A sixth-grade student in Portland, Maine, is fighting back against sexist dress codes at her school.
King Middle School student Molly Neuner was not happy when a teacher had Molly and another female student measure their tank top straps and the inseam of their shorts — in front of their entire class — because the teacher felt the girls were “a distraction” to the boys.
Hey, you know what’s really distracting? Having class interrupted by a teacher who insists that everyone stare at two girls and shame them for what they’re wearing.
“She made us feel really uncomfortable,” Molly said. “It was really uncomfortable and weird.” We hear you, Molly. You are not Hester Prynne, and last we checked, a scarlet A was not part of your school uniform.
The teacher decided that Molly’s tank top straps weren’t two-fingers wide (is that in the Bible somewhere? Thou shalt not wear tank tops if the straps are not verily two fingers wide?) and Molly was a harlot. OK, the teacher didn’t call her a harlot. But she did warn Molly that her next infraction would get her a detention.
And yes, you can see the tank top in question by clicking through to the Portland Press Herald, which first covered this story.
Molly wasn’t having any of this crap, so on Wednesday, she deliberately went against the archaic dress code and wore another tank top to school. On her arm she wrote “#IAmNotADistraction” — a hashtag growing in popularity to oppose absurd misogynist dress codes at schools.
More: School dress codes are archaic — and seriously out of hand
Molly’s mother, Christina Neuner, supported her daughter 100 percent. Christina posted a photo of her daughter’s outfit on Instagram and discussed why the issue matters to their family.
“We need to stand up for ourselves and for our children. We need to teach our beautiful, young, innocent daughters that their bodies are beautiful and powerful and their own to display or portray in any way they wish WITHOUT consequence,” Neuner captioned the photo. “And we need to teach our young, kind, brave sons that they are smart and strong and capable of controlling their own bodies.”
Molly started a mini-revolution at her school, with about 20 other girls also deliberately ignoring the school dress code to take a stand.
“It was so cool to see everyone doing it,” Molly said. And it wasn’t just her fellow students — even teachers were on board.
“My social studies teacher told us that it was super cool we were doing it, and that we were right, that we aren’t distractions,” Molly said. “She was super supportive of it, and our teachers were all super supportive. Then the principal called me into her office and we talked, and she said they would review the dress code at the end of the year.”
More: Getting dressed for school shouldn’t be this hard for girls — and fashion is not the issue
It wasn’t just empty talk. The school’s principal, Caitlin LeClair, has announced the school will indeed review and possibly amend the dress code at the end of the year.
“We plan to take this feedback and use it as an opportunity to have some students’ and parents’ input,” LeClair said.
Molly, however, says she will believe it when she sees it. “I’m happy they’re going to look at it, but I want to make sure they really do it,” she said.
We do too. We’ll be keeping an eye on this story — at Molly’s school and in schools across the U.S.