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Source: Instagram

6th-Grader Leads Successful Protest Against Her School's Sexist Dress Code

By Aimee Lutkin

The times, they are a-changing, and unfortunately attitudes about school dress codes have not caught up in the least. Not a day goes by where some girl isn't penalized or removed from class because her bra strap is peaking out or her shorts are too short. She's a "distraction" you see, for all the teen boys and their raging uncontrollable hormones. 

For some reason, boys are never removed from class because they can't control themselves. Luckily, young girls are learning earlier and earlier to stand up for themselves. 

For example, take Molly Neuner of King Middle School, a sixth-grader who organized a tank top protest amongst her classmates on Wednesday. Molly had gotten called out for wearing a razor-back tank top and threatened with detention after a teacher publicly measured the width of her tank top straps, according to the Portland Press Herald

In response, Molly and a bunch of other girls wore their tanks to school en masse, writing the hashtag #IAmNotADistraction on their arms:

This girl... I have no words for her bravery... Today has been quite a day. We woke up to our strong, brave, beautiful girl on the front page of the paper. When we agreed to be part of the article, I thought that the article would be tucked in the back page of the opinion section. But instead, there she was, front and center standing up for herself for all to see. Some may read this and think it’s “just a strap” or that “rules were meant to be followed” or that “girls should cover up” or (my personal favorite) “it’s a distraction to boys.” But my question to you is, why? Why do you feel like this? Why do you jump to those conclusions? It’s because of what we are taught. We have been taught to mask our own feelings and stay small and not make waves. We are taught that our bodies are inherently sexual objects that WE need to cover so WE stay safe. Well, no longer my friends. We need to stand up for ourselves and our for children. We need to teach our beautiful, young, innocent daughters that their bodies are beautiful and powerful and their own to display or portray in any way they wish WITHOUT consequence. And we need to teach our young, kind, brave sons that they are smart and strong and capable of controlling their own bodies. And don’t even get me started on the issues of the LGBTQ kids who are completely overlooked on this issue. The other piece that this amazing story left out is that last week, the students in my daughter's class had a meeting to review dress code. In that meeting there were many questions about the girls rules and when one of the students asked why the girls had so many rule they were told that it was because they were a distraction to the boys… I’ll let that sink in for a minute… And maybe you need another minute… It is 2017 after all. And while the school has assured us that this is not the opinion of the school, the dress code still stands in place until the end of the year. This is not just about a tank top, it’s about years of underlying messages of shame to our girls that MUST stop. #mybodymybusiness #iamnotadistraction #iammorethanadistraction

A post shared by Christina Neuner 💌 (@christinaneuner) on

Principal Caitlin LeClair met with Molly's parents and promised that the feedback would be taken into consideration for next year's revamped dress code, though the current one would remain in place for the remainder of the school year. 

Portland's current code says that students cannot wear anything that would cause a “material and substantial disruption” in school, a phrase that Superintendent Xavier Botana told the press should be reconsidered. “I don’t believe we should be dictating fashion or measuring the length of shorts if it’s not a material and substantial distraction,” he said, then commented specifically on tank tops with: “I would be hard-pressed to understand how the size of a strap makes a substantial and material disruption.” 

Molly's protest has changed perceptions at her school, but the hashtag is part of a larger movement online as young people everywhere talk about how dress codes are used to police women's bodies as well as trans, gender non-conforming and LGBTQ youth: