It’s typical for schools to have dress codes in place so that students don’t have free reign to wear whatever they want that might distract or offend their peers. Some educational institutions require their students to wear a uniform, such as khaki pants and collared shirts. Other schools don’t allow students to wear clothing with logos on them. Still more ban things such as sleeveless tops or shorts that aren’t a certain length.
Dress Code Violation
One mom was shocked when she received a note from school that her 13-year-old daughter violated the school’s dress code. At first, she ignored the notice, but when it happened again, she did something about it.
One Big Happy Family
Dr. Catherine Pearlman is a typical mom who would probably have milk and cookies ready for her children when they come home from school. She works as a social worker and is also a writer.
She grew up in Long Island, New York, but currently resides with her husband and their children in California. They also have a dog named Norma. On the surface, it appears that Pearlman and her family are a stereotypical nuclear family: two parents, two children, and a beloved pet. (Do they have a white picket fence as well?)
A Mom with Credentials
Pearlman’s life seems pretty common to most people. However, she is an expert on families. She writes about parenting issues on her blog, The Family Coach. It includes the tagline: “Because we all need a little coaching sometimes.” According to her blog, she “advises on all matters of parenting such as potty and sleep training, discipline, food issues, sibling rivalry, and more.”
Pearlman earned her doctorate in social welfare at Yeshiva University and her master’s degree in social work from New York University. She has a private practice and is also an assistant professor in the social work program at Brandman University.
Yoga Pants Ban
Through her work, Pearlman focuses primarily on other parents’ problems with their children. But in August 2016, she found herself in the middle of a situation involving her own child. A teacher from her daughter’s school told the young ladies that females were not allowed to wear yoga pants during gym class.
Yoga pants are generally cotton, spandex, or some other type of stretchy material that are tightly fitted on a person’s body. Pearlman was not happy with the rule and was troubled by the reason why girls were banned from wearing yoga pants while taking gym class.
The teacher at her daughter’s school claimed that if girls wore clothing such as yoga pants to school, the boys in class would get noticeably aroused. She added that males that age can’t help themselves when they are around females. They just have trouble controlling themselves. The teacher came to the conclusion that enforcing a yoga pants ban would prevent any embarrassing situations from taking place.
It’s unclear what type of embarrassing incidents the teacher was referring to. Perhaps the boys would attack the girls in yoga pants? Or maybe they’d be making sprints to the bathroom to take care of business? Nonetheless, Pearlman was furious.
What About Miniskirts?
Pearlman couldn’t contain her anger. She decided to write about the incident on her blog. After all, she has a lot of experience dealing with families and children and the normal behaviors of the average teen male and female.
She wrote, “In the 1960s and ’70s, the girls all wore miniskirts that barely covered their rears. And the boys still managed to graduate.” She does have a point. Even 50 years ago fashion often highlighted aspects the female body the men find sexy and attractive. Does it make a difference if legs are bare or covered in a tight, stretchy material?
Males Need to Take Responsibility
After pointing out that girls have been wearing clothing that boys find attractive for decades, she slammed the school’s dress code, which was specifically targeting females. She believed it sent the wrong message to young women. Pearlman wrote, “Banning yoga pants for the purpose of avoiding unwanted erections sends the message that boys are programmed to respond and can’t help what their bodies do.”
So girls need to take the blame for a boy’s reaction? Pearlman added, “Boys and men are responsible for their actions.” She wanted to make the point that males need to exercise self-restraint when they see an attractive female.
Girl Shaming Is Not Okay
Pearlman added that it wasn’t her daughter’s job to make sure that her male classmates control themselves. “It isn’t the responsibility of my daughter (or any daughter) to help boys manage sexual urges,” she wrote. “It is the responsibility of the boys. It isn’t okay to start shaming girls about their bodies by telling them to obsessively cover up. And girls should not have to disregard their own comfort to protect the comfort of the boys around them.”
In other words, a girl should decide to wear something such as yoga pants because it’s comfortable. She should not be afraid that doing so will cause problems with the boys around her.
Another Dress Code Violation
It’s very clear that Pearlman was quite angry about the school’s dress code. She felt that her daughter, and other students, had the right to wear yoga pants if they chose to do so. It’s not as though the girls were wearing booty-baring short shorts or blouses that revealed a lot of cleavage. They weren’t walking around in stilettos. But perhaps Pearlman would defend that type of fashion as well? When teachers reprimanded Pearlman’s daughter for an additional clothing violation, she was furious. Instead of just writing a blog post, she decided to take additional action. She had enough.
Forced to Change into Boy Shorts
Apparently, Pearlman’s daughter dressed inappropriately for school two days in a row. On the first day, it was because she wore yoga pants, which were so distracting to boys that apparently they couldn’t control themselves around her or other girls who wore similar pants.
On the second day, her daughter had the audacity to wear shorts to school, which also posed a problem. In fact, they were such a problem that administrators forced her daughter to change into a pair of boy’s shorts that were found in the school. So, girl shorts were bad but boy shorts were good.
Angry Letter to the Principal
Pearlman was really angry that her daughter was humiliated two days in a row because of a dress code that seemingly targeted girls. First, it was yoga pants, an article of clothing that millions of people wear every day to the gym, at home, and as leisure wear.
