Teenager Fights Back Against Dress Code That "Shames" Girls' BodiesMargaret Eby

Somebody get this girl a medal. Lindsay Stock, a 15-year-old student in Quebec, recently ran into trouble for protesting a school dress code that shamed teen girls about their clothing.

Stock’s stand began when two school officials walked into her 11th grad classroom and asked them to measure the length of their shorts by pressing their arms to their sides. If the shorts weren’t longer than their fingertips, the students were asked to change clothes. (An incredibly arbitrary rule, given that the ratio of fingertips to shorts hem is not something straightforward in growing women.)

Stock created a media firestorm with her protest.

Stock created a media firestorm with her protest.

Stock refused. “When I started explaining why I didn’t understand that rule, they didn’t really want to hear anything I had to say, and it was in front of my entire class,” she told Canada’s CBC. “I felt very attacked.”

Rather than slink off and sulk, Stock mounted a protest. She printed out signs and posted them throughout the school. Her message was simple: “Don’t humiliate her because she’s wearing shorts. It’s hot outside. Instead of shaming girls for their bodies, teach boys that girls are not sexual objects.”

Stock was suspended for the day, but her signs sparked a local media firestorm.

“They should approach [the dress code] in a way that doesn’t target girls at least—for starters—because that’s the first problem,” Stock told the CBC. “They don’t really care what guys wear. They just kind of target the girls first.”

Dress codes are usually aimed at policing women’s clothing, not men’s and they are also so routine. and outdated. I vividly recall sulking about my high school’s ban on spaghetti straps and shorts.

But Stock’s message is one that everyone should hear. Blaming young women’s clothing choices is an irrational response to the larger problem, which is a culture treating women as if they are responsible for any sexual harassment they encounter. Stock’s stand is no small thing. It’s a poignant reminder of just how ingrained and insidious the culture of body shaming really is.

 

(Photos via CBC, Shutterstock)

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  1. In college there’s no dress code, and these people don’t have a hard time learning.
    I’ve literally seen girls walk around in bandeaus and booty shorts, but no professor told her to leave because she would keep the boys from learning. I think people just need to teach their to be mature about it. If they want to learn they will, and if they don’t they wont. If your child is doing poorly in high school, I promise its not the girls who are making them.

  2. The fact that this story was posted made me very happy, and then reading the comments pissed me off. I understand that maybe some of you have your own rules for how you wish to appear, but does everybody need to follow your standards? No. I go to school to get an education, not be sexualized by other students and teachers. Yes the dress code in most schools is aimed more at the girls. Guys in my school walk around wearing vulgar t-shirts. Things with half-naked girls on them, or “cool story babe, now make me a sandwich”. Hell, guys in my school actually take their shirts off in the commons sometimes. Granted, the dresscode at my school isn’t strictly enforced. I find it incredibly rude that the educational system cares more about what I’m wearing than my education. Does that seem fair to you? Why can guys wear tanktops in gym class, but girls get told to put on a t-shirt? Why can guys wear vulgar t-shirts, and then girls get questioned as to why their shirt is so tight? Why are some schools banning leggings and yoga pants? Because some hormonal teenage boy will jizz his pants if he sees a girls ass? Why should girls have to deal with making sure they’re not violating any school dress codes on top of having to qorry about school? I will never understand how people can say that this is completely fair.

  3. That’s right. We must end these differences. Women should be required to be shirts and skins just like guys. End the discriminatory practices and make this a better world. Women complain about wage differences but the biggest wage differences come in professional sports and movie salaries. Maybe these types of changes will end that….

