03/29/2017 10:54 EDT | Updated 03/29/2017 10:54 EDT

Dress Codes Are About Fear Of The Female Body

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Teenage girl standing along the shoreline.

Every time I fly, something stupid happens. This manifests in a vast array of incredible and grotesque acts from fellow passengers, like the guy who sat behind me once and decided to remove both his shoes and socks before propping his bare feet directly above my head.

None of the flight attendants said a word to him about it. It took me turning around and scolding this pioneer of modern flight fashion before he finally realized, hey, maybe this airplane isn't my living room. After this incident, I assumed that there was no dress code on planes, just a varying degree of common sense from person to person.

Imagine my surprise when I encountered the story of two young girls who were barred from a flight because they were wearing leggings. My memory immediately hopped back to the outstanding gentleman with the feet. A guy was allowed to carry on flying in a way that was actively bothering other passengers without a word from the flight attendants, but two girls in leggings are barred from a flight? Something is wrong here.

I'd like to take a minute to talk about dress codes. To be fair, I am not against them as a whole. I went to a private school that had a uniform to be worn on a daily basis, and I loved it. But this is not the type of dress code that I am referring to, and it is not the type of dress code that is essentially pulling the gender equality spectrum farther apart. That dress code is the one that United Airlines is getting behind.

Young women are first taught to be ashamed of their bodies, and are then taught that the way that they dress is what opens them to sexual attention.

Let's take a look at the uproar over dress codes for female servers at restaurants. If you have ever worked in the service industry, you already know how painful it can be to be on your feet for a more than eight hours a day. Factor in the "dress code" for a lot of women in these positions and you've got that pain in high heels. I challenge any man on the planet to try that for a full eleven hours and see how "sexy" that actually feels.

And "sexy" is what these establishments are going for, isn't it? Restaurants like Hooters were trailblazers in the sexy department, coming up with the novel idea of having women dress provocatively in order to sell more sub-par wings and beer. And although some of this is fine with the servers (I'm pretty sure that the vast majority of women know what dress code they're signing up for when they start working at Hooters), it is not fine for the women who are not looking to be sexualized on the job.

Now take that line of logic and flip it. Skin equals sex. Tight clothes equals sex. By this logic, these two things make women completely inappropriate when they are in play. Just Google the young girls who weren't allowed to wear spaghetti straps to prom because their school directors were worried about how the "boys" were going to respond to their bare skin. The reverse sexualization has now become a deep-seated fear that is playing the role of the monster in an upcoming horror film about our society.

And if you're really paying attention, you'll see the irony; both sides of the coin are part of the exact same problem.

Cut to the girls in the leggings. Normal leggings. Leggings that are no more revealing than the ensembles that I see wandering down the street on a daily basis. Leggings that are tight, fitted, and totally appropriate for two girls their age. So why are they being barred?

By deeming what is normal to be inappropriate, we turning women's bodies into a real thing of horror. I am praying that there was not a single person on that plane who would have mentally drawn a connection between a ten year old in leggings to a sexual object. But isn't the thought that the conclusion could be drawn part of the problem?

The enforcement of the "non legging" dress code is serving only two purposes, and neither is protecting the other passengers. Young women are first taught to be ashamed of their bodies, and are then taught that the way that they dress is what opens them to sexual attention. Those purposes are infinitely more disturbing to me than tight pants.

Since the outrage, United Airlines has said that "leggings are welcome". I'm going to go out on a limb and say that they never even had a dress code to begin with and are rolling out the welcome wagon as an act of contrition. Good. Maybe realizing the error of their ways will allow them to open up a better, more productive dialogue about the proper way to respect girls and women of all ages.

And by the way, United Airlines, the barefoot bandit was on one of YOUR flights. Maybe you should look into that instead of telling young girls what they should be wearing on your flights.

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