The unfortunate sexualization of schoolgirls

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.

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15 thoughts on “The unfortunate sexualization of schoolgirls

  1. Haha! Thanks for the apology but unnecessary 😉

    This is so gross. Being a teenager is already fraught with enough confusion, we don’t need to add to it. Once again, an example of what’s wrong with the culture, NOT the people being targeted in this story. This is also teaching EVERYONE at the school that these girls are somehow responsible for other people’s thoughts and actions.

    “I feel like a woman when someone blames me for their actions.”

    This is the same line of thinking that prompts warnings for women to go places in pairs, not go out at night, not drink too much, etc. All of it a vain attempt to control somebody else’s behavior. BARF! I’ve been abused by sadistic fucks that will twist reality to blame you for the abuse they’re perpetrating. Ugh. it’s ironic how much power society gives women when they need someone to blame but not when we need to be empowered! So, women are powerful enough to control men’s minds and actions but not powerful enough to make decisions about their own bodies, hold well-paying jobs, or receive credit when credit is due. Hmmmm. Scapegoat much?

    This is the same line of thinking that’s used in countries and religions in which women are COMPLETELY COVERED. First, it’s longer skirts….next??? Total B.S.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Safe environment for male staff, eh? So, are their uncontrollable boners only caused by girls in years 11 or 12? Or will the girls in years 10, 9, 8, 7 be required to lengthen their skirts as well? Because the first thing this concern for the adult men said to me was that they’re a bunch of at least potential paedos.

    Seriously, does this principal know or care nothing about her female students? It’s all about the damned males. Does she not even know that it doesn’t matter how covered women and girls are, we’re still sexualised and assaulted? ::headdesk::

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I think somebody should start a “rent-a-niqab” service, and every single girl in a school where this is brought up should show up the next day in full niqab, with face-covering, and refuse to talk the whole day. I think this would both frighten and shame the school administration, the teachers and the boy students because I really don’t think western men and boys would be at all comfortable with a sea of covered girls/women. The girls could refuse to remove the coverings until administration apologizes to them for making them the problem.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. When I was 16, I was working part time as a cashier at Kentucky Fried Chicken after school and on weekends. One Sunday morning, I was sexually harassed by two male customers in their seventies. Keep in mind I was wearing a frumpy red polyester nightmare of a uniform and had absolutely no interest in men, especially men 50+ years older than me. When they wouldn’t stop, I reported it to my male supervisor. He told me to stop leading them on. When men decide to sexualize women, it won’t matter if we are naked or wearing a potato sack. It’s all about power, dehumanizing women and stroking male egos. I learned a valuable lesson that day and needless to say I didn’t work at KFC ever again.

    Liked by 5 people

  5. I’m especially concerned about the comment referencing “staff.” Which I take to mean, male teachers. If the current “work environment” is a problem for one or more of these adult males, the men who have this problem should be fired without further delay, before they have a chance to assault one of these children. Lowering the girls’ skirts an inch or two would be totally ineffective: we have a much more serious situation here, apparently.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. The is something else here, generally in Aotearoa/NZ there is very little policing of dress as such because at college (sometimes also called high school in NZ but not always), intermediate level and sometimes primary level they have uniforms with everything standardised. The schools usually have a ton of options, and I’ve checked and like the college my child goes to there is a pant option for girls as well as a skirt at this particular school. Our local college also has a sulu option (male skirt for pasifika students). The last drama was because a boy had his hair too long, even though he kept it tied up.

    There has been a recent court case involving students at a college here, see here:

    “Just three clicks through Facebook is enough. The most recent profile photo is sultry-eyed, long hair framing her face, lashes full with mascara. The next is similar, but with more cleavage. And then, there she is, just months earlier. Make-up free, no filter. A child. You can flick between them. Woman. Child. Woman. Child.

    She is 14. The cleavage shot was uploaded a few weeks before the girl and her friend sneaked out to have sex with two older boys in a parked car, at an orchard last July….”

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11615475

    The girls said they consented, all the students came under Youth Law provisions, and the judge therefore said nothing to see here. Let’s not worry about any possible power differential here, or any lack of maturity on the part of the younger students and any risks to them. I even saw an article calling for lowering of the age of consent based on this, completely ignoring that the law is to stop children being exploited by adults same as the law on the age you can start work.

    In addition to this there have been a number of cases with teachers caught with images of child abuse and/or sexually abusing students, many who were employed years before much stricter screening was introduced.

    I’m wondering if we should join the dots here, it may be misplaced concerns for the safety of girls rather than straight out policing of women even though we know girls and women are never safe and as you say it’s useless window dressing that doesn’t address any substantive issues about how girls and women are treated. Uniform code is pretty much the only way to do this, they can control that, but not the behaviours of students and others. Not sure if correct, but I can’t help thinking of the two in association.

    Liked by 1 person

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