The trials and tribulations of a student are many, no more or less than those of being human. I am a videographer reading for a degree in BA (HONS) in Creative Media Production at MCAST School of the Creative Arts in 2017, or so I toy with believing- when I am not confronted with the attitude of an institute seemingly under the delusion of a pseudo-progressive society, yet actually stuck in the 1800s.
I would like to provide a disclaimer, with the foresight of being provided with a lot of vacant backlash and cries of ‘you just don’t like the school’. I genuinely love the school, it has its problems, but so does everywhere in the world and I dare say it is mostly on par with the rest of the country’s education, but that is another discussion entirely. My point is, I have nothing against the school in and of itself, my problem lies with the following, specifically.
These final weeks of classes at the institute are not only sweltering, but also see students at their most stressed and attempting to deal with many issues- people, places, things, trauma. You name it, they’re likely to be feeling it at any given time. What caused me to be so flabbergasted is that, as opposed to being empathetic to the students’ vulnerability at this straining period, the institute instead decided to provide limitations on what they may or may not wear, and be very vocal about it.
I have found most students’ problems to go unanswered, or answered with such nonchalance that most have given up ever standing up for themselves. One may be left without a tutor for months without a substantial explanation, yet I got a hefty mouthful and threat to be removed from the premises when a few inches of my thigh were showing.
I was amazed at how much attention I suddenly got from those with more power than me, purely by wearing a pair of shorts on a hot day. Oh, did I mention the blatant victim shaming and sexism that this notion was handed to me with?
It was irksome enough to be told that I had to spend extra time every morning for these final few weeks ensuring I met school regulations of: ‘don’t show your shoulders’; ‘only this much of your leg may be shown’; ‘you are not allowed to cover your head with caps/scarves’; and ‘don’t wear flip flops or sandals’, yet the reasons impressed me further.
Walking onto the premises and being confronted by the resident security guard of the institute, I was told that I ‘cannot wear those shorts’ and that he had ‘told me already’. I responded by stating the fact that I could not possibly wear trousers for fear of fainting, which I am sure most people would empathise with. His response? ‘You cannot wear what you want, you are at a school with guys. Even when you walk up the stairs. Look, try walk up the stairs now and see.’
I dare say the above is self-explanatory, yet I shall elaborate on the implications of that statement. What that simple direction tells me is that my education is less important to an institute than the length of my shorts and sleeves. It moves on to tell me that I am noticed immediately due to my clothes and not for the help I may need regarding my thoughts, work and personal troubles. However, and most incomprehensibly, it tells me that due to attending an institute that does not contain one gender, I have to cover up more of my body in order for other genders to look at me less. This tells me that if someone had to glance at me for whatever reason, then I am to blame because I wore a particular item of clothing.
Is this what we are yet attempting to drill into our youngsters? What I imagine to emerge from an educational institution is a modicum of open-mindedness. Rather than imagine, I have started to believe that this is more of a faint hope. I hear cries of equality, acceptance and a progressive nation, particularly at this heated time, yet I do believe that it is the small things that count, and if I were younger and more vulnerable this experience would have left me feeling very much responsible for the hormones and actions of everyone around me. All this aside from the warped priorities all the above provides.
Most of us have been met with enough victim shaming in our lives, without having to face it by those we are meant to respect at our second home.