The Shoulder Smoulder

This isn’t a post about why it’s okay to defy dress codes– after all, they’re often implemented for a reason- however surely we must question the rules in order to imageestablish whether the logic behind them is fair or not. Because the guy that sang that song that was used in the Cadburys advert a few years ago which then got covered by Ella Eyre said ‘we don’t have to take our clothes off to have a good time’ which presents a nicely rounded smorgasbord of options. We can strip if we want to but we by no means have to. However at the moment, this doesn’t seem to be the case. Recently minimal clothing has become synonymous with forcing little girls in spaghetti straps to leave school to prevent their shoulders from being a distraction to the boys. In this situation, the child was five years old.

In the UK, the weather isn’t hot enough for shorts and even if it was most schools have uniforms which control what you wear, so although you can be disciplined for rolling your skirt too much, from what I’m aware, our system is nowhere near as critical as that in (for example) American schools where girls are actually sent home due to their outfits. Now when it comes to feminism there is probably no issue whiter than discussing how middle class American teens are being sent home for exposing too much St Tropez tan but the other day I saw this comment under one of Emily Ratajkowski’s Instagram posts and I was too shocked to function. So I think it’s worth talking about.imageThere are just so many flaws in their argument (and note how I’ve kept their name in so you can go comment about how much of a wanker they are on all their pics) for example their emphasis on male attention. Now I’m neither a teacher or a sexuality-mind-reader however when people say girls’ bodies are ‘distracting boys’ they’re assuming that a) every boy in the class is heterosexual (considering I live in Brighton this is highly unlikely) b) this automatically means they fancy her and c) if she doesn’t leave the room right this second they’ll be distracted and… and then what? What are schools so afraid of that they’d rather ask the girl to leave the lesson than have a boy distracted for 30 seconds before turning around and focusing on the board again? Is this not eimagequally patronising for the boys because we’re indicating they can’t hold their wanks in until their next lunch hour? Plus, what’s so distracting about shoulders? Unless these were genetically modified Avatar shoulders which play Coldplay’s greatest hits every time you raise your arm to answer a question, I remain unconvinced.

And speaking of sexualities, what about the lesbians? You never hear a girl being asked to leave because her V-neck was distracting another girl from doing algebra, so rather lesbians are really good at multitasking or- here’s a super novel idea that’ll blow your mind- they recognise it’s literally not an issue. It’s just some cloth and then the cloth stops and it’s skin. Magic. By asking someone to leave because they’re showing skin indicates that showing skin is wrong, but realistically what is inherently wrong about it?

When we look at reasons why someone would wear a t-shirt and no tights to school they seem pretty practical: hot weather, excessively sweaty (#relatable), comfort, easy to get in and out of during pit stops aka tampon changes, everything else is in the wash- basically a list that extends a lot further than cunchurch2’s (quick question: does that mean there’s a cunchurch1?) belief that outfit choices are driven solely by attention.Newsflash: what you wear isn’t synonymous with how you want to be treated otherwise the fact we don’t wear crash helmets all the time would imply we all want to be hit in the face. All the time. image

And even if you do dress for attention, what’s the problemo? What’s the difference between wearing a backless dress and getting your tongue pierced- why should the latter be tolerated if not the former? I’ve honestly never taken great offense about anything anyone’s worn (except those grotesque MENINIST hoodies ew ew typing the word makes me want to vom) and can’t say I’ve been ‘distracted’ in any way so if it’s not hurting anybody then why is it an issue. Cunchurch2 favours brains over sexiness but how can we develop brains if we spend the whole time in the headteacher’s office because there’s period stains on everything except our denim shorts. (Plus, realistically by wearing a short skirt on a hot day you’re showcasing more brains than the kid in a jumper #JustSayin)

Before you say ‘this prepares you for work’ think about if it actually does, because I’m sceptical. When you go to work you are rather given a uniform or a strict dress code which is appropriate for the product you’re selling/service you’re providing/people you’re meeting, at school you’re thrown into a classroom and only told you can’t wear your £12 Zara crop top once you’re wearing it, for reasons that are never properly explained to you and in order to prioritise a boy’s needs over your own. If a boy isn’t mature enough to sit behind a girl with bare imageshoulders then should he really be sitting there without holding Mummy’s hand?

If we tell girls to leave a room every time they wear weather appropriate clothes that they feel comfortable in, we’re simultaneously discouraging them from feeling comfortable, purposely disciplining them so they cover up next time and reducing their body confidence by making them feel conscience that everyone’s looking at them. We’re instilling the idea that shoulders are rare, precious gems that shouldn’t be seen. We’re putting completely irrelevant pieces of fabric above the education of our future engineers, CEOs and MPs, all of which seems completely unfair. Soz cunchurch2, you’re a twat.


