Violations at Homecoming: The issue with Bishop Watterson's dress code

Several tweets and videos were recently released on Twitter from students, exclaiming that Bishop Watterson high school barred several of its female attendees from entering its homecoming dance. The reason: their dresses were deemed “too inappropriate”. The request was that they either come back in large black t-shirts, or leave unrefunded.

Half of the dresses dress-coded were hardly inappropriate. Skater dresses with regular skirt lengths and high-necks show nothing more than arms and legs, which, if I’m remembering correctly, are not super risqué. What saddens me, is that, in the video posted on Twitter, many of the girls donning these controversial dresses merely had curvier body types. Had I, a 17-year-old twig, worn any of the dresses, they would’ve most likely fit like a paper bag over my body, and I wouldn’t have had to fear being deemed inappropriate. Under no circumstances is it OK for women, especially younger girls, to be shamed for how their body is shaped, and I believe this is the greatest infraction committed by Bishop Watterson.

It’s a longstanding, well-known fact that dress codes have only ever really been for girls. If one is born with more curves and decides to wear a V-neck shirt, expect a visit to the principal’s office. If those cute shorts from last summer don’t cover as low on the thighs as they used to, better not even risk it. I couldn’t say for sure, but if a male student had worn a form-fitting dress shirt and pair of pants, it’s unlikely that any action would’ve been taken by the administration. So, what Bishop Watterson did isn’t exactly a surprise; frankly it’s just more of a grave disappointment.

To me, the actions taken by the Watterson administration are not unlawful, but rather morally wrong. Indirectly disgracing girls for the way their body was made can lead to self-esteem issues, and overall is not beneficial for the way women are viewed by society. Making the showing of a little skin a big ordeal creates the idea that women are more of a commodity rather than people.

However, what Watterson school officials did was not against their rules. It’s not a secret that it is a private, Catholic school, that is allowed to create more stringent rules. The Bishop Watterson handbook does in fact read “Dresses not permitted to be worn are: tight-fitting, cut-outs in the front or side, backless, shorter than two inches above the knee,”. My argument is not in the slightest that the school didn’t have the right to do this, and I can’t deny that it was completely within their guidelines. My own moral guidelines, however, not so much.

So, the problem isn’t that Watterson didn’t have the right to dress code their students, because they did. The problem, in my mind, was the embarrassment and feelings of violation that most likely every dress-coded girl endured. To dazzle oneself up for one of the most memorable nights of high school, only to go to the dance, be ogled at by administrators, and forced to leave, sounds like a terrible moment that I’m glad I’ve never had the chance of experiencing.

Girls are not objects. They are growing people who will have curves and features, but that shouldn’t stop them from being able to enjoy the best parts of high school.


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