Do not come in this school with all your breasts exposed. These strapless things . . . as if you got two heads of hair . . . one under here, one under here . . . . Don’t come in here. I don’t want to see it. And I mean it.
And the stupid thing that had me is some stupid women gine say they come for the principal to see. I have seen so many of those things that I could make them now.
Last week, I allowed it to go. I allowed it to go last week. If you are sending someone for your child, tell them to cover up themselves.
I don’t like it. Because when you walk through there and somebody should turn up and see me, you know what they will say? [Calls himself by name] allow that! . . . Ya see the damn slackness? Stop it. It done today. Do not come in here, because I will embarrass you! . . . Foolishness! A big set o’ ugly breasts!
Then there are the ladies with the tights. You can’t come to an institution to do business and in tights. And some people are coming in here as if they have mumps.
The tights pull tight, tight between their legs, and all their vaginas printing out. I am going to be explicit, because nobody is going to say that [calls himself by name] like that. I don’t!
And any woman I got should got some class. I don’t want to see no big ugly t’ing in front of me.
And you know what the boys say? You would be surprised . . . what our boys say.
The boys tell one another: “Wuh you mother went in hey wid dis fat ting in front o’ she.”
Now how am I going to punish a boy for telling the truth?
–– Precised transcript of a principal’s address to parents this month of September.
Somebody should have warned me. I was not ready at all. Where do I begin with this one?
Should I make the observation that when a man wears a pants, especially the slim fit which are currently so trendy, his penis is also imprinted at the front? Should we then demand that all clothes in Barbados be worn in such a way that no genitals are imprinted?
If we do not do that, but highlight women’s vagina bulges, we are sexist and in strange and dangerous waters.
It is normal and acceptable for a place of business to establish its dress code, and to advertise said dress code to ensure the public is aware of the standard. However, this exchange between a principal of a Barbadian primary school and parents (with children present, I was told) is absolutely and completely unacceptable.
The exchange is a mixture of things. It is a vicious attack on the female anatomy. It is degradation of (“stupid”) women’s ability to reason, and it is an attempt to set a standard. While the latter intention is permissible, the first two are problematic and should elicit calls for immediate apology.
The principal succumbs to the usual arguments which misogynists frame to preserve their right to control the female body and what is worn on it. I collect my children from school, and I do see some outfits that are outlandish.
I also go into the bank, and I see some women in tight skirts and heels so tall that could never be appropriate for the tasks at hand. I see men in public spaces with only the hems of their boxers covered by pants. So what are we really trying to do?
If we as a society are collectively saying we need to redirect the standards of dress, I am all for that. If we are engaging in a thinly veiled attempt to uphold male hegemony, then I reject that.
The way that women dress to bring their children to school has nothing to do with what one principal likes or not. I wonder why the principal felt the need to continually inject his personal likes and dislikes into the conversation about setting a dress standard for school.
This is the problem in the first place. Even if we believe the principal that he does not like exposed breasts and imprinted vaginas –– popular culture –– men in charge of hiring and firing, fathers who abuse and sexualize girls from early all reinforce before women that sex is powerful and “sexy” dressing is validated as a way to get “through”. The principal’s expression of his personal likes does nothing to challenge the system that sexualizes and disrespects the female body. These are the real factors that cause women to dress as they do –– that is, if we are about truly understanding the issue and not just shaming and embarrassing.
For the principal to ask how he can punish a boy for disrespecting the mother of another is for him to go a step farther and become an agent for upholding the system.
When I was a child, women used to come home from work and take off work clothes. They would pull their petticoats over the top of them (usually without a bra), and sometimes if they needed to be in the yard, they would come out dressed in this manner. I could never dare make a comment about that woman as a child.
My mother was allowed to say how “slack” it looked, but if I dared to agree, I assure you I would not be penning this article today. Isn’t that a better way to raise boys and girls –– with a respect for any adult, whether they are dressed well
or not? Eldership brings respect.
Have we thrown out that old Barbadian virtue with the rest of our national common sense? Women have a responsibility
to dress in a classy manner, or else boys get to say whatever they want (and when they get older do whatever they want)? It is alarming that a principal is upholding these views in 2015.
It is not just dress which has become relaxed in Barbados. That a principal would use the institution of school to describe why women should cover ugly breasts and big vaginas is just as much a part of the system collapse we are facing. Why would any one respect the institution of school when the character and behaviour of the power holders have become
just as crass and lewd as the dub lyrics we complain about?
What are ugly breasts? What is a small vagina? Do we wish to discuss these concepts in the presence of children? While I support the call for women to dress appropriately when dropping off their wards, men must be asked to do the same thing.
Children themselves must be asked to take pride in their appearance. The staff of the school must take pride in their attire. It cannot come down to covering vaginas which appear to have mumps or women hiding armholes that carry “full heads of hair”. Can’t a man have hairy armpits too?
Misogyny is as elusive as a Miami Beach wind in the coconut trees. While we can verbalize the tree’s reaction, it is harder
to describe the wind itself. There is a chord struck in the principal’s presentation which is misogynist.
I am quite glad that no girlchild of mine goes to a school with a male leader who believes that breasts and vaginas are things to be berated. Do you think he is the only man leader who dislikes “ugly breasts” and “big vaginas” so vociferously?
(Marsha Hinds-Layne is a full-time mummy and part-time lecturer in communications at the University
of the West Indies.