  4. I can remember when girls were not allowed to wear pants in school. I thought that was stupid then, and I think a lot of the arbitrary rules are stupid, now. My own feeling is that people who are to some extant dependent can and should be advised if one’s clothes might be disruptive for the group or embarrassing for the student. Beyond that, the tendency is to enforce one’s own clothing ideas, as if they were laws of nature, rather than fashion strictures of a particular decade. It is useful to have diversity of apparel, if only so we don’t get distracted by difference as adults. If I can’t stop gawking at someone, then I need to grow up, and recognize that need, as well. As it is, school authorities might reach a conclusion that a student wearing shorts and a t-shirt is less likely to be concealing other materials, devices, or products that we would prefer to keep away from our schools. Could people come to think of our clothing choices as matters of courtesy to others, rather than as a battleground to confront authority?

  5. If I posted and it’s already on the comments, then I apologize, I didn’t see it.
    I used to use my very own line with my daughter when she was in school.
    “At or below the knee is fine by me”

  6. I used to use this line I made up ” At or below the knee is fine by me”

  7. This girl is extremely naive, arrogant amd needs to grow up…and so does the author. The “shame” theory is silly. The rules are there to keep the peace and keep the focus on school. Boys won’t be paying attention if girls are walking around in very revealing clothes. They aren’t calling girls sluts, geez! Plus I’m pretty sure there is a dress code for the boys. My school had dress code for everyone…as do most schools. The only thing I agree with them on is teaching boys to respect women no matter what they are, or are not, wearing, and that just because you are wearing an extremely revealing outfit doesn’t mean you want to be the object of rude comments or be sexually assaulted. HOWEVER, the only point of wearing revealing clothes is too show off your body sexually and get attention from guys. And that greatly increases the chance of some sicko wanting to say inappropriate things or worse. Clothing stores even separate their clothes into “going out/evening” clothes and “day/work” clothes. Hmmm, guess which type is more revealing??? Wonder why??? And also let’s stop putting all the blame on men (the real pervs are not included) and take some personal responsibility. Something this generation is seriously lacking! Every choice you make has consequences, learn to make good ones or be prepared to deal with the bad ones.

    • I don’t think the only point of wearing revealing clothes is to show off your body sexually and get attention. Sometimes it really is HOT outside, so you want short shorts and a tank top. Other times sensory issues can come into play as in I don’t like how it feels when I wear big heavy clothing items for people with sensory integration/processing issues. There’s also the fact that fashion as an art is always evolving and changing. Think of how covered up our great-great-great grand parents were. Do you think now that women can wear shorts of any length at all is for sexual attention vs. the long mandated skirts of the past? Just think of what swimsuits looked like in the past. Function can play a huge part in dress decisions, too. I mean try telling your great grandmother that unless she’s wearing a ball gown to the beach she’s looking for sexual attention from men. I doubt that. Maybe we shouldn’t be walking around with our butts hanging out of our shorts, but the fingertip test is not exactly a scientific form of measurement. I believe we have actual units of measurement these days. So for that point alone, it’s an outdated ineffective policy anyway. We should cover our bodies to the point in which we feel most comfortable and you just can’t use sexual attention as an excuse, it really does further the “rape culture.”

  8. What’s wrong with a nonsexist dress code?
    1. Shirts must have straps at least 5 inches wide.
    2. Clothing length must match the middle finger when hands are at the sides.
    3.. No hats inside the facility.
    4. No “gang” clothing.
    5. No pants that hang below the natural waist.
    6. No shirts with writing of any kind.
    7. Undergarments must not be visible.
    Just keep it sensible and aim it at EVERYBODY!

  9. Plus I know how teenagers are. They think they are grown. How do you know that this girl doesn’t think she’s grown?

  10. I find men in jeans and boots to be highly erotic. Whenever I see one, I can’t help but sexually harass him like the object he is. Therefore, jeans and boots for men should be banned.