10 thoughts on “The Shoulder Smoulder

  1. She & the Whale says:

    this situation reminds me a lot of the school i went to in beijing as a child, it was a boarding school that was like half millitary and half prison. The dress code is so strict and girls under 13 years old were not allowed to have hair longer over the neck. And those who do will be sent to a little room to get their hair cut away and then shamed by the entire school. Because feeling beautiful or feminine was almost a sinful crime and need to be punished, so the children will regain their purity, innocence and humility. (they also measure boys hair by inches and trim them if it’s too long) Although the reason they gave is not becuase girls long hair would be distracting for the boys, but she would distract herself from her education and they did it for the sake of her future. It really felt like the school Jane Erye attended as a little girl to me and I can totally write a blogpost about it. I know that’s very extreme compare to how it’s like in the western world and I was stunned by the contrast when i moved to sweden where everybody should feel good about themselves and feminism is almost seen as common sence. I cant imagine how the rest of the world is treating our little girls and Im devasted to see this is happening even in the US.

    Liked by 1 person

    • sazsinclair says:

      Oh my goodness I had such a similar experience!! I was in boarding school too (although in England so not as exciting as Beijing) and all the boys hair couldnt be past their collar or touch their eyebrows, and girls hair HAD to be tied up and if it was coloured or they thought it was an unnatural colour you were asked to change it immediately. Not the slightest bit of makeup was allowed we used to have makeup checks every friday and girls nails were not allowed to be long and they used to check for size and you used to have to cut them down. Drove me stir crazy.. yes dress codes are needed sometimes but we dont need to be like robots – its just teaching people that being yourself isnt allowed. Really really loved this blog post as a whole its definitely a topic which doesnt get as much attention as it should!!

      Sarah |

      Liked by 2 people

      • She & the Whale says:

        Oh that sounds horrible! I remember we had many classmates moved to the UK or US as teenager and we were super jelly because it felt like they are going to some hogwarts school while rest of us stuck in the communist prison school… I don’t understand how dangerous could it be to let children have some freedom about their body. Oh well I don’t have children of my own so I guess i shouldn’t be judging here but still, nobody should be treat like robots and regularly get their body checked and trimmed against their will.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jess says:

        My school brought in makeup checks just as I left which I thought was especially disgusting- you can’t live in a society where the media/advertising/bullying etc makes girls feel like they have to cover up with makeup and then when they’re at the peak of insecurity take that comfort blanket away!? It’s as if the school are trying to liberate girls when actually all the girls want is some freedom and self-expression. I agree that dress codes are sometimes needed but making sure hair doesn’t touch your eyebrows is beyond a sensible measure. Thanks for reading and commenting x


    • Jess says:

      This is so surreal! I had no idea schools took it so extremely. I think when you tell children that something (like hair) is a distraction then suddenly it becomes a distraction. If you just let people do their thing then no one really cares but once you say THIS IS A PROBLEM then people start noticing and making a fuss about it. Your perspective is so unique though so thank you for sharing!


  2. Minerva says:

    I love the points you made in that post, especially because I went to a middle school with an insanely strict Dress Code (I’m talking at the start of each day we all had to stand with our arms raised so that our teachers could check to see if our shirts had lifted to reveal any scandalous midriff levels of insanity). I also think that, not only is it patronizing to assume that boys are easily distracted by girls’ clothes; it is dangerous. It sends a message to young boys that they are not responsible for controlling their own impulses and that it is acceptable, natural male behavior to sexualize and objectify females.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Jess says:

      Yes yes yes. Couldn’t agree more. Sexualising young girls shouldn’t be accepted and tolerated in schools by turning it into policy. Instead why not have lessons about self control, respect and consent? Telling boys that girl’s skin is a distraction suddenly makes it a distraction and that’s not the culture I want to live in.
      Your school sounds so intense! We had to roll our skirts down but luckily some teachers were more lenient than others- what I find weird is that they punish girls for rolling but they never actually question why they’re doing it and try to create an environment where girls don’t feel the need to look good/impress boys/sexualise themselves through their uniforms.


  3. tartantights says:

    Reblogged this on Tartantights Blog and commented:
    Hey Readers As you know I very occasionally reblog posts from other bloggers, but every so often you’ll read a post with such an important message you simply have to share it. This post from Half Girl Half Tea Cup is a cracking example of this. Written on the issue of dress codes and why they can be sexist and discriminate against women and girls, this post entitled The Shoulder Smoulder is a powerful , passionate, principled piece of writing and well worth a read.

    Love And Best Wishes
    Gayle X

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jess says:

      Thank you thank you!! Reposting is like the highest honour a blogger can get! I’m glad the post resonated with you, I had no idea how it would do when I randomly dragged it up from the archives so I’m so grateful for your positive response. I hope your readers enjoyed it xo


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