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Blame the Tormentor, Not the Tank Top

by Lainey Harlow and Alexandria Margo

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What condones disrespect? A low-cut blouse? A mini skirt?

It’s a common enough excuse for sexist, disrespectful comments and behavior: something along the lines of ‘she asked for it.’ Whether due to clothing choice, substance use, or simply walking alone, women are so often blamed for sexual harassment. Such condonement is shocking, yet fairly common, in school and professional settings.
The dean’s comments during the Aug. 26 edition of PVTV have sparked controversy due to what many view as their sexist nature. KTNV and CNBC Channel 3 News have covered the dress code announcement, drawing even more attention to the issue.

‘But what’s the big deal?’ you might ask. Students are largely concerned with the dean’s words, not with the contents of the dress code. While reviewing the terms of the dress code, Dean Rodriguez addressed the girls directly, telling us that “we don’t want to show skin, ladies. We want the boys to respect us.”

Students throughout the school immediately reacted with shock and confusion at the dean’s statement. Sarah Marcos, a junior, “was in disbelief when [she] heard the dean say that…a lot of people were genuinely upset and shocked.”

Although Marcos is not questioning the dress code itself, she feels that “just because we wear what we want does not mean we lack value.”

Often, it is not the message one presents but how he or she presents it that calls for trouble. A simple change in word connotation or tone of voice can turn a neutral statement sour, and an implication that girls who break a dress code aren’t worthy of a boy’s respect can destroy a previously standard announcement.

The issue is twofold. On one hand, the statement perpetuates the age-old problem of victim blaming. If a boy calls a girl a slut or makes unwanted advances while she is wearing a short skirt, showing cleavage, or otherwise breaking the dress code, does she deserve it? Was she asking for it? Most of the student body would think not.

On the other hand, the statement portrays the male student body as lacking self control and respect for female peers. Obvious examples of such a boy can be found, but the problem arises in the dean’s generalization. Not all boys will make rude comments or unwanted physical advances at the sight of a girl in violation of the dress code.

Although most staff members refuse to comment, junior Karina Kneeland states, “the fact that we have had to follow it since elementary school, [we’re] literally teaching little kids that they have to cover up for guys to respect them.”
It is important to note that most students are not questioning the dress code itself. Rather, we are questioning the propriety of placing blame on clothing choice for others’ misconduct.

A final suggestion: if a student disrespects a girl based on her apparel, place fault where fault is due. Blame the tormentor, not the tank top.

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Blame the Tormentor, Not the Tank Top