SLA is one of many Philadelphia high schools who doesn’t have a uniform for their students. Though having the ability to wear any type of outfits can be a good opportunity for students to fully express themselves, how others react to our clothes can be quite uncomfortable and even traumatic.
During this current academic year of 2021-2022, students have been back in person where they share the building with Ben Franklin High School. A staircase is shared by both schools, and Throughout the year, many students from the SLA side have been harassed while using the staircase. Some students have reported they’ve been catcalled, others reported that they were verbally assaulted, and others have reported being touched inappropriately or even followed out of the stairwell and into the halls — cornered, blocked, and even grabbed.
I don’t have comprehensive evidence about what the girls were wearing when they were harassed — but based on my conversations, there does seem to be a pattern of girls getting harassed when they are wearing more revealing clothes. However, I do personally have experience with how your clothes can impact how you are treated. There were a couple of times where the weather was warm so I chose to wear something more revealing to keep my cool during the school day, but when I went to use the shared stairwells, I got unwanted attention that felt uncomfortable. Weird looks and stares make up most of my experience. There weren’t any verbal harassing comments, just weird stares that often felt uncomfortable. I noticed that this only happens when I wear something more revealing than usual. When I dress more down and casual, I don’t get the unwanted attention.
Many girls at SLA also speculate that the reason why these events happen is due to what people are wearing, but in my eyes, I find this claim places the blame on the wrong party. As a very diverse society, people have different views and likes when it comes to how they like to express themselves with clothes. Some people enjoy dressing more formally, while others enjoy dressing more casually. Some like showing more skin while others don’t. This preference is up to the person who is going to wear it. In my eyes, this shows that the current harassment can happen to anyone no matter what they wear.
There is no problem with a specific style of dress. Someone’s preference of clothing shouldn’t affect how they are treated by individuals around them. If one is comfortable in their skin with what they are wearing, it shouldn’t be a problem as they are dressing the way they want for themselves.
The problem isn’t the clothes, but the people who judge others because of what they are wearing. In today’s time, we often see people who think it is necessary to make comments about what others are wearing. This is often present in social media like tiktok, instagram, snapchat, and many other big platforms that allow users to comment. It is clear that people are often treated differently or judged by what they are wearing which can often cause dangerous and uncomfortable situations.
Many have reported these instances to school staff but most cases go unheard of. Throughout this academic year, students have been constantly experiencing the harassment that comes with the outfit they chose to wear. To make students more comfortable, school staff should become more aware of these situations and take steps to reach a goal that will decrease the numbers of harassment. As of recently, nothing has been done to stop these harassments. If they continue throughout the next academic year and are more heavy, parents might have to step in to make sure their children are safe. Staff should also educate those who are the ones who are harassing as no one should be mistreated just because of what they are wearing.