Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: That's Inappropriate!

368 Responses

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  • Rageaholic,

    Coming out of the woodwork here for a minute…
    Of course sometimes wearing a short skirt is meant to be sexual, even for a 14 year old – 14 year olds are discovering and experimenting with their sexuality. It’s what they are supposed to do, it’s part of growning up and finding out who you are, how to be an adult and how to live within society’s expectations. I don’t why a 14 year old experimenting with her sexuality is a bad thing, which is what Tess seems to be implying. She rebelled and broke the rules, in a sexual manner – double whammy! But she should not have been shamed for it, she should be encouraged to explore these things at other times or in other ways.

    I really relate to this girl, I had a short skirt with my uniform, and usually refused to conform with most of the other usinform rules too. I turned out OK, and I’m pretty sure Amethyst will too.

    ETA: I do not mean to imply that "experimenting with sexuality" = "sexually avaliable". I do not believe that wearing a short skirt because it feels sexy means that a person is necessarily "up for it" for want of a better term.

    Eden • Since Nov 2010 • 20 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Tess Rooney,

    I once went to a party where one gay man was wearing skin tight silver hotpants and nothing else, okay I lie, maybe a bow-tie too. Are these the kind of shorts you are wearin? Because if so, then yes, you look like sexually available.

    Tess, you've been to enough KAOS parties to know perfectly well that there's no correlation between style of dress and actual sexual availability, and that treating someone as sexually available to you on the basis of their clothes will get you kicked to the kerb - figuratively and sometimes literally. So why, then, would you continue to perceive this as 'looking sexually available'?

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones,

    Meanwhile Catholic schools in Quebec have a much more liberal definition of what is too short (10cm above the kneecap). Meanwhile I'm sure most of us agree that showing one's hair isn't slutty, but in some countries they disagree. Sluttitude is in the eye of the beholder. Me, I prefer to reject the category than argue about what belongs in it or not.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 976 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to B Jones,

    Me, I prefer to reject the category than argue about what belongs in it or not.

    This. Yes. The argument, in the end, gives it validity. Which isn't what's needed at all.

    (Signing off for the night now, folks. Have...fun.)

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report Reply

  • richard,

    When my mother went to school (as she tells it) three girls being seen in public without their uniform gloves was enough to provoke a thundering denunciation in assembly from the head mistress (as I am sure she was called) which, according to my sainted Mum, could not have been more thunderous if they had been caught selling their services to sailors.

    And where and when I went to school they could (and did, and quite legally, too) hit you repeatedly on your pre-teen bottom with a bamboo stick.

    So things do seem to be getting better.

    Now that I teach myself (in a university, not a school), I have had a couple of occasions when I thought that the student in my office (and this has involved students of both major genders) could possibly have been wearing a few more clothes, or at least the same number of clothes, but ones that left a little less of the student immediately visible. Fortunately, fashion alone has seen to that, insofar as belly buttons appear to be less visible this summer than they were a couple of years ago. Gym attire on the lads seems to be relatively immune to the vagaries of fashion, however.

    But I grow old, and wear my trousers rolled.

    Not looking for New Engla… • Since Nov 2006 • 268 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Tess Rooney,

    It’s not a slippery slope, it’s about context and social definitions of signals that certain clothes or ways of dressing send. Togs…undies

    Yes, fashion is a social thing, but our agreements and understandings have evolved a little since mediaeval times.

    Neither togs nor undies say 'shag me now'. Nor do clothes *force* other people to behave in certain ways. I'd expect young people to learn that at school, not be indoctrinated with the fallacies of their ancestors.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Jacqui Dunn, in reply to richard,

    Great Scott! You don't wear a knotted hankie on your head too, do you?

    Actually, when I went to school - a Catholic girls' school - a very long time ago now, there was a furore about patent leather shoes and girls wearing them. This was deemed Not A Good Thing, because (takes deep breath) men could see the reflection of your underwear in them.

    Deepest, darkest Avondale… • Since Jul 2010 • 585 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Tess Rooney,

    If I had any money going spare, I’d be mincing off to the Rocky Horror in full Frank-drag. Anyone assuming that I was therefore “sexually available” (which I keep mentally AutoCorrecting to “rape bait”) would be in for considerable disappointment, rapidly escalating to a cha-cha heel in the coochie if required.

    The day I'm back on the market, I won't be adjusting my wardrobe but anyone I think is worth a go will be in no doubt that their attentions would be gratefully received.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Tess Rooney,

    Emma: yeah but at KAOS parties we weren't 14. And we dressed the way we did to get attention from each other. KAOS parties were about consensual sexual expression between adults (among other things like dancing and just generally having fun). But when I wore skimpy clothes or merely underware it was because I was out to look sexy. None of us dressed up in party wear for girls' nights.

    Did wearing that little make me promiscuous? No. But it certainly sent a sexual signal. That was the whole point.

    Adult women can do and dress as they wish, but even they are getting messages to cover up when they dress, as per the Stuff article. I don't think anyone should be called slutty let alone a teenage girl by a person in power over her. But I think acknowledging the short skirt/sexy school girl trope is fair enough.

    Since May 2009 • 267 posts Report Reply

  • Tess Rooney,

    @Craig, there's a difference between looking sexy and being sexually available.

    Since May 2009 • 267 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    But she should not have been shamed for it, she should be encouraged to explore these things at other times or in other ways.