    • Also, firefighter uniforms. And baseball uniforms. All baseball players period. And facial hair. I don’t need to be seeing that if I’m expected to focus. For real. :)

  11. As a rising senior in high school who has attended two high schools (one without a dress code per se and one with a fairly strict one), I can definitely say I see where this girl is coming from. As others have pointed out, perhaps her area is not that hot, but I hail from Charlotte, North Carolina, where temperatures can get to the eighties by March and just increase from there. May, June, August, and even September (the warmest months in which we attend school) are just brutal, especially if you are wearing long pants per dress code. The problem is that most shorts margeted at teenage girls are not long enough to adhere to many schools’ dress codes. That being said, not all shorts are created equal, and the fingertips rule is an unfair way of measurement simply because everybody has a different body. Girls with long torsos can frequently get away with much shorter shorts. There is also a degree of bias in the size of the girls in question–girls with thin legs can get away with shorter shorts than curvier girls or girls with muscle (at least in my experience). While I do understand that the dress code is present to promote success in the professional world and a degree of modesty should be upheld, teenage styles do not necessarily support a slacks-and-blazers fashion, and so teenagers find themselves faced with an umcomfortable dilemma. Also, to address the position of many commenters that the dress codes do not target women, think again. Many of the rules in my school district’s handbook are tailored to girls, and when I once questioned the dress code, I had a teacher tell me that the dress code is in place to ensure that us young ladies are not “dressing like hoochie mamas.” And there is definitely an element of sexuality misattributed to our dress. Elementary schools do not have dress codes, and it could be argued that this is because children are not seen as sexual creatures. If a seven year old girl can wear a pair of shorts that shows off her knees and mid thigh or a shirt that shows off her shoulders, why can’t I as a mature seventeen year old? As a final food for thought, the school I attend now is smaller and fairly selective, and we do not exactly have a dress code. Our teachers simply tell us to dress appropriately and maturely, and not to “wear anything [we] would not wear around our grandmothers”. And yes, girls do wear shorts and sleeveless shirts, and never once has anyone called them out for being distracting, innapropriate, or for disrupting the learning environment. Coincidentally, my school also does not waste inordinate amounts of class time with mandatory dress checks or morning lectures about the school dress code.

  12. It does seem a little blown out of portion, but we were all rebellious teens at one point in our lives. It’s cute. A little good ole’ fashioned civil disobedience. Hormones rage and make these kids do all sorts of things. Not sure why people on either side of the spectrum are getting so worked up. It was admirable; I don’t consider it a huge step in equal rights, but I liked the sentiment. And the world keeps on spinning.

  13. Oh, I just cannot wait for the time in the future when there are no such things as dress code or body shaming, and when people look back at the wars going on in 2014 between decent humans and body shaming, anti-feminist, anti-gay, anti-human assholes, and laugh. The reason it is so scandalous to feel okay about your own freaking body, is because of the centuries of rules and laws forced upon generations of girls, and even boys too sometimes, where skin showing is indecent, sin, distracting etc. I want to live in a world where I can walk down the street almost naked, if I feel like it, and not be in danger of abuse in any form. I want to live in a world where the way you dress, whether like a nun or like a slut, concerns no one but yourself, so that you can show up in thongs and a bra and still get educated, and still work in an office full of like-minded people with the same rights as you, same rights as the next person. People, we have to make this happen – to hell with dress code, anywhere, school or work or at presidential elections, to hell with clothes making a say as to whether the human rights apply to you, to hell with dress codes dictating which girls deserved rape and which, did not. I don’t want to have kids in a world like this, not until human rights mean human rights anywhere, any time, without loopholes. So, preach it, Lindsay Stock and others who stand up to this effed up system.

  14. Wow, I made the mistake of reading the comments… Nevertheless, I think you have all missed the mark (unless I missed a comment…).

    The problem is the fashion industry, not the schools, not the students, not even the parents most of the time. I say this as both a woman that was once a teenage girl (obviously) and now as a mother of young girls.

    How many of you have actually tried shopping for school appropriate shorts. It’s a very, very, very difficult task simply because there are not that many styles of shorts sold in stores that meet the “finger-tip-lenth” criteria.

    When I took my oldest daughter shopping for kindergarden school cloths I was horrified. Every skirt in her size was no more than 5 inches long from the waist band. Think about that, 5 inches of fabric to cover my 6 year olds behind and thighs. The shorts were even worse. And here lies the problem. Most companies don’t make shorts long enough to meet school dress codes, at least not in the little girls department. And yes, it is even harder when they get older.

