Schools in the US are now well known for their dress code policies and just how strictly this dress code is followed makes the news almost every day. Sending young girls back home has become an established practice. And the culprit is their visible bra strap.
But what could be so wrong with a tiny bit of elastic on somebody’s shoulders? Well, if that shoulder belongs to a girl, then, absolutely everything.
Dress code policies like this have been under a lot of fire because they constantly nag female students to dress appropriately so as to not distract the male students or teachers. Yes, young girls are being sent home to prevent them from distracting male students and teachers. Their education is disrupted because their male classmates are not able to concentrate in the presence of their bare shoulders or visible bra straps.
And if it is a practice in the US, we in India have to follow without wasting any time. How can we be any far behind? It was only last year that DPS Rohini came out with a notification which asked girls to wear slips under their shirts and conceal their bras. They were to make sure that their bras were not visible. Not visible!
“Excuse me, your bra strap is showing.”
This is a statement made in a hushed voice dripping with concern to make women aware of this little accident that she had had. Because, oh god a bra strap! No one wants to see it and no woman in her right mind should show it.Because a visible bra strap is plain wrong.
But this was earlier. Now, perhaps it is just not enough to show women their place. It is essential to show it to young girls too. They should learn from an early age just how scandalous can a piece of elastic be when it covers their body and how ashamed they should be for letting it show.
Yes, it is the deep rooted patriarchal notions which make it so easy for the society to say that men will be men and it is women, their thoughts and their bodies which have to be controlled at any cost. So, when everything about a man and what he does is normalized while everything about a woman is fetishized, it is because of the age old patriarchy that the society still clings to as if the existence of human kind depends on it.
It is 2019 but not much has changed. A woman’s visible bra strap still makes her desperate, needy, and calling for attention. It still makes it okay to call her a slut and a whore who is asking for it. She continues to be that immoral, character less woman who is out to lure men. Because even though it is 2019, that’s the power of a tiny piece of elastic. It makes men lose all control. And that obviously is still a woman’s fault even when we are in 2019.
Every time a woman is shamed for a visible bra strap, we are telling her that anything to do with her body is scandalous to the extent that she should be ashamed of it—her clothes, her body and herself. Every time a young girl is sent back home because her bra strap was distracting the boys, it becomes a million times worse not only because these girls are young but also because this takes place inside classrooms. It is the school authorities teaching the girls that their education is not as important as that of boys; that it is normal for boys to be not in control of their impulses and that it is their responsibility to dress appropriately so that the boys can study in a distraction free environment. The schools which are supposed to educate children for a better future are further strengthening the stereotypes and the already prevalent rape culture.
Bra straps are basically kryptonite for men.Barely a glimpse and they lose control over their impulses. So the question now is for how long will women be blamed for issues that can only be controlled by men? For how long will women be shamed for having bodies? Is hiding a bra strap at any cost the viable solution? Are women now supposed to pretend that breasts don’t exist because a bra strap can lead a man’s impulses to run wild?
It is 2019. Can’t we just challenge this patriarchal system which shames women and tries to control them? Instead of shaming girls, can’t we teach boys that girls are not sexual objects? Can we not build a society where a woman exists with all the respect and dignity she deserves as a human?