    Yes. I’d have been okay with Amethyst having it calmly suggested that her skirt breached the rules, or even that it was inappropriate – although it didn’t exactly seem girls-gone-wild anyway. I seem to recall girls shortening their voluminous kilts way back when I was at school.

    But it’s worth noting that our local high school, Western Springs College, deals with this it in a different way – by not making an issue of it. There are no uniforms, and if there was a separate dress code I was never aware of it.

    I used to enjoy the way kids dressed up as their favourite youth cult – you couldn’t rebel by getting a bright orange mohawk, you still had to go to classes. Sporty kids dressed sporty, indie kids dressed indie.

    And yes, there were the girls who thought it was cool to dress like Paris Hilton. It just didn’t seem to be a problem, let alone motive for a sexual frenzy.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    School uniforms (for girls, anyway) seem to be expressly designed to take the female form at maximum peachiness and reduce it to a frumpy blob. Good luck getting most right-thinking girls to settle for that.

    We had the kneeling-skirt-length rule, and the trick was simply to lean forward a bit when the measuring happened. Or to have a regulation-length skirt but to wear your jumper around your waist so you could ruck it up a bit. Not rocket science. Not even 3rd form science.

    I was a "good" girl, so I never shortened my skirt past just above the knee. Also, too self-conscious, having come last in a casual "sexy-legs" lunchtime contest* in my first term at high school, after which I never showed my thighs in public again until... well, I'll let you know if it ever happens. (The tragic hidden epidemic: not-slut- enough -shaming!)

    But I knew exactly how to take in a seam and where to place a dart. Turns out the Twiggy lookalikes get all the disciplinary attention while the Joan Holloway tailoring sneaks under the radar. Result!

    *judged by a boy I'm pretty sure was gay.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason,

    Maybe girls/women in short skirts look "attractive".

    Magnets seem to be attractive as well. North and South, damagingly so.

    Maybe we should use a different word for "what looks nice but don't get too close and don't - whatever you do - touch".

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1590 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Tess Rooney,

    Tess, if the KAOS party thing wasn't relevant, why did you bring it up?

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    If I had any money going spare, I’d be mincing off to the Rocky Horror in full Frank-drag.

    Honestly, Craig! You've just had two tax cuts. What more do you want?

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    See now, this is a nice school uniform: crisp white shirts, sensible long socks, skirts with built-in undershorts to enable freedom of movement without sacrificing modesty.

    I would give that blonde girl in the front a detention for the dark red lipstick though. So wrong. It should have been candyfloss pink.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    You’ve also not succeeded in demonstrating any kind of link between skirt length and sexual promiscuity.

    There may indeed be such a link. But to assume that short skirts causes sexual promiscuity, and therefore lowering the skirt will stop it?

    Yet what about woman’s beach vollyball which clearly has a male following because of what little they wear.

    I'm not sure this is going to entitle me telling them that they look like sluts, despite showing off a lot more than the 14 year old in question.

    This was deemed Not A Good Thing, because (takes deep breath) men could see the reflection of your underwear in them.

    If any male ever got off on that, they've taken their committment to perving to new heights. That's a lot of effort for what I guess would be a pretty feeble reward.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to 3410,

    I’d like to hitch a ride on the Tardis and tell my teenage self to brush, floss and take care of the money pit his teeth will turn into twenty years down the track. :)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    It's kind of interesting that the school thinks they can prevent the kids rebelling by defining and then enforcing uniform regulations. As near as I can tell if you could get the kids to all look the same you'd just shift their need to rebel into some different mode.

    I went to GBHS, a school with no uniform at all. There clothes expressed individuality not sexuality.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4460 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Yes. I’d have been okay with Amethyst having it calmly suggested that her skirt breached the rules, or even that it was inappropriate –

    Which, I suspect, is a conversation dozens of stressed out, underpaid and under-appreciated deans have from Kaitaia to the Bluff every day of the week. Without slut-shaming. 'Cause that's what adults do.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • FletcherB, in reply to Russell Brown,

    http://www.westernsprings.school.nz/WesternSpringsCollege_Prospectus/Dress.html

    It would seem they don't have a code, but they do reserve the right to deem something inappropriate... " In questions of acceptability of dress, the College’s decision will be final. Parent support is expected."

    West Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 893 posts Report Reply

  • Tess Rooney,

    Emma - I didn't say that KAOS parties were irrelevant, and I mentioned a party for the specific reason of my memory of the guy in the silver hot pants. You just happen to know it was a KAOS party because either you were there and remember too or you know that was where I partied bar a very few exceptions.

    Since May 2009 • 267 posts Report Reply

  • Jacqui Dunn, in reply to Kyle Matthews,

    No, Kyle, the whole point was that the girls (and their parents probably) as well as much of the general public thought it was idiotic - in fact, so idiotic that everyone laughed like drains over it.

    There was a tendency among the gels in Wellington who had to wear panama hats in summer and felt hats in winter, to roll the sides of said hats up so they looked more like stetsons. But only the tarty gels did that!

    Deepest, darkest Avondale… • Since Jul 2010 • 585 posts Report Reply

  • Tess Rooney,

    I see your Britney and raise you a Glee:

    GQ Glee photoshoot.

    Since May 2009 • 267 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    It would seem they don't have a code, but they do reserve the right to deem something inappropriate... " In questions of acceptability of dress, the College’s decision will be final. Parent support is expected."

    Which is fair enough. You do have to reserve that right when you're showing such broad tolerance.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

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