Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Topic on the Lips of Every Teenage Girl in the Nation

First there was the story about Lululemon's yoga pants being transparent. I read that story with schadenfreude; conspicuous consumption that marks the consumer as conspicuously stupid will always have a place in my affections. And it was the first time I'd see a news story about Lululemon that wasn't about murder.

Then there was the follow-up story about Lululemon employees making potential-pants-returners don the pants and bend over for an evaluation of their transparency. (The pants' transparency; the fact that they're Lululemon customers already tell us about the potential-pants-returners' transparency.) Who would possibly agree to this?! As a professor of industrial organization, I'm intrigued by customer-service horror stories.

Then there was this story about a California junior high school that won't allow girls to wear leggings without a covering. When the administrators reminded the girls of this policy, "the message surprised the students and caused an initial backlash" of not just students, but parents also. Who is surprised that genitalia-revealing pants need a cover? And what parents lead such a backlash?

I can kind of get the anger at the administration's "don't distract boys" justification. "Kind of" because it sounds sexist, like girls are responsible for what boys think. And having been a junior-high-school boy, I can tell you that what they're afraid the boys might be thinking, the boys are actually thinking, all the time, whether they see 100 girls in leggings or a work crew sitting on the side of the road eating lunch. All. The. Time.

But I disagree with these modern parents who would have their daughters believe they can do whatever they want without repercussion. Visual images create thoughts, and thoughts create actions. Actions can be controlled by limiting visual images.

A local girl wore leggings with a too-short shirt to school and got the choice of covering up or going home for the day. Her mother kept her home for a week, then displayed a shockingly-poor understanding of human anatomy when she said of a requirement that shirts over leggings come to the wearer's fingertips, "She's so tall that she would have to have a skirt almost down to her knees."

Being tall doesn't make your hands reach your knees. She's a human, not a chimp. And there used to be a time in America when "a skirt almost down to her knees" wasn't shockingly long, but shockingly short.

Also of note: the shirt is see-through. We're debating whether her daughter's genitals should be seen through a black filter or an orange-and-black filter. And like a responsible parent, the mother never once considers that maybe they shouldn't be seen through any filter at all.

My memory of school is that no learning at all takes place between sixth grade and tenth grade. Everyone is caught up in the roiling sea of hormones, hierarchy, and assimilation. Now the ability to dress inappropriately is seen as some sort of women's lib issue. (The woman I know with the anti-prayer bumper sticker had to hunt around for a home-school prom with a sufficiently-permissive dress code for her tastes. How DARE you tell my daughter to cover her nakedness!) Girls need to stop being told that the thoughts they inspire and the situations they create are not their responsibility. But in a world where responsibility is a burden to be shed, girls will keep feeling the same way about clothing.

1 comment:

The sort-of Republican said...

A girl dressing immodestly does not excuse bad behavior in the men and boys that she encounters, but it is still probably not a good idea for her if it increases the likelihood of her encountering bad behavior in men and boys.