A 17-year-old high schooler from Virginia says she was kicked out of her prom because the parental chaperones were worried she was inspiring “impure thoughts” among the boys in attendance. Even though her dress adhered to the “fingertip length” dress code requirement, she was asked to leave.
Clare recounts her experience in a guest post on her sister’s blog. After Clare and her boyfriend bought tickets to the Richmond Homeschool Prom, she bought a new dress that she made sure was long enough according to the event’s “fingertip length” rule. But Clare is 5’9″, and even though the hem of her dress was within the guidelines, she says her long legs led some chaperones to assume she was breaking the dress code.
After Clare and her friends hung out a little bit on the dance floor — she writes that they weren’t even dancing, just “swaying with the music and talking and enjoying ourselves” — Clare was pulled away by one of the dance’s organizers, who told her that some of the fathers chaperoning the event had complained about her. They reportedly said that her dancing was too “provocative” and she was going to “cause the young men at the prom to think impure thoughts.”
When Clare protested that she wasn’t even doing anything, she was told that her dress was too short and she needed to leave. She says she demanded to speak with the woman who was in charge of the prom, but the other chaperones refused to let her.
“I was told that the way I dressed and moved my body was causing men to think inappropriately about me, implying that it is my responsibility to control other people’s thoughts and drives,” Clare writes in her blog post. “I’m not responsible for some perverted 45 year old dad lusting after me because I have a sparkly dress on and a big ass for a teenager. And if you think I am, then maybe you’re part of the problem.”
The so-called “fingertip rule” is a common dress code requirement in public schools to monitor girls’ hemlines. But Clare isn’t the first student to complain that it doesn’t accurately reflect different body types. Last week, an eighth grader in California wrote a letter to the editor of the Merced Sun-Star arguing that it’s a bad way for schools to regulate shorts. “Some girls have longer arms, almost to their knees, and others have arms that end about quarter of the way down their thighs. How is enforcing this rule equal and fair if fingertip-length varies?” she pointed out.
More broadly, Clare’s story is just the latest installment in a long line of examples of schools telling girls to cover up so they don’t distract their male peers. Ultimately, that attitude teaches girls that it’s their responsibility to prevent themselves from being ogled, rather than teaching boys to have the self-control to refrain from objectifying their classmates. It’s one of many ways that women are unfairly punished for their sexuality, and it’s exactly the type of framing that contributes to rape culture.
“I am so tired of people who abuse their power to make women feel violated and ashamed because she has an ass, or has breasts, or has long legs,” Clare writes, explaining that she decided to share her story because she’s hardly the only young woman to have this type of experience.
According to Opposing Views, the Richmond Homeschool Prom’s Facebook page was quickly inundated with negative comments about the incident. The page’s administrators deleted all the comments and shut down the page.