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Teen Girls Challenge Sexist School Dress Codes

The #Iammorethanadistraction campaign, started by girls at South Orange Middle School in New Jersey who were fed up with the school administration’s shaming emails and loudspeaker announcements about dress code enforcement, gives a catchy slogan to female students everywhere who are tired of being considered “distractions to the learning environment.” 

In Toronto, high school students recently protested slut-shaming dress codes by participating in a #croptopday, which took off on social media. “Having my stomach/thighs/shoulders show does not compromise my intelligence or actions,” reads the caption of one student’s photo.

The play “SLUT,” developed by the 8-18 year-old members of The Arts Effect All-Girl Theater Company in New York City, began its national tour in April. It’s another call to action, challenging sexual shaming and sexual assault. 

But for Jewish girls and young women attending Jewish day schools  — and especially those attending Orthodox schools  — dress codes are often more stringent and can feel even more degrading than for their secular counterparts. In “Voyeurism and the Yeshiva Girl,” on the Lilith Blog, Elana Sztokman critiques the policing of girls and the sexist enforcement of dress codes in Orthodox schools: “All girls at Orthodox schools whose knees, chests and elbows are glared at by staff to determine whether their clothes are too ‘immodest’ are victims of unwanted gaze and voyeurism.”