Then it was shorts, which are also a common item for summer. Pearlman was so outraged that she sent a letter to the school’s principal, who happened to be a woman. Pearlman suggested that the principal go clothes shopping with her daughter and find more appropriate outfits that she could wear on a day-to-day basis.
Limited Clothing Options
Pearlman was so infuriated that she gave explicit instructions to the principal to help her find clothes that would be suitable for the classroom. “Here are the specifications you have to work with. I wish you loads of luck,” Pearlman wrote. “She is 5 feet 7 inches and 13 years old. Built more like her father, she has exceptionally long legs and arms.”
It may seem surprising to some people (okay, probably not), but not all girls or boys have the same body type. Pearlman’s daughter is a little tall for her age and has long limbs. She has limited clothing options.
Sweatpants Are Not an Option
Pearlman wasn’t done and proceeded to describe her daughter’s preferences. She added that her daughter isn’t your typical girly girl who likes flowers and butterflies, sequins and lace, and other frilly, fluffy or stereotypical feminine wear. In fact, her daughter preferred more comfortable clothing, such as a t-shirt featuring her favorite band.
So what about more loose clothing such as sweatpants? They were absolutely out of the question because her daughter had problems with overheating. And as the name suggests, they can make you sweat. Also, anyone who has a teenager daughter knows that sweatpants aren’t a top pick to wear to school.
No Tank Tops Or Short Skirts
Pearlman took a long hard look at the dress code requirements and determined that some of them would be very difficult to adhere to. “Now, don’t forget that you will have to find something in the stores that also meets with your dress code requirements,” Pearlman wrote.
“Here are the tricky areas that are most difficult to avoid. As per your policy, she cannot wear tank tops. Shorts and skirts must not extend to the end of the fingertips (this is a toughie.)” Don’t forget, Pearlman’s daughter has long arms and legs, so finding shorts that meet the criteria isn’t easy.
Clothes Shopping Is Challenging
Pearlman continued, “She has very long fingers which seem to make finding shorts that won’t get her sent to the principal’s office impossible. On the bright side, the piano teacher says those fingers are an asset.”
As Pearlman pointed out, it wasn’t an easy job finding clothing that fit the school’s specs. She added, “I’d schedule a few afternoons and weekends for this endeavor. I can tell you from experience that just heading to the mall, Target and the outlets won’t cut it. Not much for her there. I’ve already checked.” It’s likely that Pearlman isn’t the only mom who’s struggled to find the right clothes for her daughter.
Money Is Also a Factor
As Pearlman already established, problem number one was that her daughter was banned from wearing yoga pants. Problem number two was that she couldn’t wear shorts unless they were a certain length. Problem number three was finding a style of clothing that was appealing to her daughter.
In addition to adhering to the school’s dress code and locating items that fit her daughter’s tastes, Pearlman pointed out another issue. Money! As the mother of a growing teen, it wasn’t feasible to spend a lot of money on shirts, pants, and shorts that would only be worn by her daughter for a limited period of time.
Sick of the Dress Code
Pearlman was obviously frustrated with not only the school’s dress code but also her inability to easily find clothing that not only fit her teen daughter but was also something she wanted to wear. Pearlman wrote towards the end of her letter to the principal: “I thank you endlessly for taking on this chore. What a relief for me.”
If she can’t tackle her daughter’s clothing issues, maybe someone else can! (Someone like a school principal who’s in charge of hundreds of teenagers). Pearlman completed the letter by writing, “Sincerely, Sick Of The Dress Code Mom.” Do you think the principal got her point?
Hypocrisy of School Dress Codes
It’s unclear how or if the school responded to Pearlman’s letter to the principal, which clearly outlined why it was such a challenge finding school-appropriate clothing for her 13-year-old daughter. But whether or not the letter made an impact with administrators, it made an impression on other parents around the United States.
The note went viral online among moms and dads who know exactly what Pearlman was going through as the mom of a teenage girl. Not surprisingly, it’s not easy being a parent. After reading Pearlman’s letter, several people pointed out how many school dress codes are hypocritical.
Boys Often Get More Leeway
In one response to Pearlman’s letter, one woman wrote on Facebook: “Just had a conversation with my middle school son. He said boys don’t get dress coded… only the girls. The boys wear clothes with pot leaves on them and, apparently, that’s appropriate.”
“But a girl’s stomach is cause for PE clothes to be worn in lieu of what her parents felt was appropriate to wear to school.” So, according to this mom, the boys at her son’s school get away with wearing t-shirts with drug symbols on them, while the girls get reprimanded if they show off their midriffs.
Support from Other Parents
Pearlman made a point in her letter that resonated with a lot of parents who have teenagers. She didn’t like the way administrators treated her daughter. She and other girls shouldn’t be treated as distractions because boys allegedly have uncontrollable urges. The responsibility should not fall solely on girls.
And a school’s focus should be on the students’ education and not whether their fingertips reach the end of their shorts or not. There are more important things for teachers and those in charge to tackle. Perhaps in the future girls will have more freedom in their clothing choices and boys will learn how to behave themselves around women in tank tops.