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Letter to the Editor: Sophomore Uma Kumar-Montei’s Perspective on the Dress Code Fiasco Last Week

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Letter to the Editor: Sophomore Uma Kumar-Montei’s Perspective on the Dress Code Fiasco Last Week

Outfit sophomore Uma Kumar-Montei was wearing that day

Outfit sophomore Uma Kumar-Montei was wearing that day

photo courtesy of Uma Kumar-Montei

Outfit sophomore Uma Kumar-Montei was wearing that day

photo courtesy of Uma Kumar-Montei

photo courtesy of Uma Kumar-Montei

Outfit sophomore Uma Kumar-Montei was wearing that day

Uma Kumar-Montei, guest writer

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On Monday, May 27th, I walked into Spanish class and my teacher immediately had a problem with the dress I was wearing. She said that it was “inappropriate” because you could see my shoulders and bra straps. I stated why I didn’t think it was a problem, and in response she sent me to the office so administration could deal with me.

I explained to an administrator and a counselor the reasons that I believe the dress code is unacceptable, but they still enforced it by requiring me to wear an oversized black t-shirt over my dress the entire day. I was really hot and uncomfortable and I looked really stupid.

Because the dress code disagrees with my beliefs, this situation frustrated me and led me to tweet the reasons why I oppose it. I received overwhelming support and attention from not only the Edina High School student body, but students from other cities and states, EHS alumni, and various teachers. Listed below are my reasons for opposing the school’s dress code.

1) It took me a while to be able to be comfortable enough with my body so that I could wear things that weren’t baggy sweatshirts and sweatpants. Body image is a huge issue that affects so many young women, especially in Edina, where perfection is the norm. Instead of teaching the young women who struggle with body image to be proud of the thing that’s impossibly hard for them to accept, dress codes teach them to cover their bodies because they’re “distracting”.

2) It’s literally my shoulder… if you’re sexualizing a 15-year-old girl’s shoulder, then YOU are the problem. I can’t think of one guy who would walk by a girl and say “Dude, check out that girl’s shoulder!” And I’m pretty sure the huge t-shirt I was wearing over my dress was more distracting than the dress itself.

3) It shouldn’t be surprising to anyone that I’m wearing a bra. That’s usually what girls wear. I don’t really understand why being able to see my bra strap suddenly turns an outfit “immodest” and “inappropriate”

4) When you pull me out of class to change, you are telling me that hiding my body is more important than my education. You’re telling me that making sure boys have a “distraction free” learning environment is more important than my education. You’re telling young women that BOYS ARE SOMEHOW MORE ENTITLED TO AN EDUCATION THAN THEY ARE! This perpetuates modern sexism to a great extreme.

5) Men are never told that their human body parts are a distraction. They’re treated as HUMANS and not sexual exploits.

6) Saying that “boys will be boys” and that it’s somehow my responsibility to make sure they can control themselves does nothing but perpetuate rape culture. By blaming a woman for a man’s attention, you’re blaming the victim  and that’s not okay. Just because you can see my bra strap does NOT mean I’m asking for any attention or sexual advances.

7) I should be able to present myself however I want to. If people judge me, that’s their problem, but I have the freedom to be able to choose what I want to wear, especially in a public school system that encourages people to express themselves and challenge the status quo.

8) By shaming my human body parts, you’re treating me as purely a sexual object. Dress coding me reduces my value to my appearance, and that perpetuates modern sexism to a great degree.

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2 Comments

2 Responses to “Letter to the Editor: Sophomore Uma Kumar-Montei’s Perspective on the Dress Code Fiasco Last Week”

  1. Laura Johnson on May 4th, 2015 8:44 am

    Uma, I would like to commend you for this eloquent and mature article. Thank you for standing up for the female community, who is sexualized, degraded and belittled on a daily basis. In order for us to see change in our communities and eventually society, we need more people like you! Most importantly, your reasons for why dress codes are ridiculous are well thought out and very clear for every reader to look at and say “that is so wrong”. Thank you for being an activist and inspiration to your fellow student body!

  2. Anonymous on May 7th, 2015 10:45 pm

    I don’t understand what this has to do with rape culture and feminism. It seems to me the bigger issue is that authority figures abused their power by imposing their own values upon their students. There is no reason in the student handbook why this dress should be illegal.

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Letter to the Editor: Sophomore Uma Kumar-Montei’s Perspective on the Dress Code Fiasco Last Week