Little Girls Shouldn't Have to 'Cover Up' Their Bathing Suits at School Pool Part​y

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When we hear about school dress codes that body-shame girls, it tends to be the mother of a daughter bringing a particular injustice to our attention. But in the case of a recent 6th-grade pool party where girls -- and ONLY girls -- were required to wear t-shirts over their swimsuits, it was the mother of a boy who took it upon herself to challenge the ridiculously sexist policy.


Jennifer Smith of Indianapolis was shocked when her son brought home a permission slip for his class pool party with the following directive:

"All girls must wear a non-white t-shirt over their swimsuit."

Wow, sounds like a super fun party for those girls! (Because swimming in a t-shirt is such a good time, as anyone who's ever done it knows.) The request, of course, was completely unfair, which Smith recognized right away. So instead of signing her name to the permission slip, she wrote a little note:

"I will not let my child participate in any activity that promotes girls' body shaming," she wrote.

"Being a feminist and seeing things through that filter, I was just kind of enraged by that," Smith told the Huffington Post of the t-shirt rule. "They're saying little girls need to be ashamed of their bodies and cover themselves up."

"I have a little boy, I'm teaching him to think correctly, and this is contrary to what I'm teaching him," she continued.

After contacting the school, Smith was told that the t-shirt request was made over concerns about "inappropriate" attire in past years, and was also an "economic consideration," as the school felt it would be cheaper for parents to provide a cover-up than buy new, "appropriate" swimsuits. (How about the new t-shirts families would have to buy after those makeshift cover-ups were ruined by chlorine?) Smith had to go all the way to the superintendent to get the policy changed to "t-shirts optional." 

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At least she was finally able to make a change, but it shouldn't have been so hard -- and she shouldn't have had to make it at all.

"Setting one standard for half of the student body only promotes the idea that girls bodies are naturally shameful," Smith wrote in an email to the school principal, and I couldn't agree with her more. First of all, there's no age at which it would be okay to ask girls to submit to a completely different standard of dress than boys, but 6th grade?! Are they actually TRYING to make girls feel more self-conscious than they already do? Because in 6th grade, whether you're on the early or late end of the developmental spectrum, it feels like the wrong end.

And the t-shirt thing is only going to make that even more painfully obvious (can't you just hear the teasing now? "Haha, she REALLY needs that t-shirt" or "Haha, she doesn't even NEED that t-shirt!"). I've gotten into arguments with the administration at my daughter's middle school over similar dress code issues, and my argument has been the same as Smith's. How about instead of making girls feel like there's something inherently shameful and wrong about their bodies, we focus on teaching boys to treat girls with respect? If more moms of sons were like Jennifer Smith, none of this would even be an issue.

What would you do if your kid brought home a permission slip like this one?


Image via iStock

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