Shoulders Can Be Distracting

School dress codes have always existed, but I’m finding the leash is getting shorter and shorter and the list of rules growing longer and longer. Hannah and I went shopping the other day and it was no small task to acquire things that would not find her flagged and calling me from the front office. I don’t recall giving the dress code much thought when I was a kid. But now. Now it’s a huge thing.

We’ve ventured on several shopping trips trying to find shorts that obey the rules. Skirts that aren’t miniature. Tops without cutouts. Shirts that aren’t sleeveless. But I had never thought about it much beyond the inconvenience.

Then one day I lose my head and hold up a sleeveless top in the middle of H&M. Hannah says, exasperated, “We can’t wear sleeveless because they say shoulders are distracting.”

I just stood there still looking at the “offensive” shirt. We live in Florida. It’s basically a jungle, but with palm trees. Sleeveless is a logical choice.

“I have a hard time understanding why it’s our job to manage the distractions and reactions of boys. Why do we have to dress in a certain way to accommodate them? There’s nothing wrong with having arms and legs and shoulders! It sends the wrong message,” she explained.

She was basically saying what I read on NPR:

In Quebec, the fliers Lindsey Stockton posted around her school were inspired by an online image that read: “Don’t humiliate her because she is wearing shorts. It’s hot outside. Instead of shaming girls for their bodies, teach boys that girls are not sexual objects.”

“I know…it seems kind of dumb,” I replied. I searched for more commentary, but that’s all I could offer. No answers. But I liked that she was asking the question. Always getting closer to that sun.



  1. I felt like this whole “modest” dressing requirement was mostly in conservative countries like mine (Pakistan)….but it seems this is more a global phenomenon now. How is it that it’s all going in the opposite direction? I see the news and it breaks my heart when people blame the victim for getting raped….it’s unbelievable and so very sad that this is what our world at large is becoming.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I know that this isn’t the direction you were going in, or the point you were making. But my “wonderings” are somewhat related I suppose. I wonder, what is the dress code for the boys? Are they allowed to wear, for instance, tank tops and tight shirts when girls are not? Because I’ll be honest – in my day (sand dress code). The football and basketball players in tank tops and muscle shirts were “distracting”. (saying this with a lot of irony, but still wondering)


  3. I grew up in the Southern United States in the 1950s and 1960s. Everything was covered–little white gloves, etc. Then came the 1970s with “hotpants” and more is being revealed. Today I work in a gym and everything is uncovered. Gym clothes are smaller than the swimsuits I used to wear. I see massive displays of cleavage, butts and shoulders. I’m uncomfortable and given a choice I would institute a more stringent dress code. I remind myself of my parents when they said, “You can’t go out dressed like that.”


    • Honestly, I understand that there has to be guidelines because clearly not all people have good sense about what’s appropriate and what’s not. I could just do without the whole “it’s distracting to boys” rhetoric she’s told me about.


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