    I challenge any of you to walk into a department store and actually count how many pairs of shorts you can buy on any given day that meet the “finger-tip-lenght” criteria. And keep in mind, you want to think like a teenage girl, which means you can’t wear the same pair twice in one week…

    And a side note – “Finger-tip-length” should not be an actual measurement. Many people have touched on this, I just wanted to reiterate. If you want to apply a rule, use a real number, i.e. 4 inches above the knee, so there are no discrepancies.

  15. Um…clearly this girl is in for a rude awakening after high school. The clothes she’s whining about being reprimanded for wearing wouldn’t fly in the real world. If its not appropriate for an office job, it’s not appropriate for school. Period. Sometimes rules are there to prepare people for life after high school. You can’t just go around doing whatever you want. Actions have consequences. It’s better that she learns that now.

    • ” If its not appropriate for an office job, it’s not appropriate for school. Period.”

      By that standard, High School students should be required to dress in business casual, if not full-on business attire. I don’t think your logic holds up. Unless, of course, you’re advocating all teenage boys should be in shirt and tie, and all teenage girls should be in business skirts and pant suits.

    • Marlana,

      THANK YOU! This is exactly how I feel about the situation. The school dress code says nothing about girls being sexual objects. They are simply being expected to follow rules. I appreciate your comment on this article.

  16. After this article, I have officially decided that I am done with HG. It isn’t the site it once was, and I’m sick of articles like this one. I agree with most of the commenters here that this girl doesn’t deserve a meddle, that these dress codes are not targeting women, that these dress codes are a part of the professional world. There have been too many articles like this one on this site as of late. Goodbye, Gigglers.

  17. I wish this girl had attended my high school! These codes and regulations are extremely toxic and also excuse sexual violence against women by saying they “shouldn’t have worn such revealing clothing”, etc. I really appreciate what she is doing because having attended high school in Florida (where in the summer it’s well over 100 degrees and it’s extremely humid) we were not allowed to wear sandals, tank tops, or shorts that were above fingertip length. We would pass out from the heat, over-sweat, etc. Also, I am 5’9″ and seeing as to how long my arms are in ratio to my growing body at the time, I would be sent home for inappropriate clothing choice. Although they were mid thigh for me, since my arms were long, I had to be humiliated, and also had to inconvenience myself and my parents all for the sake of this code. They would have to come pick me up from school (their jobs were over an hour away) and/or bring me a change of clothing. I would miss class, lunch, etc. Although this was a few years ago, I will never forget how ridiculous it was to be sent home for being comfortable in your own skin, (literally, it was so hot out that these clothes actually saved me from heat exhaustion). I am so thankful that this girl sparked a fire with this cause! Also, to the commenter that made a remark saying, “how would students feel, if their middle-aged female teachers started wearing shorts that barely cover their bottoms – a sight to get a sore eye and kill an appetite for a week, but, hey, it’s their rights, right?”. Please just STOP. Whether a woman is 15, 35, 22, 65, etc. they are who they are, they look the way they do, and they are comfortable in their own skin. Just because your own petty opinion on how someones body should look is shitty, doesn’t mean that others should take your rude opinion into consideration and make it law. Grow up. Also, re-read your statement. Why would students be appalled? Would it be because the natural aging process of a woman is unappealing to them? Their teacher’s, professor’s, etc are not there to be sexually appealing for their students, staff, faculty, etc. You are perpetuating the act of excusing sexual assault as being the woman’s fault for wearing clothing that “warrants” the assault.

    • Victoria- are you kidding me? A few extra inches of fabric and you are going to pass out from the heat??? I couldn’t even finish reading the rest of your post because that line was just too hilarious! You don’t need to wear a spaghetti strap tank top and super short shorts to keep cool in the summer. If that were true the world population would have died off a LONG time ago. And don’t give excuses about being tall. I’m short waisted with big boobs. if I can find a t shirt that covers my cleavage and isn’t too baggy/tight you can find a pair of shorts that would fit a dress code. Ever heard of Bermuda shorts? Shocker, they are even fashionable!

