05 August 2006

Busting Out

Image Credit: Unknown
I attended high school in a small school (59 people in my graduating class) in west Texas in the 1980's. Dress code for students meant no one could have untucked shirts; boys could not wear jewelry; and if any boy had hair longer than collar length, the principal came with a pair of scissors to the classroom and cut it then and there. There were more rules, few of which ever caused a fuss---and even then it was only with students who had recently moved into the area. There was also a dress code for teachers, although most of the items (such as no bare legs and no sleeveless tops) applied only to women.

I started my career in a junior high which also had a specific dress code. It was not quite as restrictive as the one I grew up with, but it helped a lot to have things in print. If you could let kids know you were paying attention to the small things, they often didn't test the boundaries of more important rules. At this point, the time was the early 1990's and saggy pants were all the rage with boys. Between this fashion statement and young ladies excited to show off their newly developed assets, we found the need to create a "No Cleavage" rule. We did have to explain this rule in more detail when we became a grades 6 - 8 school. There might not have been many opportunities for "top" cleavage displays, but plenty of undercleavage was still en vogue.

The district where I work now has nearly no dress code for students. It was a real shock to come here and discover that cleavage in all of its flavours wasn't banned from the classrooms. A few years ago, I begged the valedictorian at my school to buy a belt before college. Teachers had nicknamed her the "Queen of Crack." Working in a cooler climate means that the busty sort of cleavage isn't a problem much of the year...but make no mistake, there are plenty of sweet young things out there who are quite happy to pull out their spaghetti strap tops at the hint of sunshine. I fortunately haven't heard any stories similar to Coach Brown's of a parent claiming that their kid had a hot little body and should flaunt it. My guess is that it's only a matter of time.

I hadn't thought much about the "No Cleavage" rule for awhile---and then yesterday, CBS News posted this story about the controversy surrounding a similar rule that has been instituted in Arlington, Texas. Girls are now required to keep their girls covered during school hours. It appears that not everyone is in agreement with this new rule, although I'm not quite sure why. Perhaps there is a freedom of expression issue, but the fact is, most people don't get to wear whatever they want everywhere they want. Is it so much to ask that students and teachers don't have to see body parts they don't want or need to see during the few hours school is in session? Or is that too much of a Victorian expectation?

I doubt that we'll ever have a cleavage ban here. Schools are instead trying to define the kinds of clothes that are off-limits, as opposed to just simplifying things to "No cleavage (of any variety)." I'm all for keeping it simple...and keeping it covered.


Jenna said...

I have lobbied for a "no clevage" rule at my school... but to tell the truth, I doubt it would be enforced even if it was.

Anonymous said...

We HAD a dress code at the school where I taught, but it was rarely enforced. I never had any REAL problems with clothes the boys in my class wore, but occasionally a girl would show up wearing a revealing shirt or a skirt that was too short.

It may seem cruel to others, but I usually fixed this problem by cringing or gasping when I saw the offending outfit. I was fortunate enough to have female students who valued my opinion, so usually, the look was enough to keep them from wearing anything like that again. Often times, in addition to the look, I'd pull a female student aside and talk to her about respecting herself by keeping her body appropriately covered.

Once, a girl came into class with a VERY visible hickey on her neck. Of course, I didn't speak with her about this in front of the entire class, but I waited until she was with a small group of her female friends, friends who were already aware of the situation. I talked to all of them about hickies and convinced them that these are a man's way of staking claim to "his woman." I quietly advised this young woman to assert herself the next time she engaged in any hickey-producing behavior and demand that her boyfriend respect her by restricting his placement of hickeys to less-noticeable areas of her body. I think that, because I was young and straight-forward with her, she really listened to what I had to say.

It scares me that young women, girls really, are dressing and behaving in ways that so directly advertise their sexuality to men. I know that sounds kind of old-fashioned and conservative, but to me, it's more about having respect for yourself and not giving the whole world a free peep show.

Mrs. T said...

I TOTALLY agree with the no cleavage rules and also am a fan of the dress code. The thing I am sick of seeing is the thong that pops up over the low-rise pants. I think this year, I might present it to my students like this: "Do you want to see your teachers dressed like this? Not the teachers you WANT, but the teachers you HAVE? Yeah, well, we don't want to see you in various states of undress, either.