If ever the devil’s plan was made to torment man
It was you, Jezebel, it was you, night and day, every way
— Lyrics from “Jezebel” by Frankie Laine
As I’m sure the majority of 17- and 18-year old high school seniors are doing this time of year, I’ve spent a great amount of time texting and snap chatting with friends about prom. Specifically, what everybody is wearing.
“Oh, that’s so pretty, Alex,” I said to my cousin in Woodbury, Minn., as she shared her shopping experience with me via Facetime.
“This would look so pretty on you,” she replied.
“I can’t. That’s against dress code at our school,” I sighed.
“But it’s not even showing a belly button! That’s ridiculous,” said Alex.
“Fashion is in the eye of the beholder and in this case we (students) are beholden to the dress code or we can’t go,” I sighed again.
Despite the heavy sighs, I do not believe that Homewood-Flossmoor High School administrators mandate the prom dress code for nefarious reasons; I believe that they do so because they genuinely care about the students and, rightly so, about the image the school portrays.
However, the mandated guidelines are too strict.
The guidelines read, in part, that “Most importantly, this dress code does not limit your ability to show your style and uniqueness.”
Perhaps not; however, they do, as written, strip us of our right to choose within reason. It strikes me as odd that we are called upon to use our judgment to vote for our next President, but not to decide if we wear a discerning two-piece prom dress that shows less skin than some tankinis.
Importantly, the guidelines unfairly target young women. The majority of the female population at the school is young women of color. It cannot be understated enough that, historically, women of color have been viewed as sexual simply because of their race and that all women, regardless of race, have been assigned blame for tempting men. It is part of our country’s narrative.
As a recent article in Bustle, an online magazine, noted: “The fact that women showing skin have long been deemed inappropriate is emblematic of a war for control — and one that shows the importance of breaking out of ‘[this] dichotomy.’”
Additionally, the over analysis of how much back is showing or where a dress falls on a bust line only serves to make many young women more self-conscious about their bodies, and further perpetuates a dangerous fallacy that our bodies are primarily looked upon by the opposite sex as temptation.
Indeed, I’d argue that this is more damaging to women than any of the “feelings” administrators may believe people get if they saw a young woman at prom wearing a dress with the hem 5 inches above the knee.
Should there be parameters? Of course. That said, the parameters should reflect that high school seniors, who with the benefit of four years of H-F rules under their belts, may be trusted without maximum fashion oversight … and reflect awareness about the social mores being perpetuated under such rule.
In August, I will walk onto the campus of Michigan State University prepared to move from Viking to Spartan feeling academically well-prepared. And to all my teachers, counselors, the staff, Principal Dr. Pitcock and all the administrators, I say a most sincere “thank you.”
As the class of 2020 prepares to enter H-F, and a new senior class prepares to lead in the fall, I hope that part of the time devoted to regulating what may and may not be worn by females is devoted to working with students to nurture a mindset that allows young men to see young women as regular people, rather than Jezebels in two-piece prom dresses.
Go Class of 2016!