As someone who wore uniforms to school for most of her school life, I have come to understand the impact of having a dress code. I’ve always wondered what was so wrong about showing the three inches above my kneecap, but I never got a reasonably answer. It was always because the boys would stare instead of paying attention in class, and somehow that was my fault.
A senior at Helena High School was recently sent to the principal’s office for a “dress code infraction,” which wasn’t an accurate description for her “offense.” Even though there is more freedom at most public schools when it comes to the way you dress, in some ways there are more restrictions.
Kaitlyn Juvik was 18 years old when she was called down to the vice principal’s office during class because her outfit made her male teacher “uncomfortable.” She posted a picture on Facebook of the shirt she was wearing that day, which was deemed inappropriate because she wasn’t wearing a bra.
Kaitlyn hadn’t worn a bra for over a year and would wear nipple stickers every day under her clothes. About the experience, Kaitlyn remarked:
When I left the office, I was so upset that I posted a picture of what I was wearing on Facebook telling everyone, ‘If you were curious, this is the shirt I was wearing when I was called out,” I most definitely wasn’t wearing anything against the dress code.
Let’s investigate this matter further up ahead.
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This was the shirt she was wearing:
Principal Steve Thennis gave a very lukewarm response when asked about the incident,
I’m not going to check student’s undergarments. We are going to ask them to dress appropriately, and if we feel it is inappropriate, male or female, we are going to ask them to cover up.
This philosophy implies dress code is subjective. It doesn’t matter if you follow the dress code, if your body makes a faculty member or student “uncomfortable,” you’re the one who is shamed and punished. The school’s handbook does not mention anything about mandatory undergarments. Juvik was infuriated by being singled out and humiliated:
The fact that I was told it makes people uncomfortable offended me because it’s my body,” said Juvik during a protest outside of the school, “It is my natural body, and I’m not sure why it is uncomfortable to somebody.”
I remember the shame my fellow classmates and I felt when we were singled out by teachers for having “inappropriate” dress during school, which usually meant our skirts were half-an-inch too short, or our blouses weren’t buttoned all the way to the top. Instead of being supported by our classmates, we were alienated, and our teachers encouraged it. However, at Helena High, the students rallied around Kaitlyn and gave her the support she needed.
One of Kaitlyn’s friends, Brooke Lanier, made a Facebook page called, “No Bra, No Problem.” Lanier commented:
The problem here should not have been Kaitlyn’s attire, but the morality of the male teacher.
And that’s the heart of the problem — women’s bodies are sexualized unfairly, and dress codes reinforce this misogyny. The entire school was outraged by how the administration treated Kaitlyn, so 300 female students went braless to school to show their support. Some male students wore bras in protest as well.
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One of Kaitlyn’s friends, Samuel Tinsley, was disgusted by the way the administration targeted Kaitlyn. He thought their response was “inappropriate and immature.” Samuel commented:
When I heard they were trying to impose on Kaitlyn’s self-expression, it really irritated me. By making her change or go home to put on appropriate clothing, they’re basically saying that a boy’s education is more important than hers.
Boys go unpunished for looking at womens’ bodies as sex objects and they grow into men like Kaitlyn’s teacher, who called her out for having breasts. Instead we ignore it with the excuse that “boys will be boys.” Kaitlyn had a lot to say about being sexualized:
But instead, perhaps people should start teaching boys not to sexualize women’s bodies. Wearing a bra is a personal choice. It’s my body. Why is it any body else’s business whether I’m wearing a bra, especially when I’m covered up and dressed appropriately.
When Kaitlyn graduated from Helena High, she went braless under her gown, staying true to herself:
I feel suffocated wearing a bra. So anybody who has a problem with that should just look the other way and get over it.
PREACH, SISTA, PREACH. Since then, Kaitlyn has gone on to study cosmetology in Spokane, Washington and continues to protest the unfair sexualization of women’s bodies. She is known as the “Braless Warrior.”