All Posts By:

Madeline Hand

  • Articles, Fashion, GirlSpring.com, School

    Gender Bias and Dress Codes

    gender bias

    Opinion: How Dress Codes Generate Sexism

    Throughout high school, I was always so confused about the seemingly biased standards of dress set by the administration. Yoga pants were out of the question. Skirts and shorts had to be equivalent to the length of your arms. Razor-back tanks and spaghetti straps were seen as scandalous and must at least be covered by a cardigan. Bra straps were deemed as “provocative” and “distracting”. Girls with long limbs and developed features were the main targets for teachers of authority to pull into an office and tell them to go home or change.

     

     

    Maybe it is because I grew up predominantly in the South, a traditionally more conservative region of the nation, but I have been made well aware that girls are different than boys my entire life. Especially by women of authority.

     

    Don’t get me wrong. I love the South and its people. It is my home and I have deep-set roots in Alabama that tend to always bring me back no matter where I go. 

     

    But I am a part of a new generation of American women. So, I intend to be treated equally wherever I live, and therefore have been bucking the system ever since my mother allowed me to dress myself.

     

     
    But problematic dress codes are present in almost all areas of the country.

     

     

    Now, I understand the idea of looking presentable. Bad hygiene and body parts hanging out are obviously not welcomed in an educational or professional environment. However, standards regarding tightness of clothing and the presence of girls’ shoulders is a bit excessive in my opinion.

     

    Teaching girls at a young age that they should be hyper aware of how they dress in order to not distract the boys perpetuates sexism.

     

     

    Here’s why:

     

     

     

     

    What confuses me about the entire phenomenon of female-directed dress codes is the fact that a majority of the figures enforcing these rules are female. Women make up about 77% of the teaching force in the U.S. according to a national survey made in 2017. Nine out of ten teachers are female in primary schools, where dress codes start becoming stricter. What are these women teaching young girls about themselves?

     

    I remember learning early on that boys are held to different standards. Boys would tease me or push me in elementary school and I would come running to a teacher. My tears would be met with “oh they’re just being boys” or “they probably have a crush on you” or “maybe leave them alone”. I was taught early on that the boys being mean to me was my fault.

     

     
    I was provoking them to act that way.

     

    As the years rolled by and I started high school, my breasts and butt grew along with my height. Teachers began to pull me in their offices whenever they caught me wearing yoga pants under a t-shirt or if my shirt straps were not four fingers in width. Skirts that were perfectly fine for other girls to wear were not okay for me because the tips of my fingers reached four inches shy of my knees.

     

    I will never forget one particular instance in high school when I was wearing a pair of Nike shorts that were perfectly long with a large t-shirt during exam week. I was walking to my French exam with a group of my friends. They were wearing the same type of athletic shorts as me. 

     

    The Dean emerged from her office and called only my name out of the group. I told her that I was sorry for breaking the dress code and that I was leaving school right after the exam. She went into her office closet and emerged with a pair of huge, bulky ski pants and told me to put them on with a smirk on her face. I reluctantly agreed, arriving ten minutes late to my exam with everyone laughing at me. After that, I could not even focus on taking the test because I was shaking from the tears welling up in my eyes.

     

     
    That’s just messed up. 
     

     

    I started to question the system every time I got called in for a minor dress code violation. Why are leggings banned but skinny jeans are allowed? Why do you not consider how long my arms are? Why are my shoulders not okay? Why do the boys never get dress coded?

     

    Keep in mind it was, and still is, the style for young men in the South to wear fishing shorts to school every day. I’m talking shorts are at least a third of an arm length too short in reference to most school dress codes. I have never heard of a male peer getting dress coded on the account of showing too much skin.

     

     

    Your clothes are bringing attention to yourself. We don’t want boys getting distracted. You could make the male teachers uncomfortable.

