Appalling Whisper Messages Reveal How Too Many Schools Humiliate Young Girls
Slut-shaming and humiliating young girls for their bodies has taken center stage in 2014. In just the past few months, a high school student in Florida was forced to wear a "shame suit" for violating the school's dress code, a Quebec high schooler was publicly humiliated in front of her classmates for wearing shorts that were too short, a Richmond-based 17-year-old was sent home from her prom because fathers in attendance kept ogling her and Evanston, Ill., middle schoolers were banned from wearing yoga pants or leggings to school because it was too distracting for boys.
But students aren't just staying quiet anymore, they're speaking out, at least, they're trying.
Using the anonymous sharing platform Whisper, students are airing their schools' dirty laundry by posting personal experiences. Ranging from a teacher spreading vitriolic rumors to suspension over jeans with ripped knees, there's no shortage of educational authorities treating young girls in atrocious ways because of the way they dress.
Here are just some of the outcries that have been popping up on Whisper:
In the post above, the student wrote in a direct message that a teacher specifically said this to her: "That I need to cover up, leave some room for imagination, and give the guys a break."
The Whispers were authenticated by the site's editors who describe the process:
"Whisper allows users to share personal experiences and thoughts they might not be comfortable sharing publicly or while tethered to a user profile," said Whisper editor-in-chief Neetzan Zimmerman. "The anonymous nature of Whisper creates an entirely safe space for discussion, advice and support. The only incentive for posting whispers is to be able to participate in an authentic conversation around themes that matter."
These Whisper posts are just another example of the poor implementation of school dress codes and how they perpetuate a sense of shame for young women about their bodies. Mic's own Julianne Ross notes, "What is disturbing about this practice isn't the concept of a dress code per se, but rather the subtext that such codes are necessary because girls' bodies are distracting or shameful."
In the 2011-2012 school year, 49% of public school and 71% of private schools strictly enforced dress codes, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. And in 2013, nearly 1 out of every 3 students reported being bullied, according to Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center. That means that students face challenges amongst their peers and now increasingly by authoritative figures. While it's true that these stats represent something different than slut-shaming, they do help to paint a larger picture of the hostile and unfriendly environments so many American schools have become.
Embarrassing teenage girls about their own bodies exacerbates a terrible lesson being learned in schools: That having a woman's body is a crime. These Whisper posts are an empowering vehicle for young students to voice the harsh realities of what is happening in our schools today.