TEEN

High Schooler Lauren Wiggins' Letter Nails Exactly What's Wrong With School Dress Codes

05/14/2015 01:45 pm ET | Updated May 14, 2015
Shutterstock

A Canadian teenager whose outfit was called "a sexual distraction" at school is speaking out against what she calls an unjust "double-standard" that exists with school dress codes -- and the general policing of women and girls' bodies everywhere.

Lauren Wiggins, a senior at Harrison Trimble High School in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada, was given detention Monday for wearing a floor-length halter dress to school; she was later given a one-day suspension after penning a poignant open letter to the school's assistant vice principal.

In the letter, Wiggins zeroes in on one of the most problematic aspects of high school dress codes as they relate to young men versus young women: Girls are typically blamed for boys' bad behavior, even if it's only anticipated. She writes:

If you are truly so concerned that a boy in this school will get distracted by my upper back and shoulders then he needs to be sent home and practice self control.

High school officials and Anglophone East School District administrators didn't immediately respond to The Huffington Post's requests for comment.

Wiggins, who turns 18 later this week, took to Facebook and shared a photo of her outfit that was considered "inappropriate" and "a sexual distraction" to the boys at school.

(Read a transcription of the letter below)

Today I received a detention because the outfit I am wearing is considered inappropriate and a sexual distraction to the...

Wiggins' letter:

Dear [Vice Principal] Sturgeon,

I have a concern I would like to bring to your attention. In today’s society, a woman’s body is constantly discriminated against and hypersexualized to the point where we can no longer wear the clothing that we feel comfortable in without the accusation and/or assumption that we are being provocative. This unjust mindset towards women is absolutely absurd. The fact that authority figures, especially males, can tell young women they must cover up their shoulders and their backs because it’s “inappropriate” and “a distraction” is very uncomforting.

Schools are the social building blocks in an adolescent’s life meant to teach them how to communicate and develop relationships with others and also learning about themselves and who they want to be. It’s preached upon us to be individual, to be ourselves. The double standard here is that when we try, we are then told we’re wrong. We may not truly dress, act or speak how we want because authority figures, and I use that term very loosely such as yourself, tell us we can’t. Yes, I understand there are restrictions to how much and how little of your body that shows, but that applies when people show up in their bikinis or bra and panties.

Though I do believe women should legally be allowed to publicly be shirtless considering males are, it’s mindsets like yours that keep that as something that is shamed upon. So no, Mr. Sturgeon, I will not search for something to cover up my back and shoulders because I am not showing them off with the intention to gain positive sexual feedback from the teenage boys in my school. I am especially not showing them to receive any comments, positive or negative, from anybody else besides myself because the only person who can make any sort of judgment on my body and the fabrics I place on it is me.

If you are truly so concerned that a boy in this school will get distracted by my upper back and shoulders then he needs to be sent home and practice self control.

Thank you, have a nice day.

Wiggins’ letter is just the latest pushback against the notion that women’s appearances cause others to commit sexual harassment or victimize people.

In 2013, a California high school banned girls from wearing popular styles of tight-fitting pants like skinny jeans and leggings because they were distracting to boys. Earlier this spring, a Michigan teen's tasteful backless dress got her booted from her own prom. And a Pennsylvania teen who is considered plus-sized was slapped with a suspension because her prom attire was deemed "too-revealing."

Harrison Trimble's dress code specifically bans halter tops and other shirts that expose bare shoulders or back, but the teen said she feels unfairly singled out since other banned attire like frayed jeans, bandanas and wallet chains are commonly worn at school unchecked, The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reports.

The Multiple Facets Of Modern Feminism
Suggest a correction
879 Comments

CONVERSATIONS