Giving The Misogynists A Good Dressing-Down

, , , , , , | Learning | August 27, 2020

I teach at an international school for adult students learning English as a second language. Obviously, navigating cultural differences between students is an inherent part of the job. 

For the second year in a row that I’ve been at this school, at a staff meeting, an older male teacher has brought up the fact that many of the female students are wearing “revealing” clothing. It’s summer, so we’re talking things like tank tops and shorts — nothing that would get you arrested. Nevertheless, he’s previously suggested that we should have a dress code.

Male Teacher: “I mean, shouldn’t we do something about this?”

Our headteacher is also a middle-aged man.

Head Teacher: *Pause* “Does something need to be done?”

Male Teacher: “Well, I mean, in particular, it attracts a lot of attention from some of the boys, especially the ones from more conservative countries where women don’t dress like that. They’re distracted and they, you know, talk and make comments.”

One of the new teachers, who’s younger and a woman, pipes up. 

Female Teacher: “You’re absolutely right, [Male Teacher]. We should do something. Thanks for bringing that up.”

Everyone looks up in surprise, since the female teacher is known for her outspoken feminism. She continues.

Female Teacher: “I’m so glad you agree that someone should talk about appropriate conduct to these young people. They need to be reminded that, in a multicultural environment, they have to be aware of differences between what is considered respectful and acceptable to their peers, and that there is no excuse for making other people uncomfortable.”

A few teachers, I included, catch on and start smiling.

Female Teacher: “To that end, [Male Teacher], I’m glad you’ve volunteered to talk to the counselors and ask that the students be reminded that ogling and commenting on their classmates in a sexual way is flatly disgusting behavior that will not be tolerated. It doesn’t matter if that’s an okay way to talk in their country; it isn’t here. This is a learning environment and our students should feel safe, not judged and objectified. 

Head Teacher: “Very well said! Thank you, [Female Teacher]; you’re absolutely right.”

Female Teacher: “And thank you, [Male Teacher], for being so sensitive to this problem. So many people would ignore it, or even try to blame it on the young women in this situation.”

She smiled at him like the purest, most innocent angel; he nodded like he was in pain, and never brought up the idea of having a dress code ever again.


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