PSA: I use controversial words like spaghetti straps, body shaming and bra in this post. If you find those words upsetting, you may want to continue scrolling.
My last chick is extremely introverted. Charlotte worships reading (the same book over and over), spends countless hours sprawled across her floor drawing pictures she may or may not show you, and consistently rides her bike in search of neighborhood cats to befriend.
Basically, she is a senior citizen in an 11 year old body. Fast forward to the near future, where I envision Tom, Charlotte and I cozied up in a Denny’s booth, ordering one meal to share between the 3 of us, while taking our Ensure Protein drinks in a to-go cup.
On the rare occasion Charlie does open up, it’s a fleeting window on our walks home from school. Some days it’s crickets. But every once in a while, when the stars are aligned She. Dishes. The. Goods. As we stride down the sidewalk together, I am held captive by her details regarding the dynamics of 5th grade group projects, and/or the complexities of how much glitter was used in that group project, and/or how she refuses to drink milk with hot lunch because the school stopped handing out straws. (To which I say, “Well, they ARE sort of bad for the environment,” To which Charlotte replies, “That’s NOT the point, Mom.”)
Last Friday’s news was different. Charlie began to explain that her very good friend had been dress-coded for wearing spaghetti straps. Immediately, I stopped walking, made direct eye contact with my kid, and ‘passionately’ asked, “Hold up. What happened?!”
** When the girls witness me getting fired up, the next phrase is usually, “Gosh mom, you sound passionate about that topic.” **
Apparently, during lunchtime, her friend was singled out for wearing spaghetti straps and then asked to “cover up”. Readers in the future - I come to you from the year 2022.
Instantaneously, I began to fill with rage. Within 30 seconds, I was texting the mom offering unsolicited suggestions, “I am here to support you regarding this Spaghetti Strap BullSHIT. Here are my ideas: stage an ENTIRE SCHOOL Spaghetti Straps Day. Plan a walk out. Or take this to the local news. ” She was more than thankful for the support.
Upon reaching home, I dialed the front office leaving a message for the Principal, as two of my daughters, halfway observing me from the couch, just sort of looked in my direction like, “there she goes again, feeling passionate.” It was 3 PM on a Friday.
The Principal returned my call on Monday. Below is the email I sent after that conversation.
Thank you for returning my phone call today.
Initially, I reached out to you because it was brought to my attention that my daughter's classmate was dress-coded for wearing spaghetti straps last week at Booksin. The SJUSD dress code policy states "clothing must cover undergarments”, which you stated as being the reason for the dress code citation. Said student’s clothing was covering her undergarments, as she wore her shirt over her bra. It also begs the question: why do first graders, who don't wear undergarments, also get dress coded? The policy itself is confusing and outdated.
You stated an exception to this rule for Promotion while also stating the importance of consistency to this dress code policy. How is wearing a summer dress on the day of Promotion any different than wearing it during the school year? How does this impede learning?
Being a former educator and the mother of five daughters, I am outraged that our girls are being body shamed for what they are wearing, when it has absolutely NO direct correlation on their ability to learn in the classroom. It is far more disruptive and embarrassing to have the student be singled out to leave their class/school/lunch table/ and be told to "cover up". This not only takes time directly away from instruction, but also implies a message that they have done something "wrong". When in actuality, they have not.
I am proposing: adopt a formal uniform policy OR stop dress coding students for this Patriarchal and outdated way of thinking. An apology from the staff to all students who have been dress coded is also appropriate.
If you’re still reading, (thank you), I have some good news: I received word today from the Principal that “spaghetti strap type attire will be considered acceptable wear.”
Welcome to the present day.
I want to encourage all of us to empower our kids to use their voices to dispute injustice while respectfully challenging individuals in power. Because really, what else is there?
To the ones who have cubs, I vow to fight for them like they are my own. To the ones who have fought for my cubs like they were yours, I am forever indebted to you.