Utah high school photoshops female students’ yearbook photos to show less skin

yearbook photo before and after altered to cover shoulders

Administrators at a Utah high school photoshopped the yearbook photos of many female students to show less skin. Phew! With all those exposed shoulders (gasp!) and clavicles (oh my!), the yearbook could have ended up looking like a goddamn Playboy!

The school says they just were ensuring that the photos met the dress code, which is confusing since there’s no indication that the students were asked to change and even told that they had violated the code at all until their altered photos came back. Perhaps the administrators didn’t want to deal with actually enforcing the rules in real time after seeing that a dress code crackdown at a school in Texas recently led to student riots?

The students, for their part, seem most upset that the photoshopping seemed inconsistent. “There were plenty of girls that were wearing thicker tank tops and half of them got edited and half of them didn’t,” explained one sophomore. And the school said they’re sorry for that only. “We only apologize in the sense that we want to be more consistent with what we`re trying to do in that sense we can help kids better prepare for their future by knowing how to dress appropriately for things,” said the superintendent.

Here’s the thing though — that inconsistency is entirely inevitable. While dress codes are usually written as if there are objective standards that everyone must meet (e.g. no tank tops, no exposed midriffs, a certain length of shirt), the reality is that the whole point of dress codes is to prevent clothing that could be “distracting” or “inappropriate” in the classroom — an totally subjective endeavor. Wasatch School District’s dress code, for example, bans clothing that causes “an actual and/or perceived disruption of the educational environment or activities.”

So, of course, they are irregularly enforced. Two girls may be wearing the same tank top, but if one has big breasts, she’ll be deemed more “distracting” than the other. Hell, you can even “violate the dress code” while strictly adhering to the letter of the law, as we saw in the recent case of a student thrown out of her prom for wearing a dress that met the school’s regulations but was still deemed to be inviting “impure thoughts.”

Which is, of course, why dress codes — whether enforced in real time or retroactively via photoshop — are really doing nothing more than teaching girls — and boys — the lesson that they’ll be getting their whole lives: That women are responsible for how others respond to their bodies, that they have to constantly shield themselves from the objectifying male gaze, that it is up to them to adjust their behavior or dress because guys couldn’t possible be expected to be able to see a girl’s cleavage and still treat her like a human being.

If schools are really interested in preparing students for the real world, they’d let kids wear whatever the hell they want (ok, fine, short of their birthday suits) and teach them to respect everyone regardless of their clothing.

Maya DusenberyMaya thinks shoulders are sexy, but not that sexy.

Atlanta, GA

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director in charge of Editorial at Feministing. Maya has previously worked at NARAL Pro-Choice New York and the National Institute for Reproductive Health and was a fellow at Mother Jones magazine. She graduated with a B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. A Minnesota native, she currently lives, writes, edits, and bakes bread in Atlanta, Georgia.

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Editorial.

Read more about Maya

Join the Conversation

  • http://feministing.com/members/susieok/ Susie

    Isn’t that violating their constitutional rights as US citizens though? Isn’t there not an amendment that says something about, I don’t know, “the right to bare arms”? I think they have a case, the girls who got their arms covered up at least. Too bad for the ones who got anything else edited out, there’s nothing in the constitution about their situation.