At my high school, the belief was that boys lost their ability to perform well in school if they saw more than an inch above a girl’s knee, and in some more religiously conservative communities, general thinking goes that a glimpse of hair is enough to terminate male concentration completely. Regardless of where you draw the line, of course, the argument remains the same: Girls are responsible not only for their own school performance but also for the boys’. Some, such as Lahey, may mistake this as a form of feminism by dressing the complaint up as merely a desire to teach the girls some self-respect, but I have a different word for the notion that a woman loses her claim to respect if she shows an overt interest in sexuality: sexism.
Lahey claims that she only wishes for girls to see that they “are not the measure of their hemlines, but the sum of their strong minds, kind hearts, and unlimited potential.” That’s a noble goal that I fully support. I recommend that Lahey start sending the message that she doesn’t measure girls by their hemlines by not measuring them by their hemlines. Try ignoring their bodies completely and getting directly to the work of cherishing those minds and those hearts instead. As L.V. Anderson noted here recently, most of them will get tired of playing around with the tacky clothes you hate so much anyway.
Whenever there’s an authoritarian bluenose enforcing some trivial rule or making a judgment based on fashion trivia, there’s generally a claim that it’s not that the bluenose cares about this stuff, it’s that society cares about this stuff and we must learn to get along. Not only is the best remedy to just no care about this stuff, roughly 99.9% of the time the bluenose in question does in fact care deeply about whatever trivia they’re forcing people to comply with.