Are School Dress Codes for Girls a Form of Blaming the Victim?

Where does trying to ensure safety cross the line of making excuses for guys' behavior? 

By Henry Adeleye on April 15, 2016 


In the ever more progressive world we live in, ideas that used to just be normal can suddenly seem prehistoric.  I mean, who could've predicted that people would use their smartphones to find dates, and then use them again while they're on an actual date with that date.  Similarly, just a few years ago, we wouldn't have thought twice about a principal telling schoolgirls to lengthen their skirts to below the knee to keep guys from "getting ideas".  But now, we have to look at that kind of thinking with a little skepticism.     


A New Zealand school is making headlines for doing just that.  A deputy principal at Henderson High School in Auckland has created quite a stir for taking its female students aside into a meeting and telling them that their skirts need to be longer.  It wasn't necessarily the rule itself that caused the controversy; it was the rationale he gave.  His reasoning was that the move was designed to "keep the girls safe, stop boys from getting ideas, and create a good work environment for male staff." 


Now if this seems like he's making excuses for male behavior as if it's some kind of uncontrollable rage that can only be prevented by not ever setting it off in the first place, it's because he is.  The fact of the matter is that guys should learn to control their emotions and their hormones, whichever comes first.  Girls should not be held responsible for the negative acts of these guys.

Of course, like with anything, there are people who support the deputy principal's actions.  Even if these people happen to be musicians you really like (and are maybe or maybe not listening to as we speak), you have to learn to separate their work from their words.  And there is a valid argument that we should plan for the world that exists instead of the world that we would like to see.  But we can never get to that ideal world if we don't put our foot down somewhere.   


So, where do we draw the line between good advice and giving guys a free pass?  That's always the toughest question to answer.  For me personally, I like to think back to when my brother and another gentleman got their cars broken into in a church parking lot.  The thieves tried, unsuccessfully, to take my brother's stereo (though they were very successful in shattering his back window), and they took the other guy's iPhone.   


I remember how pissed I was about it, even though the items weren't mine.  When we told the pastor of the church what happened, he offered his condolences but said that it was ultimately my brother and the other gentleman's fault for having valuables in their cars in plain view.  I recall wondering how the heck he could blame them and not put any implication on the people who broke into the cars., that even if they had a million dollars in a lime green briefcase that said "steal me" sitting on the front seat with the doors unlocked, it's still no excuse to take it.  There really was no room for blaming the victims in that situation.  And then I concluded that the same applies for these schoolgirls.