I have issues with school dress codes as they are most frequently based in sexist, discriminatory ideas. A girls’ shoulders are not magically distracting boys from learning, and more over, it doesn’t matter what a girl wears; sexual assault is never the victim’s fault. (And, PS: Dress codes don’t stop sexual assault.)
BUT I DIGRESS.
Today I’m not here to preach about dress codes and misogyny. I’m here to talk about body shaming and how it has no place in our school system nor in the world in general.
A principal in South Carolina was recorded saying the following regarding the wearing of leggings.
“I’ve told you this before, I’m going to tell you this now, unless you are a size zero or two and you wear something like that, even though you’re not fat, you look fat.”
No. Nope. Not okay. Not even close.
I should note that the school’s dress code does state this:
“leggings, tights, yoga pants and spandex must be worn under clothing that cover to mid-thigh”
Again, we’re delving into misogyny and victim-blaming instead of telling boys to stop looking at girls’ butts when they should be looking at the teacher. But back to the topics at hand: body-shaming and leggings as that dress code doesn’t say word one about size.
My love of leggings evolved over time, and rather slowly. I was initially anti-leggings. My position came from the fact that I grew up in the 90s, and to me, leggings had stirrups attached. Remember those? I hope those don’t ever come back, because they were horrible.
Once I learned that today’s leggings didn’t have rubber bands attached to the bottoms, I became a staunch “Leggings Are Not Pants” believer. I was vocal about it, occasionally sending out a “reminder” that leggings were not pants. I was adamant that you needed to wear something to cover your behind in order to wear leggings. Adamant.
One should note that my Leggings Are Not Pants phase of life also coincides with my highest weight while not pregnant phase. Why yes, it’s easy to see, even without a psychology degree, that I was projecting my self-hate onto the rest of the world. I didn’t feel comfortable wearing anything tight, so dagnabit, no one else should either.
Then I started running more after a back procedure fixed me up and, when that next winter rolled around, I needed to wear warm gear in order to get my runs in during the cold months. Running tights entered my life. But running in a shirt that covers your behind isn’t really helpful to speed or comfort, and so I ran with no shirt covering my leggings-laden behind. I argued, of course, that they were thicker than leggings and thus it was not the same thing.
It was the same thing, and I knew it. Guilt for my Leggings Are Not Pants phase began to peck at me.
Then a friend wrote a really smart piece that made me stop policing other people’s clothing in general.
“I’ve found myself thinking things like “She shouldn’t wear that,” or “That’s a super not appropriate outfit she’s wearing” and so on. Really, what I should have been saying is that I shouldn’t wear that or I would feel out of place wearing that other thing.”
And then she really drove it home:
If that little girl feels confident and comfortable, she should wear the leggings.
If that grown woman over there feels confident and comfortable, she should wear the leggings.
That’s when I quit policing what other people wear or don’t wear. That piece was written in the spring of 2015, before I ever knew about LuLaRoe. I was still working full time as an editor and had no clue that I would, within the year, be selling leggings to women of all sizes.
I don’t share any of this with the hopes of selling more leggings. I share this because I’m tired of people policing other peoples’ clothing, and more importantly, their bodies. The fact that this principal just body shamed a bunch of high school girls who already have a hard enough time because of hormones and that whole growing up thing makes me so incredibly angry. Our generation of smart women is trying to fix the body-hate that we grew up with by promoting body positivity to our children—but we’re having to fight to do that at every turn, even in our kids’ schools. In their schools, supposed safe havens for learning.
I don’t care if you’re a size zero or two or ten or fourteen or twenty-six. Wear what you want to wear. Wear the leggings. The bikini. The dress. Wear them with the confidence that shows others, “I don’t give a flying fig what you think about me,” and believe it in your core.
I say all of this during a time of intense personal self-doubt. I have gained some weight which has been negatively affecting my old back injury and, well, my self-confidence. But here’s the thing: I’ve been smaller than this. Much. And I’ve been bigger than this. Much. And at all of those sizes, big and small and in between, I was worthy of love and respect.
So are you.
If someone in your life tells you that you can’t or shouldn’t wear a piece of clothing because you’re either too big or too small, that person doesn’t belong in your life. At the very least, you shouldn’t listen to them as they are not showing you respect. There’s a difference between a close friend saying that maybe something doesn’t fit properly and someone saying a whole size-range or age-range shouldn’t wear a particular size of clothing.
Don’t listen to the haters. Ignore the rules. If it makes you feel good, wear it. If it makes you feel confident, wear it. If it makes you feel like YOU, then PLEASE WEAR IT. You deserve to feel good, confident, and like YOU. You are worthy of those feelings.
Don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise.