Clare in her prom dress.
Dress codes and controversies about proper high school prom attire normally center on issues of perceived seduction. School regulations on dress codes and vague interpretations of their meanings often deal with a young lady's prom dress -- the "appropriate length on the thigh, thigh-high slits, necklines that plunge close to the belly button, low cut backs that expose butt dimples -- and the thin line between the sensually revealing look and and the trashy, slutty appearance.
The word provocative may be defined as "causing sexual feelings and excitement." Should high school prom dresses be allowed to be "provocative"? What are the criteria for limits on the provocative nature of the clothing? And who should be deemed the best moderator of the dress for fair and decent judgment?
First of all, I believe most teens love prom dresses which are at least somewhat provocative. They and their parents struggle with this issue as they consider the "right" beautiful and fashionable dress for this very important occasion. Prom dress codes enacted by most schools attempt to inhibit any display that reveals too much skin, especially the dermis near familiar erogenous zones.
But, these codes present a frustrating dilemma since few moderate options, in terms of sexiness and price, are even available in stores and online.
"I would say the problem is ... that a girl who has sort of a more modern taste ... if (the dresses) are for someone her age, they're too short. They're shorter than they should be," reports a mom of two teens, who said it can be extra difficult for tall girls or girls of different body types to find dresses schools deem appropriate.
Who would deny some of the most beautiful prom dresses are both provocative and sexy in every definition of the words. I mean, let's wake up here. The occasion is prom, and what 17-18 year-old young woman does not want to look appealing and captivating? Isn't it ironic that male prom fashion is seldom a topic of provocative controversy. It seems females are subject to a double standard for having breasts, thighs, and posteriors.
Also, who would deny that dress codes are written with adult pens representing the views of an older generation? In my high school generation (the late 1960s), we fought to have schools allow us to wear our shirttails out, to wear bell-bottom jeans, to wear mini-skirts, to sport long hair and facial fuzz, and to dress in shorts during hot weather in buildings without air conditioning. Times and fashions change. If you don't believe that, watch some popular fare on networks like MTV.
What I am saying is that young people are more openly expressive today in terms of sexual acceptance. Many attempted to force Puritan standards upon my generation, so our teen revolutionary minds were set to stretch limits on what we considered beauty, antiquated views of improper sexual conduct, and freedom of expression.
Beautiful Clare Ettinger
The Case of Clare Ettinger
Recently a 17-year-old high senior named Clare Ettinger, who was attending a prom for homeschoolers, got kicked out, she says, because she was told her dress was too short. This happened at the Richmond Homeschool Prom, held Saturday, May 10, at Shady Grove United Methodist Church near Richmond, Virginia.
When the 17-year-old arrived at the prom, Clare was approached by one of the event's organizers who questioned the length of her dress. She told -- and showed-- the woman that it met the length requirement. Clare went on to say that the dress just looked short on her because she's 5'9" with long legs. The organizer warned her (of being too revealing?), let her in, and told her to be sure the dress "stayed down."
The teen and her friends were only there for about 15 minutes before she was approached again. This time the organizer said a group of dads who were chaperoning complained that her dancing was too provocative and she'd have to leave because she was going to "cause the young men at the prom to think impure thoughts."
Clare retorted, saying that her and her group of friends were swaying on the dance floor, not even dancing.
Her friends and boyfriend came to defend Clare, but the organizer insisted, again mentioning the length of the dress. Despite their protests, Clare was asked 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. And, her friends then left with her since they all drove together.
To that I say, "Oh, really? Just how do those concerned fathers claim to judge "impurity" and control the proper level of immaculacy permitted to enter a young man's mind. Give me a break -- even if you buy this shaky logic, there is an extremely slippery slope involved in believing the image of a girl as 'hot' leads to acting with criminal, lustful actions."
As Kelly Wallace of CNN says, "Really? That isn't much of a stretch from 'she asked for it' when we blame victims of sexual assault for what they were wearing. Are the thoughts and actions of young men and their fathers really her responsibility?"
(Kelly Wallace. "Prom Dress Policing Tough on Kids and Parents." CNN. May 15, 2014)
According to the teen, her gown met the prom's dress code, which called for dresses "fingertip length or longer."
That means the dress must be longer than your fingertips once you have your hands at your side. At 5' 9," she said, dresses might look shorter on her than on other girls. As for the "provocative" dance moves, she added that she hadn't been dancing at all.
What did Clare think about the reasons for her forced exit?
Clare wrote: “Enough with the slut shaming. Please. Goddamn 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.”
This young lady says she has decided she wants to make a stand for women and their right to be beautiful without being objectified.
Consider the injustice of the so-called “fingertip rule,” a common dress code requirement in public schools to monitor girls’ hemlines. 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.
(Tara Culp-Ressler. "Teen Girl Kicked Out of Prom So Her Dress Wouldn't Lead Boys to 'Think Impure Thoughts.' thinkprogress.org. May 13, 2014)
My ultimate question is this: "If the chaperones were doing their job, why did they let Clare, with her improper dress, into the prom in the first place? To consent to her dress, then turn around and ruin one of the most important evenings in her life (and in the life of her friends) because they disapproved of her obvious attractiveness is bullshit.
I wonder if they even considered the time, money, and scheduling involved in Clare's prom preparations. And, did they think about the long-term psychological impact on this young student with their Nazi-like handling of the situation? The answers are "no" because their own "pure Christian minds" were evidently stimulated while viewing Clare.
Clare states, “Dads on the balcony above the dance floor were ogling and talking amongst themselves.” These dads were ogling to the point that Clare and her friends felt “grossed out.”
Clare reported she had been excited for this evening. She had searched over 6 stores for the perfect dress, eventually finding it at Macy’s. She had spent her own money on the dress — money she had been saving up from tip money from work. Not only was it "gorgeous, silver, and sparkly," it was carefully vetted: "Like a good little homeschooler," Clare writes, "I made sure that the dress was fingertip length on me; I even tried it on with my shoes, just to be sure."
(R.L. Stoller. "Christian Homeschool Dads Lust After 17-Year-Old Girl, Get Her Kicked Out of Prom." homeschoolersanonymous.wordpress.com. May 12, 2014)
Clare Ettinger, I can see you are a beautiful, intelligent young woman who stands up for her beliefs. I wish you good luck in your endeavors to shed light on evident problems within the system. You can bet your writing will draw so many positive comments that you can rest assured your cause is just. You have just faced one of the most disturbing realities of those who judge by prejudice. You weathered the storm, and now you deserve the sunshine.
"The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says, 'It's a girl.'"