High school and middle school dress codes force young women to be ashamed of their bodies. Catherine Pearlman had enough.
If you're a woman who has had the absolute pleasure of going through middle school and high school in the American education system, there's probably one thing you're incredibly familiar with. No, it's not the concepts you learned in your school textbooks. Actually, it's the school dress code - dun dun duuuuun. Something that seems to apply solely to girls and in the most arbitrary, superficial ways. In school, young girls and their bodies are sexualized through strict dress codes when all they should be worried about is playground games and their grades. Instead, high school systems across the United States force girls to cover up and disrupt their education so that boys aren't distracted by, le gasp! Bare naked elbows. In most cases, parents team up with the school in question to make young girls feel insecure in their own bodies. However, this mom decided she wasn't going to stand for that any longer. In a letter addressed to her daughter's school principal following an infringement of the dress code, concerned mother Catherine Pearlman asked the principal to take her youngin on a shopping trip.
Catherine, a mom of two, wrote, "Thank you for sending a note home for the second day in a row to say my daughter was dressed inappropriately for school. I’d like to offer an additional thank you for forcing her to change into large mesh shorts that have been worn by only god knows who and potentially never washed. To reward you for treating my daughter with such concern, I am cordially inviting you to take my daughter shopping." She then went on to highlight some points to keep in mind when going shopping, including everything from what her daughter feels comfortable in, to what was most likely to fit her given her body structure.
Some of the notes included, "She is 5’7” and 13 years old. Built more like her father, she has exceptionally long legs and arms; She won’t wear pants because she gets overheated easily. Trust me I’ve seen this. It will cause a scene in the schoolyard; She absolutely will not wear a dress either." Then, Catherine pointed out that in addition to all her points, the principal would have to find something that fits the school's dress code as well. "Now, don’t forget that you will have to find something in the stores that also meets with your dress code requirements," she wrote. "Here are the tricky areas that are most difficult to avoid. As per your policy, she cannot wear tank tops. Shorts and skirts must not extend to the end of the fingertips (this is a toughie)." She rounded off the sarcastic letter by requesting that the shopping trip have a reasonable budget.
The "Sick of the Dress Code Mom" ended her letter with a reminder of how inequitable her daughter's school dress code was. Catherine explained, "I forgot to thank you for making it clear to my daughter that her body is somehow a distraction, either to herself or to the boys. I thought she might have missed the message earlier in the year when the gym teacher told her she couldn’t wear yoga pants because the boys aren’t able to control themselves. I appreciate how hard you are working to drive the point home." Thankfully, her powerful letter has inspired change. In an update, Catherine revealed that several changes were made to her daughter's dress code to make it less biased and make sure girls didn't feel like their bodies weren't their own. That's a win!