When Catherine Pearlman first received a note from school about her daughter’s clothes, she was understandably furious. However, she decided to let that particular dress code violation pass. But when she found her child’s clothes under scrutiny for a second time, she had something to say about it.
Dr. Catherine Pearlman is a social worker and writer originally from Long Island, New York, who now lives with her family in California. She and her husband have two kids together, and the family own a dog named Norma.
But while her domestic set up seems fairly standard, Pearlman is actually an expert when it comes to families. As a result, she blogs about parenting issues – covering everything from potty training to sibling rivalry – via her website, The Family Coach.
Although she mainly focuses on other parents’ troubles, in August 2016 she was experiencing a few problems of her own. That’s because a teacher from her daughter’s school told her that female students were banned from wearing yoga pants for gym. And the reason why was truly worrying.
According to the teacher, wearing such items could cause the boys in her daughter’s class to become noticeably aroused. The teacher further claimed that boys of that age had little control of themselves, so the clothing precaution would prevent any embarrassing incidents. Naturally, Pearlman was horrified.
In fact, Pearlman was so infuriated that she decided to write about it on her blog. “In the 1960s and ’70s, the girls all wore miniskirts that barely covered their rears,” she pointed out. “And the boys still managed to graduate.”
She then went on to condemn school dress codes for girls, saying they sent the wrong message. “Banning yoga pants for the purpose of avoiding unwanted erections sends the message that boys are programmed to respond and can’t help what their bodies do,” Pearlman wrote. “Boys and men are responsible for their actions.”
“It isn’t the responsibility of my daughter (or any daughter) to help boys manage sexual urges,” Pearlman added. “It is the responsibility of the boys. It isn’t okay to start shaming girls about their bodies by telling them to obsessively cover up. And girls should not have to disregard their own comfort to protect the comfort of the boys around them.”
It’s safe to say, then, that the school dress code had Pearlman pretty ticked off. So when teachers later reprimanded her daughter for another clothing-related violation, she was absolutely seething. And this time, she chose to do something about it.
For two days in a row, the school sent Pearlman a note explaining that her daughter was dressed unsuitably for class. This time, though, it wasn’t yoga pants causing the problem; it was shorts. Apparently, the youngster’s shorts were too short, so the school forced her to change into a spare pair of men’s shorts.
Pearlman couldn’t believe the humiliation that her daughter had been subject to once more. So she wrote a letter to the high school principal. In it, she invited the principal to take her daughter out shopping for some more appropriate clothing.
“Here are the specifications you have to work with. I wish you loads of luck,” the infuriated mother wrote. “She is 5 feet 7 inches and 13 years old. Built more like her father, she has exceptionally long legs and arms.”
Pearlman then went on to explain that her daughter isn’t exactly what you’d consider a girly girl. In fact, she felt more comfortable in her favorite band T-shirt rather than a dress or anything pink or fluffy. Moreover, sweatpants were out of the question, too, because she was prone to overheating.
“Now, don’t forget that you will have to find something in the stores that also meets with your dress code requirements,” Pearlman added. “Here are the tricky areas that are most difficult to avoid. As per your policy, she cannot wear tank tops. Shorts and skirts must not extend to the end of the fingertips (this is a toughie.)”
“She has very long fingers which seems to make finding shorts that won’t get her sent to the principal’s office impossible. On the bright side, the piano teacher says those fingers are an asset,” she added. “I’d schedule a few afternoons and weekends for this endeavor. I can tell you from experience that just heading to the mall, Target and the outlets won’t cut it. Not much for her there. I’ve already checked.”
Pearlman added, on top of adhering to the school’s rules and her daughter’s tastes, that there were other stipulations. Cost was one of them. After all, the teenager was still growing, so her family couldn’t afford to break the bank dressing her for just a term or two.
“I thank you endlessly for taking on this chore. What a relief for me,” the mom said towards the end of the open letter. And, to finish, she signed off, “Sincerely, Sick Of The Dress Code Mom.” So, there was no denying that Pearlman got her point across.
It’s unknown if the school responded to Pearlman’s invitation. However, it certainly struck a chord with other parents after going viral online. Indeed, many of them were quick to point out the hypocrisy of school dress codes.
“Just had a conversation with my middle school son,” one lady wrote on Facebook. “He said boys don’t get dress coded… only the girls. The boys wear clothes with pot leaves on them and, apparently, that’s appropriate. But a girl’s stomach is cause for PE clothes to be worn in lieu of what her parents felt was appropriate to wear to school.”
So, according to Pearlman, it’s time we stopped treating our girls as distractions in school. Instead, teachers should be concentrating on their educational experience rather than their clothes. Then, maybe in the future, they will be judged on the value of their minds and not their dress sense.