The concern for overly exposed young bodies may be well-intentioned. With society fetishizing girls at younger and younger ages, girls are instructed to self-objectify and see themselves as sexual objects, something to be looked at. A laundry list of problems can come from obsessing over one’s appearance: eating disorders, depression, low self-worth. Who wouldn’t want to spare her daughter from these struggles?
But these dress codes fall short of being legitimately helpful. What we fail to consider when enforcing restrictions on skirt-length and the tightness of pants is the girls themselves—not just their clothes, but their thoughts, emotions, budding sexuality and self-image.
Instead, these restrictions are executed with distracted boys in mind, casting girls as inherent sexual threats needing to be tamed. Dress restrictions in schools contribute to the very problem they aim to solve: the objectification of young girls. When you tell a girl what to wear (or force her to cover up with an oversized T-shirt), you control her body. When you control a girl’s body—even if it is ostensibly for her “own good”—you take away her agency. You tell her that her body is not her own.
When you deem a girl’s dress “inappropriate,” you’re also telling her, “Because your body may distract boys, your body is inappropriate. Cover it up.” You recontextualize her body; she now exists through the male gaze.
There comes a point when you just love someone. Not because they’re good, or bad, or anything really. You just love them. It doesn’t mean you’ll be together forever. It doesn’t mean you won’t hurt each other. It just mean you love them. Sometimes in spite of who they are, and sometimes because of who they are. And you know that they love you, sometimes because of who you are, and sometimes in spite of it.
At night my lost memory of you returned
and I was like the empty field where springtime,
without being noticed, is bringing flowers;
I was like the desert over which
the breeze moves gently, with great care;
I was like the dying patient
who, for no reason, smiles.
-Faiz Ahmed Faiz; translated by Agha Shahid Ali in The Rebel’s Silhouette
For the most part, we exist in a numb, dead society. I’m doing my best to be alive and running in the mountains is the best way I’ve found to do that. And because I love the effortlessness that sometimes occurs while cruising down a cushy pine-needle singletrack or even while grinding up a switchback above tree line. I love how I can run up and into a mountain cirque or over a pass and be completely dwarfed and humbled by the sheer immensity and grandiosity of the landscape and I love flying down the other side with the breeze in my hair and the gravel in my shoes and the burning in my quads and the branches in my face and then when I’m finally all worn out there’s nothing like peeling my shoes off and just sitting. Just being at rest. Running sharpens the focus on life and intensifies the emotions. Is there any better reason to do anything?