My shoulders distract you?

Today we welcomed – and also scoffed at, felt pity and low-key judged – the first year students into college. As is tradition, the most important clubs and committees in the college are required to give a short presentation to the students about…well, basically we just brag in hopes of getting members and volunteers.

Some of you may know this, but for the one very loyal reader from the Philippines and other newbies (I appreciate you) I must clarify things before I continue. I am part of the core committee for the Gender Issues Cell, which deals with any and all aspects of, you guessed it, gender (and sexuality) issues. So, not only do we request people to join us but also assure them that they are free to approach us in case they are in distress. I was supposed to talk for the cell with another girl, and we were sitting there in the auditorium, waiting for our turn to go on stage and yap.

So our principal was talking to the parents and students, and I was trying to give a damn about what she said. However, when she mentioned the term “dress code” my attention suddenly came back to what she was talking about. It was the regular thing – dress like you’re going to a college, not clubbing. That shorts belong at the beach. And then she says “because some clothes are distracting to others.”

Yes, that’s what she said.

Now, let me tell you this. Not once has anyone told me that my shoulders or legs are distracting them from learning. If I’m not singing at the top of my frog-like-voice during a lecture, I’m not distracting you. The only way my clothes can distract you is if they have some siren blazing from them. Other than that, my friend, you’re good to pay some attention in class and maybe actually learn.

And you know what? To be fair, no boy has ever complained of being distracted due to my shoulders in class (gasp! I wear spaghetti straps to college, breaking the divine dress code). The only people who have called me out when they see my bra strap or shoulders are faculty and staff members. I’m sorry, you apparently can’t teach when you see my tan lines? That’s such a tragedy. Must be so difficult to have a few extra inches of human skin right in front of you, gah, I can only imagine.

How dare I, a girl, be comfortable with myself? How dare I show my skin to the world? I love how my male friends wear shorts to college, without ever getting as much as a second glance. The moment it’s me, all hell breaks loose. Because screw my comfort while getting an education, it’s all about what others think I should be doing. And this exactly perpetuates the hierarchy, the sexism that we all complain about. Instead of telling us what to wear, how about telling others to mind their own goddamn business?

What we need it to support and encourage young students to be comfortable with their own body. When someone, irrespective of their sex, gender identity and sexual orientation, decides to wear anything they want to and walk into a public institution, it’s their right. They are not in the wrong, and they are definitely not the problem you should be pointing your finger at. If you are sexualising random body parts, we are not the problem. You are.


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