Oh man. School pictures. I remember those days, and not terribly fondly. I somehow inherited my father’s propensity for looking stoned or sick in every photograph, so you can understand why getting my picture taken wasn’t necessarily a thing to be celebrated. But, regardless of how I felt on the day, the finished product was always a reasonably accurate image of what I looked like that day, even down to the clothes I was wearing. Apparently, not everyone can expect this.
Students at Wasatch High School in Utah — all of them female students, mind you — are upset because the school went in and edited their photos so they showed less skin. What kind of skin where they covering up? Shoulders and clavicles, mainly.
Oooo la la! That shoulder skin is the hottest skin, am I right?
Go ahead. Click on the link and look at the slide show of the original and edited photos. Absolutely none of those photos is in any way inappropriate. All of the photos, in the slide show, at least, are tasteful. I would have killed to take such amazing yearbook photos in high school.
The school said that they photoshopped the pictures so they were more in line with the school dress code. According to the dress code of this particular high school, students are prohibited from “extreme clothing,” which includes “revealing shorts, skirts, dresses, tank shirts, halter or crop tops, spaghetti straps, etc.”
There are items on the list that apply to boys as well, but boy howdy, do dress codes disproportionately fall on girls. We’ve had this discussion before regarding yoga pants and leggings. The female body is not inherently sexual. But oh no! You better put this cardigan over your shoulders. You wouldn’t want to be immodest.
Being a girl can be terrible. No matter how bright or creative you are, there is so much emphasis on how you look. It takes up a lot of brain space. We’re judged harshly regardless of whether we put a lot of effort into our look or no effort. If we do, we’re shallow. If we don’t, well, why even bother with us, right? There’s no way to win, even when we follow these arbitrary rules to the letter.
The message sent by incidents like this are damaging. It’s another way for society to control women and make us feel responsible for other people’s behavior. Holly Mullin, executive director of the Rape Recovery Center, has seen what this message can do:
“If people out there sat with clients who come to the Rape Recovery Center for services, they would hear very often that this sort of message starts very early,” Mullin said.
“They start saying things like, ‘If I hadn’t worn that dress. If I hadn’t had my bra strap showing, if I had looked different, he wouldn’t have done this to me.’ That’s not OK. That is not the kind of behavior we want to be indicating to our children.”
These messages we send boys and girls early have real consequences for the rest of their lives. There is nothing inevitable about how we sexualize women’s bodies. There’s nothing inevitable about how we treat boys and men to see women and girls as sex objects. We can change it. We just have to want to.
But the real kicker in all of this? The school didn’t even apply their dress code photo editing consistently, which, incidentally, is the only thing they are sorry about.
Photo Credit: Fox13 Screenshot