American schools have this fascinating double standard when it comes to how male and female students are allowed to dress. Boys can wear pretty much anything they want while girls are not allowed to wear anything that might be "distracting" to boys and/or male teachers.
MANATEE - A Bradenton student said she was asked to cover her nipples with bandages this week after they became a distraction for other students at Braden River High School.
Lizzy Martinez, 17, decided not to wear a bra under her gray long-sleeve shirt on Monday, and school officials felt she became a target of her classmates' stares.
When her mother appropriately blew a gasket, it got worse:
Knop [Martinez's mother] said she also emailed Superintendent Diana Greene that evening, and that she received a phone call soon after.
Though Greene at first sympathized with Martinez, her mother said, she later said the girl’s “protruding” nipples may have distracted other students — a violation of the district’s dress code.
Martinez said she plans to stop wearing a bra in protest of what happened. On Monday, she tagged the school in a tweet that said, "Stop sexualizing my body @piratenationhs."
It's true that "protruding" nipples are distracting for teenage boys. That's perfectly natural in our society. However, part of what school is for is to teach our young people how to act like civilized adults and get over it. Is there some reason we can't be bothered to teach boys to not stare at girls and drool? To respect their personal boundaries? To treat women as people, not objects of lust?
Some people will immediately make the argument that this is not the job of the school; that such things should be left to the parents. If that's true, why are we OK with schools teaching young women to objectify themselves? To be ashamed of their own bodies? To take in account the reaction of men?
In other words, why is it permissible for schools to teach women to respect the needs of men, but not teach men to respect the needs of women? The answer is the same one that leads us to blame rape on what a woman was wearing or drinking while lamenting how rape accusations can ruin the lives of fine young men with bright futures ahead of them. It's the same answer that let Harvey Weinstein and thousands of men just like him in positions of power sexually abuse women for centuries with impunity. It's the same answer that spawned the #MeToo movement and is sending shockwaves of panic throughout our male dominated society.
Bras have their place, particularly for large breasted women (my wife regularly complains how annoying her size 38J chest is when it's swinging free), but not every woman is blessed (or cursed depending on your point of view) with breasts that require holders. Forcing high school girls to wear them to cater to the needs of boys sends the message that the needs of boys are paramount. This both reinforces the narrative that boys are the center of the world and that girls are window dressing.
Martinez had it absolutely right when she said, “The students that were laughing or snickering or talking about me, that should have been addressed, not me, because I wasn’t the issue there." Girls have breasts. Breasts have nipples. Don't scold girls for having the bodies they were born with, scold the students who still haven't learned how to treat women with respect.