    • Dress codes “excuse sexual violence”? Excuse me? Can we please check ourselves before making such broad, albeit ignorant generalisations? I’m sorry if you were uncomfortable in high school but it is very irresponsible to perpetuate this sort of message. Not to be rude, but if your parents were willing to drive an hour to bring you a spare change of clothes because you didn’t prepare for the weather, you were very indulged and lucky. What will you do when your workplace has a dress code? These are things everyone has to deal with in the real world. I find it appalling that people are jumping on this bandwagon. Sexual violence is a serious issue, not something you use as an excuse to wear shorts to school.

  18. How about instead of blaming this sex or that sex, we start teaching our children to love themselves and respect themselves, both sexes. How about as a society we quit portraying perfect women as anorexic barbies and perfect men as rock hard muscle gods. How about we just start accepting all people for who we are. Blaming men is a feminist cop out to society’s problem of constantly making people feel less than what they are.

  19. Hey do what you hell just wear your unferwear to school when some one says its wrong just blame it on a boy heck everyone buys that garbage. Rules are rules its not about shamming a womens body thats just more fem nazi crap . Where is the shame help me see you wore shorts to school with you ass/cotchie hanging out and got called on. Owe tell boys were not sex objects what a cop out say what you mean. I want to wear what i want rules be damned. And the its hot out yhats bull to if two inches of fabric makes you over heat see a doctor. Last but not least imahine men started wearing shorts with their junk hanging out and blamed it on girls sounds kinda silly. So does your argument

  20. This is like a tree with two ends… While I agree with her that school officials under no circumstances should publicly shame a student, especially since science studies has proved the fact that a human has a stable psych only when they reach the age of 25, it might turn out to be just as damaging as shaming a toddler, I also agree (sort of) with school officials. I mean there is such thing as dresscode. How would students feel, if their middle-aged female teachers started wearing shorts that barely cover their bottoms – a sight to get a sore eye and kill an appetite for a week, but, hey, it’s their rights, right?

    Then again, I applaud this girl for standing up for human rights and the idea that the clothing problem seriously is the least problem in schools. Should really pay way more attention to anti-bullying and also that girls are not sexual objects… Then again, ladies, who are we trying to fool? I was 15 once, I know I used to wear tops that barely covered my nipples just so I’d get attention from boys, I’m sure this reason hasn’t changed. Argument that it keeps you cooler on hot days is invalid – come on, if you wear light dress you will stay much cooler than in tight jeans shorts and a top.

    Thank God I figured out at quiet young age that showing loads of skin is not really attractive…. See, being sexy is alright, but you can always be sexy and sophisticated, elegant. Also, big bonus – people will respect you more, if you cover up and still got it.

    Great suggestion – girls should watch TV show “Suits”. All females are super elegant, but, boy, there’s sexiness all over the place! ;)

    Anyways, ladies… Good luck and pay more attention to studies in stead of getting public attention for fighting commonly used dresscodes; whether you agree with it or not, you will have to obey it once you’re in grown up world (which is pretty much right after you graduate) and the sooner you will understand and accept it, the easier it will be later.

    • I know what you’re saying, but all of the clothes that those ladies wear on that show are not allowed in schools since they do not have sleeves. Same with in the workplace. However, I think some of the rules are antiquated and should be updated (esp as how puberty works makes some people’s arms way longer than others, etc) and I do think that people should be teaching boys not to objectify girls. This is not the only time this has happened. A girl got sent home from her prom because, even though her dress was up to code, some of the male chaperones thought it was a little too sexy for their own comfort.

      So while, she may not deserve a medal to some people, I like that she took a stand for something she believed in against a “powerful” group (as schools can be when you are a teenager). So colour me impressed! :)

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