My thighs and exactly what is wrong with them

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The radical notion that women are people seems to finally be beginning to sink into our society, which is quite nice. We're able to vote, have our very own bank accounts, and even sometimes (sometimes) get paid time off after we have babies so that afterbirth doesn’t spill out all over our desk!

But as someone who attends a high school with a dress code, I’m beginning to question how widespread this cultural change really is. It seems that women’s thighs are still considered incredibly offensive. The upper parts of my legs may be surrounded by the same organ that covers the rest of my body, but whenever I expose this particular part of the organ at school, I cause a scandal.

First, they give me a look that, to their credit, they have really mastered — a look that says

“oh dear, you and your thighs are really letting us down. Your visible legs indicate that you can’t possibly be all that bright and you of course must also have some daddy issues you need to deal with.”

This look seems like it should be enough, but the bare flesh above my knees compells them to comment as well. They say things like, “Miss Hague, you need to buy another skirt,” or, “Ella Hague, your skirt is rather short," or, the least subtle and my personal favorite, “If you bent over, you wouldn't like what others can see from behind."

First of all, no. Just no.

Second, even though you have made it very clear that my skirt is too short, I don't need another one. I  happen to like offending you with this one.

Third, I swear I shall never bend all the way over, but if I ever felt the need to do so, don’t worry: I would make sure to wear my best underwear for the occasion.

Interactions like these are normal events for my friends and me. But one incident a couple of months ago wasn't. I was wandering through my school’s corridors in between periods, when a female teacher stopped a friend and me to comment on the length of our skirts, which she claimed showed a solid 4 inches more thigh skin than the would’ve liked to see.

This teacher then took us into her classroom where a few students were still mingling and threw it back to the 1950s: she had us kneel on the ground. I half expected her to pull out a cane and start thwacking the offending bare thighs with it, but instead she went on about how our school’s currently impeccable reputation would apparently be single-handedly tarnished by our scandalous skirts. No matter that our school is full of smokers, drugs users, and drinkers and students are pretty much applauded for showing up at all; Somehow our exposed thighs would be the thing to bring our school down.

Then, the teacher asked us what word would come to other people’s minds when they saw girls wearing skirts like ours. While kneeling on the hard carpeted floor, seething, I actually had no idea what she was insinuating. She then looked around the room at the other students who were still in the classroom and I realized she wasn't asking a rhetorical question. “SLUTS, miss,” offered a girl behind us. “SLUTS.” She just nodded her head, told us to think about our obviously appalling actions, and released us.

I walked out of the room completely shocked, wondering what the hell had just happened. I was so taken aback by the fact that this teacher, who I had actually quite liked and even respected before she did this, thought that what she did was a perfectly okay thing to do in 2017.

I considered protesting outside the teacher’s room and getting petitions signed, but in the end i never did any of these things. To be completely honest, I was afraid to. Instead, I have since thought a lot about why so many teachers find my thighs so repulsive and sinful. The first reason seems to be that these teachers are concerned that an extra four inches of my skin is enough to distract every boy in the school from learning. It appears they believe that my skin is the sole cause of the underachievement of boys in my school. The acid-user in the back had such high hopes of going to Harvard, but I just had to walk in with my exposed thighs and ruin his dreams of becoming an Ivy League graduate.

Similarly, my thighs apparently distract teachers from teaching. Students have been known to scream and hurl chairs at each other in classes at my school, which the teacher generally handles quite calmly. But when they make the mistake of glancing down and laying eyes on the extra four inches of thigh I had the nerve to expose, they're done for the day. They are either so offended and confused by my decision to be so controversial that they risk going into shock, or are so turned on they cannot concentrate any longer and need to lie down to regain composure. I put this to the test the other day when a teacher commented on the length of my skirt. When I simply asked whether or not my thighs turned her on, she was horrified. So I assume the former reason is to blame.

Then there is the infuriating double standard that underscores it all. Other teachers don’t want us to show our bare skin, yet boys will regularly take off their shirts in the courtyard and expose their entire chests — a sight at which teachers will not blink an eye. Boys will roll up their shorts a lot higher than my skirt and no one will say a thing. How is that equal or fair? Of course they should be able to show their skin, but so should we, goddammit.

In comparison to other issues of sexism, the length of girls’ skirts seems like a tiny thing. But it ultimately sends a message that adds up to so much more. It is yet another way our society sexualizes young women and tells them that they need to modify their bodies to prevent other people's discomfort. Additionally, the idea that women’s decisions to display their bodies should be frowned upon needs to go. Women's bodies, like anybody else’s bodies, are just cells made up to look differently. Why is the extra fatty tissue on some of these bodies scandalous or unacceptable?

Teachers shame us for exposing our bodies and send letters home and report us to detention when we question their logic. Perhaps instead they should worry about students turning up to class, not tut tut-ing every morning at my skirt. They should make kids want to learn, not humiliate them by shouting at them down a corridor about their skirt length. They should work on extending people's knowledge, not the length of their clothing. Don't tell me I’m distracting: teach boys to have some self control and not be so easily distracted. Don't say “boys will be boys.” Teach boys to be kind, respectful, intelligent, well-educated, and not sexist.

More articles by Category: Body image and body standards, Feminism, Girls
More articles by Tag: Gender bias, High school



Ella Hague
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