     

    When girls are given this particular “reasoning” it brings about a sense of shame. It counteracts the progress that society has made towards equality. Establishing rules about how much skin is being shown on a female’s chest, shoulders and legs sexualizes these body parts even more. Not only does this teach young girls that sexual harassment is self-inflicted, but it also conveys a message to boys that females deserve to be disrespected if they are not meeting certain standards. 

     

     

    These gender-biased dress standards are subliminally teaching young boys that there is no accountability for inappropriate behavior. Why are we not teaching children to be respectful of one another instead of initiating sexist values?

     

     

    Some schools across the nation have started making changes to their dress codes, including Evanston Township High School in Illinois. They went from banning leggings, shorts, short skirts, and spaghetti straps to allowing them in 2017. As well as training teachers to use neutral language while reprimanding students for a violation. However, many schools around the country are still holding onto strict dress codes for females. 

     

    One could argue that dress codes prepare students for a working environment, but at the same time it is better to teach kids when and where to dress appropriately. Yes, schools are meant for educational purposes, but students are already facing an overwhelming amount of social and academic pressures. Therefore, they deserve to feel comfortable in such a stressful environment during such a transitional stage in life.

     

     

     

    We should all have learned by now that nothing is more distracting to a teenager than being worried about what others think of you.
  • Articles, College, GirlSpring.com, School

    Is College Right for You?

    college

    Why College is Not for Everyone

    Nowadays, society has created the idea that a college degree is an essential part of becoming successful. However, many people do not realize that college is not the ideal path for everyone. It is a huge financial commitment with no guarantee that your degree will be useful by the time you enter the work force. The Idaho Department of Labor found that the average bachelor’s degree in the United States is estimated to cost about $127,000. Not to mention the fact that scholarships and grants have become extremely competitive, and many people end up with tens of thousands of dollars in student loans that take years to pay off. Furthermore, Idaho researchers found that around 20% of students who take out loans owe more than $50,000 by the end of their undergraduate programs.

     

    What many high school students fail to realize is that college is not necessarily the best option for everyone. According to the Institute of Educational Statistics, about 40% of students attending a four-year college drop out before finishing their degree. If you have been a below-average student throughout your prior educational years, then what makes you think that college is the time and place to turn everything around? Doing poorly in secondary education, regardless of the reasons, does not guarantee that you will do any better in college. College is a serious investment for most people, and dropping out is like lighting thousands of dollars on fire and saying “oh well”.

     

    College is hard, very time-consuming, and almost every type of degree is competitive.

     

    While a lot of jobs require employees to have certain degrees, there are also many skill-based opportunities to make a significant amount of income. Trade schools are two-year programs that are a great option for people who have come to the conclusion that college is not the best path for them. If you think about it, attending trade school is a way to jumpstart a career because you will start earning an income years before any of your other peers do. According to an infographic from Entrepreneur, when comparing workers with a trade school certificate to workers with a bachelor’s degree, the people who chose to attend trade school made a median of only $1,347/year less than those who have a four-year college degree. So, just because you attend college does not necessarily guarantee you will be making more than your peers who chose alternative career paths.

     

    Be honest with yourself. What are your skills? Are you going to be able to afford tuition? Will the potential job you get after college allow you to pay off your loans?

     

    People are talented in different ways. Some people love school and working in an office or medical setting. Others may prefer cosmetics or working with their hands.

     

    Don’t be ashamed to do something different while saving time and money.

  • Articles, GirlSpring.com, Relationships, Sexual Health

    10 Signs of a Toxic Relationship

    toxic relationship

    It takes some women years to get out of a toxic relationship. You can be a smart girl and still be completely blind-sided by new emotions that come with your first serious relationship. Red flags and completely obvious signs of infidelity can be sitting there, right in front of your face, and you could still come up with ways to rationalize everything your partner is doing so obviously wrong.

    So, here are ten pieces of advice that I have come up with while reflecting on my past relationships:

    1. Don’t fall for the “players.”

    You might be “special” and a player might actually be really into you, but those types of people like to have their cake and eat it too. Even if you end up dating them, players almost never grow out of it. They will most likely either cheat on you or move on to the next shiny new thing as soon as you’re comfortable. That may sound like a bit of a generalization, but it’s one of the few that I will maintain as facts for the rest of my life.

