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You Are The Problem.

Well I mean, someone had to do it...

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You Are The Problem

Cloey O'Connell

My name is Cloey O’Connell, I am a 17 year old student at the Academy for the Arts, Science and Technology. I am a woman, YES, A woman! With shoulders, hips, thighs, a butt, breasts, but most importantly a brain. But this is not what my school is teaching me. I am being taught that not only am I a distraction to male students, but that my education is meaningless in comparison to that of my male peers. I am being taught that I am to blame for male entitlement to my body. I am being taught that “boys will be boys” and I, as a female, must adjust to their needs accordingly. I am a 17-year-old girl and my body is being sexualized by full grown adults who are using my body as a weapon to dictate the choices I make everyday.

The American Psychological Associations task force defines sexualization as “when a person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics.” As my school system continues to focus so much attention on the appearance of my legs or shoulders or whatever other normal body part they decide to sexualize this week, I am being taught that since the main concern of others is my body, that it should be my main concern too. I am not being taught that my education is a priority. I am not being taught that feeling safe and comfortable in school is a main concern of my educators. And I am not being taught that sexism and misogyny are not okay. I am instead being taught self objectification which is defined by the APA as “learning to think of and treat their own bodies as objects of others desire.” In other words, my school is stripping me of my title as a human being and simply treating me as a sexual object as a ploy to create a “distraction free” learning environment for boys. Not only is the school so obviously disregarding the fact that I attend class to receive an education, they are destroying my self esteem. I myself am an example of a girl who has suffered terrible body image issues imposed on me by societal norms like the attitude of dress code. The repercussions of these problems such as eating disorders and anxiety disorders are detrimental to the mental health of growing adolescent girls.

Not to mention the fact that the dress code is blatantly perpetuating rape culture in the United States. It [dress code] reinforces the idea that women should change so that they do not have to fear the actions of men. Instead of teaching men to see me as a human being instead of a sexual object, they are being taught that not only is it perfectly fine to hold the “boys will be boys” mentality, but it is normal! We as a society wonder why more rapes and sexual assaults go unreported more often than they are reported every year. Where do you think this idea stems from? Where do you think women get the idea that they will be blamed for the sexual exploitations of men? Look no further than the schools teaching me that I am to blame for the perversions of men, and I am expected to change so hopefully it won’t look like I was “asking for it.” Instead of making my body the issue maybe the school board should consider first recognize its undisguised sexist policies and its obviously perverted body of staff. Maybe before blaming my thighs and shoulders, educators should teach boys to respect the fact that my body is mine and only mine. With all of the societal expectations of beauty for women already prevalent in the real world it is hard enough to wake up in the morning and pick out an outfit, without having to worry about being a distraction to my male counterparts or being humiliated by adults.

This is not a cry for attention or an excuse to wear “cute clothes.” This isn’t about leggings or crop tops or whatever the next fashion trend is. The is about my education being put below the needs of a “distraction free” environment for my male peers. This is about the fact that I am still a child and my body is being sexualized by adults. This is about every girl that has been victimized and shamed at school by administrators. This is about all of the physical and mental issues the dress code creates. This is about everyone that has ever felt uncomfortable in what is supposed to be a safe place. This is about rape culture. This is about sexism and misogyny. I am a human being. I am more than a distraction. I am a 17-year-old girl if you are sexualizing my body, you are the problem.

The issue is not whether or not to have a dress code, because almost every job has some sort of uniform that we will all have to follow for the rest of our lives, it only becomes an issue when taken to an extreme and it is taking away from MY education. I am a senior this year and ever since my freshman year my peers have tried to bring attention to the issue through many channels including contacting the district office but to no avail. I have taken matters into my own hands by typing up over 100 posters and hanging them around my school in order to bring attention to the issue. After doing so most of my posters where taken down in a matter of 30 minutes. When I realized this, at lunch I decided that if they wouldn't let my posters hang on the wall I would just hang them on myself. Within minutes my entire lunch room full of students had erupted in applause for my willingness to get suspended or even expelled from school for creating yet another "distraction." Soon enough my resource officer removed me from the lunch room and marched me straight to my principals office. Prior to speaking to my principal I whole heartedly blamed her for the dress code issue. But much to my surprise she applauded my effort in protest and even gave me ways to silently protest that could not get me in trouble. As of now, I am planning a day each week where students in support of this cause will wear yellow in an effort to prove to our district office that we mean business. Although I am trying my best to gain the attention of our county's superintendent and the school board though silent protest, I believe that media attention will force them to take me and my issue more seriously which is why I am submitting this article. I have also started a petition to reform my county's dresscode which can be found here: https://www.change.org/p/rick-maxey-the-superintendent-of-horry-county-schools-dress-code-reform-in-horry-county

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