Why I'm A Feminist Part Two

On 8th March 2016, I uploaded a post in honour of International Women's Day where I mentioned some of the more general, yet important reasons why I identify as a feminist. In this post, I wanted to talk about a specific thing that happened to me which really confirmed my passion for the subject. It is quite a lengthy post but once I started, I just kept remembering it all like it was yesterday and wanted to give you as much context and detail as possible.

The school/college I attend does something a bit different to a lot of schools and has three weeks or so before we break up for Summer where we move up to the next year, getting us settled in before Summer ready to get straight back into it in September. This meant that last year, after I finished my AS exams, I had a couple of weeks off before going back for the three weeks before the proper Summer break. When we went back, England had a heatwave where it was reaching 30 Degrees Celsius. Naturally, people started wearing less clothing; shorts, strappy tops and so on which 'weren't appropriate for the working environment.'

After wearing tops that covered my straps but showed some of my shoulders most of the year, I didn't expect to be told this wasn't allowed when it was the hottest day of the year so far and especially when plenty of other colleges had already broken up.

Staff had received complaints about students attire and so an assembly was held to discuss what was and wasn't 'appropriate' in which we were told, we couldn't have underwear on show- but no mention of covering the whole shoulder, couldn't have rips in clothing, no midriff showing, shorts and skirts must be of an appropriate length- closer to the knee than the hip and so on. Whilst these requirements applied to both girls and boys, the restrictions made things more difficult for girls by ruling out a lot more of what was in shops and wardrobes for teen girls. It was even more difficult for me given my height, which is exactly why I didn't wear shorts as I feel like they cover everything that should be covered but due to my long legs, they would probably have been considered of an 'inappropriate' length. We were also warned that anyone breaking these rules would be sent home.

After the assembly, I thought about what I'd wear the next day that wouldn't go against the rules but would be both comfortable and cool in the heat. I decided to go for the dress shown above with some skin coloured tights. I didn't have lessons that morning but decided to go in early anyway and get some work done- this was my first mistake! Our form tutor wasn't in that day so we'd all gone into the resource centre (library/computer area) as instructed and were sat completing some booklets to help with our uni applications. I was sat with three of my friends round a table when myself and two others were pointed at and told to 'go to SF14 now' along with a couple of others in the room. I didn't really know what was going on but headed off anyway and waited with over a dozen other girls and one boy for the teachers to finish their rounds.

When they came into the room, they explained to us that what we were wearing was inappropriate either for showing our shoulders, having rips, for wearing something that was too short or a few other possibilities. We were then told we had chosen to put clothing before our education as we had made the conscious choice to go into college wearing something 'inappropriate' even after being warned yesterday and therefore we had to go home and get changed. At this point I was so mad and humiliated that I didn't really know what to do. I went back to the resource centre to pick up my things, moaning all the while with my friends who also had to get changed, with several people along the way questioning why I had been sent home given that what I was wearing was fine. Not only that but I had the same style dress as one of my other friends who had not been sent home, not to mention the same dress as at least four of the teachers we passed. I had wanted to find out why I'd been sent home, which I can still only assume was that my shoulders were on show as that is what others wearing the same style top had been sent home for and I was sat down so my legs couldn't be seen (plus the skirt did fall closer to the knee than hip and I had tights on too). The only reason I didn't stay and ask the teachers during their discussion was I didn't want to be embarrassed further and I didn't stay and speak to them privately as I was on the verge of bursting into tears which I did not want to do.
I wish I'd have gone home and stayed home but being the type of student that I am, I didn't want to miss my lesson in the afternoon. Looking back I should have done as my whole day had been destroyed and I couldn't concentrate on anything in the lesson anyway. Once I got home, my dad asked what I was doing home and that was when I just burst into tears and not just a few drops- the whole waterworks! My brother had a friend over which made it worse as I didn't want them to see the blubbering mess as well.