    2. If your family and friends don’t like your S.O., then it’s probably time to move on.

    The people you are close to and trust usually have your best interests in mind. If you are telling them details about your relationship and they have hung out with you and your boyfriend/girlfriend multiple times, then they probably know what they’re talking about. Because you are too busy being lovestruck by your new beau, your family and friends are seeing firsthand how your S.O. treats you. When they finally tell you how they feel about your S.O., try not to get defensive and just listen to what they have to say. Your loved ones know you better than anyone else.

    3. Don’t let them tell you how to dress. They are not your boss or mama.

    If your S.O. is telling you what to wear as a plus one to their event or to maybe dress a little more conservatively in front of their parents, that is fine. You should respect their wishes when it comes to their family. However, if your S.O. is starting fights or ignoring you over something that you choose to wear. That’s a problem. This means that your S.O. believes they “own” you in some way and are entitled to make you feel bad about yourself for embarrassing them or asking for attention. Wear what you want.

    4. Be mindful of how much time you spend with them.

    Make time for other priorities in your life. Nothing annoys me more than the couple that has to constantly be with each other because I used to be one of those people. Why are you basically living with them? Stop settling down like an old married couple and go have fun with your friends and family. Don’t just make your loved ones a backup plan just because plans failed to go through with your S.O. They know that you only want to get dinner tonight because Billy is out of town. You’re not slick.

    5. If y’all have broken up more than once… it ain’t workin’

    You know what I’m talking about. There is always that one couple that breaks up and gets back together so many times that you lost track and stopped caring a long time ago. Sorry, but if you can’t decide if you want to be with someone and have gone on multiple “breaks”, it’s time to move on. Yes, you probably still are attracted to them or care about them, but that doesn’t mean you work as a couple. Stop wasting your time.

    6. Abuse is not always physical

    Be aware of the manipulative types. If you see them manipulating and lying to their family and friends, then they are 100% doing the same thing to you. This is where it becomes dangerous in relationships because you don’t know what is true and what is not. A manipulative person will do everything in their power to spin the story to their advantage and turn the problems on you.

    They will call you crazy and victimize themselves. Or they will ask you why you would ever accuse them of such a thing. They will come up with so many explanations and lies for things that you will start to question your own sanity and worth. This is called “gaslighting” and it is officially classified as a form of abuse in psychology. It is a strategy that people use to break you and make you trust them so they can continue doing whatever they want while knowing that they can convince you of anything.

    7. You don’t have to give into their “needs”.

    If your S.O. gets mad at you for not wanting to engage in a sexual activity-red flag. They should be respectful of your boundaries from the beginning to the end of your relationship. You are not responsible for their satisfaction. Just because you are in a relationship does not mean that they own your body.

    8. They have a superiority complex…

    People who are critical of everyone else but themselves are the worst. Don’t waste your time on someone who can’t admit their own fault in a situation. Both members of a relationship should not only communicate but also feel comfortable with recognizing
    their own mistakes.

    9. You never receive anything in return…

    Your S.O. just takes and uses, but you’ve come to the realization that whenever you need something from them- it’s an ordeal? Yes, when you help someone it should be from the heart and not a part of an agenda. However, if you are constantly putting your all into the relationship and it’s unrequited when you’re finally the sick one this time… then you are probably just being used.

    10. They call the shots.

    One day things between y’all are going great, and the next day they’ve decided it’s over. Don’t let them just break up with you whenever they please so they can have a “break”, then come running back in a week when they decide that they want you back. You are not a doormat. “Breaks” are just for people who are too scared to actually tell their S.O. that they no longer want to be with them.

    Healthy relationships are key to being happy, take a look at our list and see if some of the things that your boo, your friends, or even you do are unhealthy.

