Let Middle School Girls Choose Their Own Style of Dress

Target: Readington Middle School Principal Sharon Moffat

Goal: Allow girls to wear strapless dresses at formal school dance

Recently, girls at Readington Middle School in New Jersey learned that they would not be allowed to wear strapless dresses at an upcoming formal dance. The school principal sent a letter to parents informing them of this change, and many are upset that their daughters’ freedom of dress has been taken away. The reason given for the ban is sexist, and the ban itself is posing problems for many students looking for an appropriate dress. The ban is too limiting for the students, and does not allow them the freedom to choose what they want to wear.

The reason given for the ban is that strapless dresses are distracting to the boys. However, many parents find this reason to be sexist and unfair to both genders. According to one parent, the ban is offensive because “it suggests that boys are not able to control — or ought not to be required to control — their behavior when in the presence of girls wearing strapless dresses. It is neither a woman’s nor a girl’s responsibility to control a man’s or boy’s behavior.” The girls should not be punished because preteen boys might be distracted at a dance. The students should not be taught that girls must change themselves in order to affect the behavior of boys. Instead of banning these dresses, the school should focus on teaching the boys not to be “distracted” by the girls.

With this ban, many girls are having problems finding appropriate dresses for the dance. This ban takes away some freedom in what they can wear to an after-school event. A strapless dress is not inherently inappropriate. It should be at the discretion of the student and her parent what is worn at this event. The school should not be limiting the choices of their students and teaching girls that they must be responsible for the boys. Tell Readington Middle School that girls should be allowed to choose their dresses.


Dear Ms. Moffat,

Recently, you sent a letter to the families of your students at Readington Middle School that informed the girls that they would not be allowed to wear strapless dresses at an upcoming formal dance. Many parents are upset by this, as it takes away the right of the girls to choose what they will wear. Your reasoning for this ban is that strapless dresses are distracting to the boys. However, it should not be the responsibility of the girls to change what they wear because of how boys might react.

I ask you to allow the girls to wear what they choose. This limiting ban is not only preventing many girls from being able to find appropriate dresses. It is also teaching girls that in order to change the behavior of boys or men, they must change their own appearance. This is an extremely damaging message that should not be taught to young girls. Lift this ban and teach the boys to behave instead.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Ian Martin via Flickr

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One Comment

  1. While in general I agree with the spirit of the petition and honestly find all the dresses in the picture above rather beautiful, I find the argument inadequate. People dress to feel good about themselves AND to impress and/or attract others. It’sa fact of life.
    Would a strapless dress with a plunging neckline/neckline aattract and distract boys (and some girls)? Why yes!
    Bare shoulders are hardly a reason to ban strapless dresses, but no mention of banning plunging necklines, which surely would cause more distraction, is even mentioned!
    The ban is simply a tactless way of saying “we don’t want any bare skin showing near your breasts.”, but obviously they aren’t going to say that.
    As for the argument, girls SHOULD be made aware (they already know, who are we kidding!) That the way they dress to impress or attract attention can and may attract attention that they both want and don’t want. Teaching boys and girls to control their behavior in relation to something like this is well and good, but it doesn’t mean it will always work. If you put a steak on the table and train your dogs to stay off the table, you shouldn’t be surprised when he eventually decides to take the steak anyway, rregardless of rules or punishment. A juicy steak is still a juicy steak and you can’t change the nature of a dog, just teach him the best you can and cover up the steak.

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