school tells girls to lengthen skirts to avoid 'distracting' male teachers

Students and feminist commenters are rightly vexed about the dangerous message this sends in a culture of victim-blaming.

by Hannah Ongley
11 April 2016, 9:46pm

Victim-blaming is alive and well in 2016, and one school has just given students a very real lesson about this troubling wee facet of modern life. Teenage girls at Henderson High School in Auckland, New Zealand, have been told to lengthen their skirts to knee-length, reports Newshub, to avoid "distracting" male students and teachers. The girls were reportedly rounded up after an assembly uniform inspection, where they were told by the school's deputy principle that the rule was being implemented to "keep our girls safe, stop boys from getting ideas and create a good work environment for male staff."

Unsurprisingly, this reasoning is not sitting well with female students nor a feminist academic and lecturer. "The rules themselves aren't the problem; the problem is when these codes target girls specifically because their bodies are sexual and distracting," said year 11 student Sade Tuttle. Deborah Russell, a feminist commentator and lecturer at New Zealand's Massey University, told The Guardian that the rule "sends a message that young women are responsible for young men's sexual behavior, and also sends a bad message to young men that their sexual behavior is uncontrollable." 

While schools have every right to lay down rules regulating the wearing of school uniforms, school is also a place where students should feel safe. This makes the misplaced onus particularly troubling. "We know that victim blaming is very common and this is a clear example of the responsibility on the girls to be responsible for their own safety," Debbi Tohill, executive director of Rape Crisis, told The Guardian. "In this instance, where the teacher is in a position of authority and control, the teacher has the responsibility to ensure a safe environment is created for all students. Teachers need to ensure that they have respectful relationships with their students."


Text Hannah Ongley

victim blaming