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  • Marissa Burr, Opinion Section Assistant Editor

Tired of Others Making Rules for My Body

By Marissa Burr, Assistant Opinion Editor

With Election Day being this past Tuesday, legal issues surrounding the rights people have to their own body have been on my mind. When I thought about it more, I realized how many times what I do with my body is decided by other people.

Activists have been advocating for these issues for years, including but not limited to abortion rights, sexual assault survivor rights, LGBTQIA+ rights, dress codes and equality in fashion.

I am only a twenty year old woman and yet have experienced so many instances of unwanted opinions and meddling in the way I handle myself. Looking all the way back to my early childhood, I was constantly being told to “act ladylike” by sitting and presenting myself a certain way. I am all for teaching manners and politeness, but let there be a standard across the board and not have different expectations for children of differing genders.

Growing up Catholic, I was raised in a more conservative way, and that was fine, but I think the fact that there was such a strong push on the—in my opinion—stupidest things really made me resent my religious upbringing for a while. Every week I fought with my mother about wearing a dress and tights to Sunday service because of the standards that had been set long before our time.

Is it the church’s intention to teach children that if they’re not wearing a certain style of outfit then God won’t approve of them? Because that’s the message that always came across to me. How about everyone focuses on the fact that the child is going to church and being respectful during the mass instead?

Once I entered middle school, a similar issue came about: dress codes. The premise behind having them in schools is fine, but for the most part, their execution is abysmal. A lot of the times they are sexist and the enforcement borders on the promotion of sexual harassment. Girls in my school were told that we could not wear tank tops or skirts that landed above our fingertips because it was “distracting.” To whom was it distracting though, our eleven year old peers or the adult teachers in the classroom?

This continued on through high school and got so bad at a point that the assistant principal was sending people—for the most part females—home to change. The message being sent by the outdated dress codes in public schools is that your education does not matter as much as not showing “too much” skin on a 95-degree day in a building with no air conditioning.

Now that I’ve got your train of thought going, you probably can name at least a half dozen more instances in your life where your outfit, hairstyle or body shape was commented on because it wasn’t meeting a certain standard. It’s been a running joke the past few years that at holiday gatherings, relatives will comment on someone’s choice to wear ripped jeans. This has become so normalized that the only way our generation can cope with this is to make fun of it.

Your place of work has dress codes instead of uniforms sometimes and somehow that gives your employer the right to judge what you’re wearing and if they deem it appropriate for the workplace. Why should John in the corporate office or my store manager Deborah have any say in if my appearance will produce a functional attitude at work? I have worked jobs that have said no visible piercings, tattoos or colored hair, but why aren’t we questioning this more? Customers display all of these things and wear much more “obscene” outfits, so why can’t the workers? These rules are in place to try and control people, and if the past few years have shown anything, it’s that Millenials and Gen Z will not be controlled.

I could write for hours about the way that politicians are trying to control our bodies, but everyone knows that even if they agree with the legislature surrounding it. The bottom line is that the solution to limiting abortions is not making them illegal; they’ll happen regardless, so you’ll just have more dead uterus-owners on your hands. A comprehensive sex education is key, as well as free and accessible birth control for all genders.

The birth control pill is free, yes, but the side effects and forever-altering issues it leaves someone’s body with are copious. Make condoms available in public bathrooms like feminine products are. Health classes in school should teach students about safe sex practices and next-step options if the result is pregnancy. Preaching abstinence doesn’t work as well as some people think it does.

Overall, the idea that anyone has the right to dictate or comment on what someone else does with their body is unacceptable, and they need to start being called out for it. We should all take a stand against comments such as “Are you really wearing that?” or “Do you think that’s an appropriate outfit?” as soon as they’re heard. Use your right to vote to keep people in office who advocate for bodily autonomy and the safety of the people who elected them. The tools are in the belt around our waist, so it’s time to pull something out and use it to fix what’s broken.

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