Another one of those articles came up where schoolgirls are being asked to wear longer skirts to school to avoid getting assaulted by male students and teachers. These articles are a dime a dozen, of course—this happens all the bloody time, all over the world. This one took place in New Zealand and the following bullshit went down:
“Teenage girls at a New Zealand high school have reportedly been told to lower their skirts to knee level so as not to “distract” male students and teachers.
Around 40 students in year 11 at Henderson high school in Auckland were called to a meeting and told by deputy principal Cherith Telford that their skirts would need to be lowered to knee level, Newshub reports.
Telford said the move was designed to “keep our girls safe, stop boys from getting ideas and create a good work environment for male staff.”
Luckily, they interviewed a feminist who explained that this is victim-blaming. Since I am a radical feminist, I’m going to do more than name this as victim-blaming, I’m going to do a full analysis. (Sorry arainandagale, I know you’ve had enough depressing stuff, but the thing is, every day the patriarchy gives me a new thing to rant about.)
Let’s look at the context in which these girls have been told to lower their skirt length, shall we? We live in a culture in which schoolgirls are constantly sexualized. The most popular genre in the multi-billion dollar porn industry is teen, in which teen girls who are often 18 but made to look younger than 18 are sexually abused by older men, often in ways that explicitly present an incestuous relationship or a teacher-student situation. That’s because men really love abusing their power to sexually assault vulnerable girls. The schoolgirl uniform itself is sexualized—women in porn often wear it to accentuate their youth and the “schoolgirl” uniform is an outfit you can buy in shops that sell sex toys. The uniform of the schoolgirl is literally fetish gear for adults.
The principal of this school is quoted as saying she didn’t want male students “getting ideas.” I think they definitely will get ideas—they will get them from the porn culture we live in, there’s no way around that. They will get the idea that women and girls owe them sex, that we are objects for their use, that our purpose is to give them boners, and that if we aren’t happy about this arrangement we aren’t real women. Unfortunately, changing the length of the girls’ skirts won’t convince boys that their female classmates are full human beings when everything in their world is telling them otherwise.
The principal also mentions wanting to create a “good work environment for male staff.” I wonder, if the students’ skirts were one inch shorter, why would that create a bad work environment? Will male teachers suddenly be unable to teach a math lesson or grade papers because of the girls’ skirts? (sarcasm)
Everybody knows what kind of culture we live in. Only radical feminists will admit this out loud, but we know that adult men routinely sexualize girls and will assault them when they get the chance. Adults who care about girls will often take ineffectual measures to supposedly keep girls “safe” without actually doing anything to prevent men from assaulting them. This is one such case.
This principal correctly identifies that both adult men and teen boys are threats to girls’ safety, and she knows why this is. So, does she fight against the porn culture that is teaching boys and men that girls are things for them to use? No. Does she push for better rates of rape convictions for perpetrators? No. Does she educate about consent? No. Does she target the men whose behaviours are a problem? No. Does she fight to liberate the female sex class from male control? No. Instead, she tells the girls to wear longer skirts. This strategy makes her feel like she is doing something, even though the power and privilege that men enjoy that allows them to assault women and girls remains completely intact. It doesn’t matter a bit how long or short their skirts are. Men will assault women and girls no matter what we are wearing. Quite often we are wearing jeans and a T shirt. Sexual assault has nothing to do with clothing, it has to do with men’s power over women and their enjoyment of domination. Men assault women because they can and they like to.
When we teach girls that they are little seductive temptresses for men, they can react in a couple of ways. They can learn to sexualize their own subordination and their vulnerability, and become the best sex objects they can be, taking pleasure in getting superficial approval from men who don’t actually respect them, or they can take the opposite approach, becoming unfeminine, hiding under baggy clothes, avoiding men, or not identifying as women. Some girls decide, if that’s what women are, then I must not be one. Teaching them to cover up or get assaulted doesn’t keep them safe, and it only makes things worse, because it teaches them that they are sex objects and that they have to accept this fate and take full responsibility for how men decide to use them.
The only thing that would actually keep these girls safe is to overthrow the patriarchy. End the sexualization of girls, end the porn industry, put rapists in jail, and give women and girls control over their own bodies. These should be the goals of anyone who is trying to protect girls.