PROVO, Utah — A high school student near Provo, Utah was told her dress must be covered up because it was too inappropriate for the Preference Dance at the school last Saturday. Gabi Finlayson said she was “embarrassed,” when a representative from the school approached her as she entered the dance and told her she needed to wear a shawl or a coat to cover her shoulders.
“She said, ‘Would you mind putting on a shawl?’ I didn’t want to make a big scene so I said, yes. I had a coat in the car so I had to go back and get it,” Finlayson said. Finlayson said she was angry after she was forced to wear her winter coat over her dress the entire dance, she said she felt as though the school was shaming her for what some of the boys might think.
“Somehow my shoulders are sexualized,” Finlayson said. “Like it’s my responsibility to make sure the boys’ thoughts are not unclean.”
A total of four out of 1,200 students were told to cover their shoulders. Rhonda Bromley the principal of Lone Peak High School said students were well aware of the dress code for formal events that includes:
Formals, backless dresses and/or tops may not extend beyond the bottom of the shoulder blades.
Girls’ dresses and tops must have a 2 minimum strap on each shoulder.
Shawls, boleros and other shrugs are acceptable if worn over the dress at all times.
Finlayson said her dress, which was purchased in Paris, and resembled in her mind, the classic, graceful style of her idol, actress Audrey Hepburn, was within the parameters put forth by the school dress code, and she said there were other girls at the dance whose dresses were questionable in her mind.
“There were a lot of dresses that were very short, very tight, a lot more exposing or revealing than mine,” she said.
Finlayson’s mom, Kristy Kimball, said the school is sending negative, demeaning messages to the girls they forced to cover up.
“How have we gotten to the point that we look at shoulders as if they’re somehow pornographic? As if they are this shameful thing,” Kimball said.
Bromley said all students were told about the dress code, and said the regulations were approved by students and teachers, and that the students were not embarrassed when their dresses were deemed inappropriate.
“This was done by one of my female school employees in a very careful and sensitive way,” Bromley said.
Finlayson said she felt as though she was shamed for wearing what most would consider a perfectly appropriate dress, and she wonders why girls are often forced to shoulder the burden of what is considered “inappropriate.”
“Maybe instead of teaching girls they should cover themselves up, we should be teaching boys that we’re not just sex objects that you can look at and derive pleasure,” Finlayson said.