Eventually, I calmed down, got ready for the second time that day and returned to college in a top and jeans, which looked less smart than the dress I had worn originally and was a lot hotter and therefore more uncomfortable. By this point, I seemed to be pretty big news as I'm not the sort of person who normally steps out of line, let alone gets sent home, and everybody seemed to be shocked about it especially given what I was actually wearing. Not only did the students seem surprised but so did the teachers who had been emailed a list of those that had been sent home. This meant, teachers brought it up a couple of times the next day as well as they were surprised to see my name, plus a few others, on the list- it definitely wasn't your typical 'sent home list'.

Whilst a lot were unhappy, not everyone did something about it however, I am the sort of person that should a situation arise where I feel I (or others) have been treated unfairly, I will do something about it. So, in true writer form, I went home that evening and drafted a letter explaining how I felt and asking for a reason as to why it happened in the way it did and had the outcome it had. I emailed it that night and our head of sixth form was good at responding, suggesting I go in and speak to her the next day, which I did. I never really got a proper explanation as to why my clothing was inappropriate as they didn't know exactly who was wearing what but based on my letter and explanation she said it sounded like it should have been okay and she did apologise for making me feel the way I did.

As you can probably tell by the length and passion gone into this post, it's not something I've forgotten at all, in fact I'm pretty sure I could recount the whole event exactly as it was, as it is ingrained in my memory. I can honestly say this was the most humiliated, embarrassed, hurt and angry I've ever felt which is probably why it still makes me so annoyed today.

The reason this solidified my feelings towards feminism was because of the inequality in the clothing options that I felt existed in the school, as although boys had some guidelines to follow, they were easier to cater to, from what was available in high street stores. Not only that but the whole situation humiliated me and made me feel awful and quite self-conscious, for a good while afterwards, that what I was wearing was too short or too revealing, which is not something I've ever had seriously play on my mind before. Even now, I do feel a bit nervous when I wear that dress but at the same time, I know I shouldn't do as there is nothing inappropriate about it, especially as a Summer, day time dress. All in all, I don't understand why a girl should be made to feel so terrible for having their shoulders on show.

Disclaimer: I've not written this to slag off my sixth form as although it still bothers me now, it has been dealt with and I don't hold it against them (too much), I just wanted to share my experience with you to maybe show you some slightly smaller ways that gender inequality exists in our society.

If you read to the end of this post, well done and thank you, I hope you found it interesting! If you've had any similar experiences or have a personal reason as to why you identify as a feminist, let me know in the comments as I'd love to read them. If you liked what you read and what to read more, you can follow me on my social media links at the top right of my blog or in the sidebar to the right of this post.

Love, Steph x

4 comments

  1. I remember this!
    I could have very much been sent home that day as I was wearing a tshirt and a pair shorts that came about half way down my upper thighs. Other girls had been sent home for shorts the same length as mine. I'm rather sensitive about my upper thighs so I tend not to wear super short shorts, and like you my decision to wear them was purely because it was very hot and I had to walk a mile with minimal shade.

    I felt anxious all day that day and I remember I actually hid from teachers in classrooms and round corners (at one point I stood behind a desk to hide my legs) in a desperate attempt to not be sent home as I had a class that afternoon. Contrary to the teachers' beliefs my decision to wear shorts was a concious effort, an effort to keep cool, but my education was more important than my appearance. Regardless of my appearance, sexualised by others or not, I wanted to go to class.
    It was a horrible experience and I had never been made to feel so concious about my physical appearance.

    (I like your dress by the way!)

    Poppy :)

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    1. It was also so infuriating- the way it was done, the reasons behind it, the way so many people were made to feel. I don't think this memory will leave me for a long time! You summed it all up nicely and it goes to show just how many people were affected by it whether they were sent home or not!

      Thank you! X

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  2. That dress is absolutely stunning and not inappropriate in anyway! You should have never been sent home for wearing an outfit like that! My sixth form isn't too bad but at school all the uniform restrictions were aimed at girls. Although I do remember boys not being allowed to wear earrings but girls could which is wrong. I definitely think schools/ colleges need to re-evaluate how they market clothing restrictions so they apply to both genders X
    Fab post by the way

    Thrifty vintage fashion

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    1. Thank you! I wholeheartedly agree, I understand there are some things that apply more to one gender than another but not to the extent in which dress codes are created and enforced. I never understood the guys not being allowed to wear earrings rule either but that wasn't an issue at my sixth form. X

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