A Minnesota mother couldn't believe that her 5-year-old daughter was forced to change a cute dress she put on simply because it had "bare shoulders."
I grew up in a religious community that was very keen on the belief that what a person wears could "distract" others around them and cause some unwanted attention.
To an extent, I do believe that's true. If I'm trying to keep a low-profile, I probably shouldn't be wearing the Borat mankini while hanging out at the beach.
Nor should I be bringing stacks of books with me to a bar with a table lamp and pretend like I don't want to draw attention to myself because I'm acting like a total weirdo.
In religion, however, there's this idea that a woman should cover herself up so as not to tempt those around them. And while some people might believe that works in theory, or think it's a good idea, sadly statistics prove that in countries where women are rocking hijabs or niqabs or burkas have some of the highest rates of sexual assault in the world.
But let's say for the sake of argument that yes, "covering up" prevents sexual assaults from occurring and that we're shifting the blame off of attackers from committing sexual assault in the first place, at what age should a woman start covering herself up? 18? 16? 14?
What about 5-years-old?
That's Emily Stewart wants to know when it came to her daughter Harmony.
Emily, living in Minnesota where the weather isn't the warmest around, jumped at the opportunity to take advantage of some nice weather and dressed her daughter in a cute outfit that Harmony's grandmother bought for her.
She puts some jeans on under the dress and gave her daughter a light sweater to wear on top of it so she wasn't too cold.
Feeling pretty and good about herself, Emily snapped a photo of her baby girl proudly rocking what her Grannie got her. Her smile says it all.
But school rules stipulated that Harmony couldn't be in class, rocking a bare-shouldered dress for whatever reason. The young girl was told to "cover up" and was given a t-shirt to wear instead of the cute dress that her grandma got for her.
It was a decision that baffled Emily. It's not as if the school was afraid of Harmony catching a cold, because they just gave her a t-shirt t- wear and she had brought a light sweater with her.
Harmony was told to "cover up" her body simply because a sun dress, with thin shoulder straps was deemed inappropriate. I don't know about you, but when I look at that photo of Harmony smiling in the sun dress, all I see is a cute little kid who's happy about what she's wearing.
Emily posed a good question: why is a 5-year-old girl being sexualized in the first place? Why is she being told that her dress is inappropriate. Is her body inappropriate and it needs to be covered up? Is it a distraction? A distraction for who? For what?
The worst part about the whole thing is that it clearly had an effect of Harmony's day. Her mother snapped a photo after she came home in her new clothes, and that beaming smile and little twinkle in her eyes was gone.
Sadly, Harmony didn't take the news that her dress was "inappropriate" that well. The 5-year-old began crying when she was sent home in "appropriate" school attire. She also expressed how embarrassing it was to go to school and be told that what you were wearing wasn't "right" for a classroom setting.
Emily posted the two photos, along with Harmony's story, on Facebook.
Parents immediately responded to Emily's post, sharing their support and expressing how shocked they were that a school would even force that kind of outfit change on a 5-year-old, especially when there was nothing wrong with her dress to begin with.
Emily decided to follow up on the issue. She recorded a video on Facebook live where she expressed her concerns with the school forcing the wardrobe change on her daughter and wanted to update the school dress code policy for all children.
Pretty soon all of the fervor and outrage surrounding Emily's original post caught the attention of local news outlets. They wanted to speak to the mother about her experience in a live segment.
People who watched the bit provided some pretty great questions, namely, if the bare shoulders were a problem, why not just instruct Harmony to put the sweater on?
As it turns out, Emily's decision to not drop the issue ultimately paid off. She ended up getting an email from the school's principal, informing her that there was an update to the dress code policy.
While it looks pretty run-of-the-mill, it's important to note that the language mentions nothing of "sexualization" or determining whether or not clothing is immodest.
Top top it all off, Emily even got a formal apology from the school, saying that Harmony should've never been told to change in the first place.
While there are tons of parents out there who think that their kid can do no wrong and are constantly bothering school administrators for every little slight, Emily isn't one of them.
She saw that her daughter was wronged and not only did something about it for her baby girl but other children in that school as well.
What do you think? Did Emily go about it the right way? Was Harmony's school wrong for making the little girl change her dress in the first place? Or do you believe Emily should've read the school's policies a little more closely before putting her daughter in the dress?
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