  • Articles, GirlSpring.com, Lifestyle

    Forming Your Own Opinion

    opinions

    Reminder: It is O.K. to Have Your Own Opinion

    Even if we all just have to agree to disagree.

    “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it”
    –Aristotle

    From technological advances and scientific discoveries to controversial politics and social progress– we are witnessing history in the making. The significant increase in social media and other platforms in the past 15 years allow us to access sources and opinions from people of all backgrounds. However, I have noticed a problem within the fibers of our media-centered country:

    I think people have forgotten what an opinion is and why we, as citizens of a democracy, are entitled to have one.

    An opinion is a view formed about something that does not necessarily have to be based on fact or knowledge. However, in today’s society, we need to focus more on supporting our opinions with facts as well as respecting those who have different perspectives than we do. People typically formulate opinions and ideas based on their own backgrounds and views. Therefore, we tend to forget that our own lives are different from others. Opinions are typically relative to one’s own socioeconomic status, religious beliefs, and the people surrounding them.

    Your opinion is subject to change based on your values and experiences. So, you should learn how to properly create your own opinions at a young age in order to remain well-informed in a nation that appears to be unable to agree on anything.

    How to Create Your Well-Informed Opinion: Do the Research!

    The first step you should take in order to categorize your primary attitude towards politics is to figure out where you lie within the political spectrum.

    Here’s a Crash Course that explains what Political Ideology is and  what your’s may be:

     

    Second, it is necessary to research all aspects of the political spectrum as well as other religions in order to fully understand other people’s values and beliefs. Being ignorant only creates more bias. Over time, bias can turn into hate. It is okay to disagree with one another. But, it is better to have at least a foundational knowledge of many cultures, religions and political labels in order to be able to create your own ideas.

    Having a calm and well-informed conversation with those who disagree with you is much more productive than name-calling and assuming they are “wrong.” These discussions will enable you to either further solidify your own beliefs, or, at the very least, begin understanding others’ perspectives.

    A part of being a mature and fair individual is respecting the beliefs and values of others, even if some people embody everything that you disagree with.

     Keep in mind that there is a difference between expressing a well-formed opinion and being hateful. Constructing and maintaining one’s own morals is crucial and should be encouraged in our society as long as it does not lead to intentional violence or harm to one another.

    I’m here to remind you that it is okay to think differently. You are not always going to agree with your best friends, family, or your significant other. Do not succumb to the influence of others just because you want to satisfy them. Your opinion has value. But, so do those of the people around you. And don’t you forget it, because society seemingly has already.

    Having political beliefs and opinions is part of being an active citizen. Here are three ways that you can be a better citizen.

  • College, Confidence, Dating, GirlSpring.com, Goals, Mental Health

    From Girl to Woman: 10 Things I Wish I Had Known Before I was 20

    There was something significant about the year that I turned 20 in which a lot of things clicked and finally made sense. I realized that I actually don’t know everything, and things could have gone a bit easier for me had I listened to those with my best interests in mind. Learning from one’s mistakes is a big part of life, which is why I have made a list of 10 lessons that I have already learned for you:

    !. It is O.K. to ask for what you believe that you deserve.

    It is easy to get taken advantage of when you are young and naïve. If you have a feeling that you are being treated unfairly, speak up. Whether it is by a teacher, parent, boss, friends or whoever, do not hesitate to calmly say, “I feel like I am receiving the recognition or treatment that I deserve, and here are the reasons why.” People are not always going to have your feelings or interests in mind, so do not be afraid to remind them to be considerate of you.

    2. What is on your resume is important.

    Now, colleges definitely take your GPA and standardized test scores into consideration during the application process, but your resume is what makes you stand out from the thousands of other kids that are just as much or more qualified as you are. You will have a resume that will be continuously updated for the rest of your working life. Therefore, do not hesitate to start getting involved and take advantage of the activities your school and community provide. Even if you spend your free time working, that reflects your time commitment and work ethic on your resume. College admission and jobs want to see how YOU utilize your talents and time other than schoolwork.

