On Tuesday, September 22, a father took to Facebook to express his anger. He was shocked by the comments a maths teacher made to his daughter, a 14-year-old. According to the teacher, the girl's attire was 'vulgar' and 'too revealing.'
Following the September 14 revolt against the sexiststereotyping of high school girls, it appears that the issue of policing girls' clothing has become a central public debate. And although more and more people are being called out on it, these incidents are still happening. For instance, on September 22nd, a math teacher at a school in France saw it fit to comment on one of his 9th-grade students' outfit. He told the young woman her outfit was 'vulgar' and her neckline was 'too revealing.' The schoolgirl's father, David Paufert, ranted about it on social media.
The 14-year-old's dad told l'Est Republicain before going on with the story:
On Tuesday morning, my 14-year-old daughter went to school dressed as she usually would. She was wearing sneakers, black pants, a tank top, and a jacket. Nothing too provocative. When she got to her mathematics class, before she even sat down, her teacher told her, in front of all the other students, that her top was too revealing, that her outfit was vulgar and that he didn't understand how she was allowed to come to school dressed like that. She tried to zip up her jacket but couldn't. Then a classmate lent her a sweater so she could cover any skin she was showing.
Unsurprisingly, the schoolgirl was very troubled by her teacher's comments. The father added:
I sense that she feels some kind of guilt. She's very modest, very prudish. I'm now left with a child who may no longer be able to pick an outfit without worrying about what others might think or say about it. This is problematic for a teenage girl who's just starting to come into herself.
The day after the incident, the professor apologized after meeting with the school's principal.
In a long Facebook post, David Paufert started out thanking the people who showed their support for his daughter. He also called out the latent sexism at play in the policing of women's bodies and their outfits.
It's like it's become normal to be able to control how a woman dresses, like it's become normal to shift the blame: it's no longer the perpetrator's fault but that of the young woman who is asked to be more careful about how she dresses. One thing's for sure: the trivialization of this blame-shifting is at the root of these comments. And his comments, based on our child's outfit at the time he made them, were unwarranted, especially in the middle of a classroom.
The father also referred to Jean-Michel Blanquer's controversial call for pupils to dress in 'republican style.' He concluded:
We need to get rid of this mindset: school should not be a place where we teach girls to be careful because they could cause bad reactions […] We hope, above all, that in this school and in all others, a call for pupils to dress in republican style doesn't turn into a push for a return to old-fashioned ideals or the diffusion of Puritan ideology.
Unfortunately, this isn't an isolated incident. And following the remarks the French Minister of Education made, it looks like we'll be seeing more of these.