CCHS alumna calls for dress code reform
May 17, 2016
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Dear Editor of the El Cid,
I think it is time for all of us to really discuss the issue of girls uniforms at Cathedral Catholic High School. As part of the inaugural class for Cathedral’s new uniform style in Fall 2011, I saw how my female peers altered their skirts in and out of the classroom. And though I tried not to be, I was still part of the problem.
Yes, I, too, cut the little shorts out of my skirts and, though I typically didn’t roll them, would pull them up high on my waist to rest just above the acceptable “Three inches above the middle of the knee.” Why? Well after nine years in Catholic school, I quickly learned how my friends looked at me differently if my skirt wasn’t the right length. If it was too long, I was “overly modest” and a “prude,” but if it was too short, I was a “begging for attention.”
These labels were never explicitly used because of my own skirt length, but I do remember thinking I was somehow better than the girls who had their skirts way too long or way too short. This poisoned my thinking more than I’d like to admit.
Even outside of school, I would refuse to wear longer skirts or dresses because they, too, seemed prudish and matronly. It was not until I started college that I realized how lovely a longer skirt looks on me and how much I love how it flows around my calves, and most importantly how everything I thought I learned from high school uniforms didn’t really matter.
The issue here is cultural. And the truth is, despite its best efforts, Cathedral Catholic administration was not prepared for this kind of attitude. You all know that they can preach modesty and hand out skirt detentions all they want, but they’re not going to reach their students’ minds and really change anything.
Have you ever gone out in your uniform and felt a little more unwanted attention because of it? Have you, especially those under 18, ever been catcalled or otherwise hit on by some creepy stranger while wearing your uniform?
If you have, believe me when I say this was not your fault; rather, there seems to be a cultural attitude about what your uniform really means. Somewhere, at some point, mainstream culture became convinced that young women in uniforms are easily corruptible and begging for a taste of “the real world” outside chapel walls. This does you as a unique human being, your fellow women, and your religion an injustice.
It is time for you to rebel. It is time for you to challenge what has gone wrong in our culture and take back your uniform. Whether you love or hate it, whether you have three years or 30 days left in it, it’s time for you to show the world you are so much more than a body or a stereotype.
You are strong women with human dignity. You are intelligent and courageous and witty and ambitious and caring and so much more!
No, it shouldn’t matter what you wear or how you wear it, but the reality is your exterior says something about your interior. Your uniform is representative of who you are and you have the power to shape that. Maybe wearing your skirt a little longer won’t automatically change how others look at you, but I believe you will start to shift the conversation in your favor nonetheless.
Finally, Administration, I encourage you to take a different approach to uniforms. I think we need to figure out how to teach our girls (and boys!) rather than punish them. Skirt detentions and wearing pants does not do anyone any good. It does not cause change and only reinforces the idea that you’re against your students rather than for them.
You emphasize modesty, but do you effectively teach your students what that means and why it’s important? You have to start teaching at the beginning or your students won’t get it, much less listen and adhere to rules. Go back to Catechism, start at the beginning; teach your students who God is and how to love him and how much he loves us and let them experience that personally.
Next move on to the value and dignity of the human person, sin, how the way we dress and act expresses who we are, how modesty standards are cultural, and how Catholics are called to be “in the world, but not of the world.”
Textbooks and syllabi only get you partway there, give your students the tools to experience the rest and grow in faith themselves. Give them challenges and they’ll find ways to overcome them.
CCHS Class of 2015
USC Class of 2019