere. One wonders whether we might find the need for morality police to enforce these rules. No jackets fit pregnant women. State Representative Ashley Aune said: “You know what it feels like to have a bunch of men in this room looking at your top trying to decide whether it’s appropriate or not?’ What about the real issues that this body needs to address?
If one’s attire could ensure professionalism, how can we explain the behavior of other members of our legislative bodies who supported the Jan. 6 insurrection, etc.? If one’s attire could improve poor-performing schools, why haven’t they? It seems to me that it’s time to focus on real issues, rather than scrutinizing and policing the attire of women.