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High School Shows Sexist Double Standards, Editing 80 Female Students’ “Immodest” Yearbook Photos

CBS Bartram Trail High School

When reading the headline “Florida high school altered girls’ yearbook photos it deemed immodest,” I honestly wasn’t surprised—and it’s not because this is happening in Florida. I wasn’t surprised because this isn’t the first time, and it won’t be the last, where young women’s bodies have been deemed inappropriate and therefore sexualized. And it’s got to stop.

According to CBS Jackson affiliate WJAX, about 80 female students at Bartram Trail High School in St. Johns had their yearbook photos altered without their permission. And it’s not like they edited out a random zit or touched up their faces. Oh no, the school went ahead and edited things such as exposed shoulders and low necklines.

The school’s yearbook coordinator, a female teacher, made the decision. And officials of the St. Johns County School District told WJAX that the yearbook photos must follow dress code guidelines. And the 80 female students had violated that dress code so they went ahead and edited their photos without the students’ permission.

Ninth-grader Riley O’Keefe, pictured in the first tweet, basically laid it all out when she said that this was about more than yearbook photos. This was about the sexualization of young women, something that’s an issue now, was a problem when I was in her grade all those years ago, and that I don’t doubt was a problem to the women who came before both of us.

“The double standard in the yearbook is more so that they looked at our body and thought just a little bit of skin showing was sexual,” O’Keefe said according to CBS News. “But then they looked at the boys, for the swim team photos and other sports photos, and thought that was fine, and that’s really upsetting and uncomfortable.”

And honestly, I’m disgusted with Bartram Trail High School and every other school that has done something like this to its female students. These young women go to school to learn. What they don’t go to school for is to be sexualized at such a young age and told parts of their bodies are inappropriate and should be covered up for the benefit of all.

The school is basically sending a message to all of their students that women’s bodies are to be controlled and monitored due to the “health and safety of the individual, [to] promote a positive educational environment and not disrupt the educational activities and processes of the school” according to Bartram Trail High School’s own dress code.

It’s a story I’ve heard before and I’m sick and tired of it. Because this isn’t really about the young student’s life and her wellness. It’s about how her body will affect those around her. Basically, they’re saying, “How can we have a positive educational environment for the young men of this school if we have young women’s shoulders and lower necklines exposed? The audacity!”

Well, you can start off by not sexualizing young women’s bodies. These young women shouldn’t have to feel like there is something wrong with them or their bodies at an age when they’re growing into adults. They also shouldn’t be made to feel like their bodies make others uncomfortable so they should change how they dress to “not disrupt” those around them.

When the matter of fact is, we need to stop looking down at a woman’s body and seeing it as if it were less than while acknowledging that bullshit double standards apply that set different rules for men and women. Young women like O’Keefe aren’t less than and they should be treated with the same respect that young men are when it comes to their bodies and how they want to carry themselves in 2021.

More focus also needs to be put on young men, where they are taught to respect women’s bodies and their bodily autonomy at a young age. It’s the only way that actionable change can happen that erases the double standards that perpetuate a lie that one body is more inappropriate than the other, when we are all human beings who deserve the same respect.

That’s how it should be. And I’m glad that the parents of the 80 female students who had their photos edited are fighting back and that, while it’s awful that she’s even been put in this situation, O’Keefe is standing up for herself so strongly. She told CBS, “”The dress code and sexualization of young girls’ bodies has been happening for a long time. All the messages I get about people being thankful for me speaking out are worth it, and I’d do it a million times.”

They are setting a standard for the future and fighting for their daughters to be free of archaic and sexist garbage that teaches young women how they “should dress” instead of teaching young men how to treat women with the respect they deserve.

(image: CBS)

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Lyra (She/Her) is a queer Latinx writer who stans badass women in movies, TV shows, and books. She loves crafting, tostones, and speculating all over queer media. And when not writing she's scrolling through TikTok or rebuilding her book collection.