Friday, April 28, 2017

Shorts Under Dresses: An Underlying Issue


A friend recently relayed a story to me about her 4 year old daughter and a dress code at the preschool she attends.  Girls are required to wear shorts underneath their skirts, which is no big deal if your child goes along with the policy. In my friend's case, however, her daughter wasn't on board and it made for a very trying and tiring ordeal getting ready on school days.

Getting kids fed, dressed, and out the door with a healthy meal in hand is HARD work. Having to fight over a pair of shorts under an already perfectly reasonable garment is not a battle worth waging. In order to regain calm in their morning routine, the teacher and mother discussed the conflict and came to an agreement. Her daughter could skip the shorts so long as she wore long dresses or skirts. Problem solved, right?

Technically speaking, yes, the problem was solved. But it points to a much larger underlying issue that needs more illumination. 

Our culture has an unhealthy relationship with the human body, especially that of the female variety and we are pushing these skewed views on girls earlier and earlier in life.
This 'shorts under dresses' policy seems to be aimed at modesty. These children will be playing on the playground and it would be "indecent" for their underoos to see the light of day, even for a moment. The problem is, there is nothing "indecent" about a 4 year-olds underpants! Why can't little girls just be little girls without worrying about some other preschooler possibly seeing their fully covered bum?

In other cultures, many European ones for example, it is common place to see pre-adolescent children running around the beach in nothing but a strip of zinc on their noses. It is not indecent or inappropriate because they are children not adult, sexual beings. 
I don't understand how we could wish to avoid at all costs a little girl with her dress pulled over her head but we don't bat an eye when we see a a preschooler in full makeup and a miniskirt. Is it the physical play that gives our society pause? The miniskirt is okay because she isn't on the monkey bars? 

When we start forcing restrictions of this nature on our girls at such a tender, young age, we lay the foundation for body shame. We teach them that through their clothing choices they are sending messages and how those messages are interpreted are their fault. We are sexualizing their bodies long before they reach puberty and the unintended consequences are great. 

We shame mothers for breastfeeding in public but embrace billboards of giant boobs to sell beer. We blame victims of sexual assault for the length of their skirt while at the same time calling those who cover it all up prudes. And now our 3 and 4 year old females have to wear shorts under their skirts to satisfy someone's pursuit of modesty. What's next? Will public diaper changes be the subject of public shaming?

A school rule about shorts under skirts isn't a big deal on the surface and I'm not advocating for clothing optional classrooms. This rule makes sense to me in a middle or high school where hormones are raging and a glimpse under a girl's skirt will most definitely cause a reaction. I'm just concerned about the subtle messages we are sending our preschool and elementary-aged girls that stick around and shape the women they become.

If you think that a preschooler's underpants are lewd, maybe it is you that has the problem, not the innocent child.

If we stop and ask ourselves why someone decided this rule is necessary to begin with, we may uncover some indecent things about our society that should no longer go ignored.

IMAGE Monkey Bar Buddies

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