Schools Just Can’t Stop Making Teen Girls Feel Ashamed About Their Bodies

When the dos and don'ts of acceptable prom-wear stretch for 19 pages, we’ve got a problem

An excerpt from Boylan Catholic High School's 19-page prom dress rules.

Tickets? Check. Transportation? Check. Dinner Reservations? Check. A dress? Well, the dress part is way more complicated than it used to be—and we’re not talking complicated à la Molly Ringwald’s sewing pattern in Pretty in Pink, either.

Nowadays high school girls headed to prom might have to consult a magnum opus of dress code guidelines to figure out whether or not their dress will be acceptable to campus administrators—or they might have to send a picture of their outfit to the principal for approval before purchasing it. And as one Florida teen found out in late April, thanks to confusion over all these rules, girls who think their dresses pass muster might still be denied entry to prom.

[quote position="left" is_quote="true"]Why are schools discriminating against girls based on their bodies?[/quote]

Zhade Allen, a senior at Sandalwood High School in Jacksonville, Florida, called her mom on prom night sobbing after being told she couldn’t enter the event. The teen was told by school staff that her purple and black gown, which was floor-length in the back and knee-length in the front, was against the rules.

“She’s crying, she’s like, ‘Mom just come and get me,’” Nydia Allen, Zhade’s mother, told Action News Jax. “I said, ‘No, you’re going to the prom.’ We spent all this money, and it doesn’t make any sense for them to say it’s inappropriate.”

The outraged mom told the station that she purchased the garment for her daughter after carefully reviewing the dress code guidelines the school provided. (A spokesperson for Duval County Public Schools responded that “students were made aware in advance that prom dresses must be floor length.”)

Nydia Allen posted a photo of her daughter in her prom dress to Facebook, asking her friends, “Was this dress inappropriate for prom?”

While male students are commonly advised to wear a suit or tux and to skip the sneakers, plenty of prom dress codes have come under fire in recent years due to their overwhelming focus on what female students are wearing. Boylan Catholic High School in Rockford, Illinois, sparked a firestorm after it released a 19-page document that detailed its prom dress code.

You read that right: 19 pages. Two pages were devoted to boys’ attire—and 14 detailed exactly what girls could and couldn’t wear. One line in particular drew the ire of students and experts: “Some girls may wear the same dress, but due to body types, one dress may be acceptable while the other is not.”

“This line in the code is discriminatory and supports body shaming,” Robyn Goodman, a professor and a body image expert at the University of Florida, wrote in an email to the Rockford Register Star.

“Telling one girl she has to restrict her body by only wearing certain fashions and telling another her body is fine for any fashion is sending a message about what is the ‘right’ body to have and what is the ‘wrong’ body,” added Goodman. “These messages are often damaging to girls. We are not allowed to discriminate in the U.S. based on race, disability, gender, age, etc. ... So why are schools discriminating against girls based on their bodies?”

An excerpt from Boylan Catholic High School's 19-page prom dress rules.

In some instances, the emphasis on how much skin girls may or may not show on prom night seems downright creepy. Stanton College Preparatory School, a magnet school that’s also in Jacksonville, was dragged on social media in late March after a photo of a school display that labeled girls as good or bad depending on their prom dress choices was shared by a student.

According to Amie Hess, a sociology professor at Meredith College in Raleigh, North Carolina, this kind of flyer “suggests that young women’s bodies are objects to be consumed by men, and that it is up to women to police the behavior of men,” as she told The Boston Globe.

“They must modify themselves in order to keep men’s impulses in check, placing the burden of sexual responsibility solely on the shoulders of young women,” Hess said.

That’s a problematic message to send to female students, particularly given long-standing research from the American Psychological Association. Ten years ago, a task force from the organization issued a report that detailed how the sexualization of girls is linked to mental health challenges such as depression, low self-esteem, or the development of an eating disorder. It appears America’s schools haven’t caught up on their reading yet.

As for Zhade Allen, the teen ended up donning black tights so she could attend her prom. She’ll graduate and leave Sandalwood High behind her, but it’s hard not to wonder how her experience at what was supposed to be a milestone celebratory event will affect her.

Zhade’s mom is looking for clarification and an end to double standards, saying to Action News Jax, “She can wear the skirt to school, but she can’t wear it to prom? What’s the difference?” Given how happy and confident Zhade looks in the gown, hopefully school administrators in Jacksonville—and everywhere else—can come up with a sensible answer before prom 2018.

via Alan Levine / Flickr

The World Health Organization is hoping to drive down the cost of insulin by encouraging more generic drug makers to enter the market.

The organization hopes that by increasing competition for insulin, drug manufacturers will be forced to lower their prices.

Currently, only three companies dominate the world insulin market, Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi. Over the past three decades they've worked to drastically increase the price of the drug, leading to an insulin availability crisis in some places.

In the United States, the price of insulin has increased from $35 a vial to $275 over the past two decades.

Keep Reading Show less

Oh, irony. You are having quite a day.

The Italian region of Veneto, which includes the city of Venice, is currently experiencing historic flooding. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has stated that the flooding is a direct result of climate change, with the tide measuring the highest level in 50 years. The city (which is actually a collection of 100 islands in a lagoon—hence its famous canal streets), is no stranger to regular flooding, but is currently on the brink of declaring a state of emergency as waters refuse to recede.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

Since the International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling in 1986, whale populations have been steadily recovering. However, whales in the wild still face other dangers. In the summer of 2018, four Russian companies that supply aquariums with marine animals captured almost 100 beluga whales and killer whales (aka orcas). After a public outcry, those whales are swimming free as the last of the captive whales have been released, the first time this many captured whales have been released back into the wild.

In late 2018 and early 2019, a drone captured footage of 11 orcas and 87 beluga whales crammed into holding pens in the Srednyaya Bay. The so-called "whale jail" made headlines, and authorities began to investigate their potentially illegal capture.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Twitter / Bye,Bye Harley Davidson

The NRA likes to diminish the role that guns play in fatal shootings by saying, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people."

Which is the same logic as, "Hammers don't build roofs, people build roofs." No duh. But it'd be nearly impossible to build a roof without a hammer.

So, shouldn't the people who manufacture guns share some responsibility when they are used for the purpose they're made: killing people? Especially when the manufacturers market the weapon for that exact purpose?

Keep Reading Show less
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

The 2020 election is a year away, but Donald Trump has some serious ground to cover if he doesn't want it to be a historical blowout.

A Washington Post- ABC News poll released Tuesday shows that Trump loses by double digits to the top Democratic contenders.

Vice President Joe Biden (56%-39%); Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts (54%-39%); Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont (56%-39%); South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg (52%-41%); and Sen. Kamala Harris of California (52%-41%) all have big leads over the president.

Keep Reading Show less