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I'm Jessica Smith, a student of Alliance Christian and I feel that they're information is wrong. They have been telling the girls in my school, from grade 6th to 12th, that because of the way we dress we cause the boys in our school to sin and that it is our fault when they "lust" after us. I was wondering what opinion you had on this issue and what advice you would give me to go about stopping this idea from being apart of the school anymore.

Thank you, Jessica


Dear Jessica,

I had a friend/colleague who experienced something similar to you. I thought you'd appreciate her response -- "Yes, almost the exact same thing happened to me (only in a public school).I was told, among other things, what I had to wear every day and that I was in danger especially because I was asking for the attention of the mostly non-white janitorial staff (although the only males I ever had problems with where the mostly white, upper middle class teachers). I found that while it sucked to hear such depressingly retro remarks, overall the experience was positive. The issue really got me fired up about researching my constitutional rights in school to wear what I wanted (maybe not applicable in private schools). Talking to my friends about it, I found most people supported me and I managed to get some people to rethink their positions. I also suggest she talk about the issues to teachers that she trusts--many are probably on her side (many were on mine, including the school principal). It is especially important to find out there are more people on your side than you think, because those who are critical often position themselves as "only looking out for your best interest" (e.g., my dean kept stressing how worried she was about me, that I "needed" to dress in such a way, and only wanted to keep me from getting myself raped or labeled).

In addition, it is always good to use the school newspaper to publish an opinion piece (written preferably by a friend, not by her, so it has more credibility) with a well thought out defense. In the end, I wound up being suspended "in-school" for a day, but the attention that the issue received, and the effect of bringing feminist debate into the daily discourse of my peers far outweighed the negatives. Plus, in the end, I kept wearing what I wanted to anyway, and learned to maneuver in such a way as not to cross paths with to a certain zealous dean of students.

Another good thing that can come out of such frustrating oppression is the energy to organize--maybe she could harness her anger to get her friends together to start a feminist club in school, or do something like call the local NOW chapter and get involved there, or ask someone to speak at a school assembly (we had Gloria Steinem in my junior year). I would also suggest a diet of good old feminist classics. This issue is so central it is hard to pick out a few in particular to recommend, but Reviving Ophelia and something like "transforming a rape culture" or "virgin or vamp" about the tendency in our culture to blame the victim (can't remember the authors' names, sorry)."



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