    3. Take care of your vehicle. Just do it.

    This may seem like a lame piece of advice, and hopefully you will not stop reading after this, but if you own a car… please take care of it. Keep up with scheduled oil changes and know what kind of gas your car uses. Little things like that will keep your car running for much longer and save you a lot of money and tears. I destroyed the transmission on my first car because I did not know that diesel fuel was only for special vehicles like semi-trucks. It was expensive and embarrassing.

    You are so lucky to even be able to own a vehicle as a teenager, so do not take it for granted ladies.

    4. Save money… seriously.

    What is obvious to some people is a lesson for the rest of us. I may have had a job of some sort since I was 16 years old, but I never saved a dime of those paychecks. Understanding monetary value came late for me, and for years I would just spend my money on every whim without thinking about how it could benefit me in the future. People are not lying when they say hindsight is 20/20. In fact, go to a bank as soon as you can and open a savings account. It takes about 20 minutes to open one and you can begin by saving 25% of every check or allowance you receive. You will thank yourself one day.

    5. Friends and family are more important than boyfriends/girlfriends. Period.

    Your first love is a great thing. Whether or not you have your first love interest during your teenage years, it is critical to remember what is actually important. Your first serious boyfriend/girlfriend/love interest is probably not going to last. Anything can happen, and who will you turn to when things go sour and you have neglected everyone else important in your life? Friends and family are the most consistent forms of relationships, even if the people who fill those roles change. Hopefully, you will always have a support system, but you are not always going to have a significant other.

    6.  Remember that you are not the center of the universe.

    Yes, it is necessary to set goals and strive towards whatever form of self-actualization you desire for yourself. Still, don’t forget that you are sharing this planet with billions of other people. Being courteous and kind to others will always set you apart from the masses. Remind yourself to ask other people how they are doing and make an effort to remember names. Send a thank you note after birthdays or holidays. Show people that you care.

    7. Don’t forget about personal hygiene please.

    Maybe it’s just me, but I tend to avoid those who knock me off of my feet every time I’m within a 3-foot radius of them. Dirty fingernails, stinky sweat and evil breath should disappear as soon as playground days are over. There is just simply no excuse anymore unless you are being active or doing manual labor. Cleaning yourself up when you go in public is just good practice. If I am too lazy to shower (which happens more than I would like to admit) I spray in some dry shampoo in my hair, put deodorant on, brush my teeth and spritz on some perfume before walking out of the door.

    8. Now is better than later when it comes to failure.

    It is inevitable that you are going to make mistakes and experience failure. However, the way you go about these experiences is what determines self-improvement. Very few people are just handed success and happiness, and adolescence is the best time to start figuring out what you are able to do. It will benefit you more in the future if you go ahead and discover your limitations and talents. Go try out for the debate team. Who knows- maybe you are a natural-born lawyer, or maybe your talents lie elsewhere.

    9. Don’t sweat the small stuff- life is all about ups and downs.

    Every person on this planet has problems that are relevant to their own circumstances and individualism. However, try not to dwell too much on the negative. Life is supposed to suck sometimes, because that is what makes it feel so great when things are actually going right. A wise Delta agent once approached me while I was crying at the airport after a terrible day and said that “life likes to kick you in the butt one day so you can wake up stronger the next”. Then she proceeded to waive my bag fee. Even small acts of kindness like that show that good still exists in the world. Just don’t forget that life really does have a way of working out sometimes, despite how grim it may seem in the moment.

    10. Learn when it is your fault and how to admit it.

    Some people never learn how to recognize their own fault in a situation. Growth as a person stems from self-awareness. Therefore, learning from one’s own mistakes is a part of that process. People tend to blame others because it is easier than experiencing the consequences of their actions. Next time you receive a bad grade or hurt someone’s feelings, maybe stop and think about what you could have done to avoid that reaction instead of making up excuses. Once I started telling myself that I could have tried more or that joke was too far, I began to stop repeating those mistakes. Acknowledging your faults and weaknesses is the foundation of self-improvement.