High School Principal Says Dress Codes Protect Girls' "Virginity"

Photographed by Mark Iantosca.
Stories of young women punished for dubious dress code "violations" are incredibly common these days, and each adult involved in policing hemlines manages to sound even more out of touch than the last. But it will be hard to top Grand Rapids, MI, high school principal Jim Bazen in either cluelessness or creepiness.

After the Grand Rapids Press editorial board published an op-ed condemning the "sexism problem" of most dress codes, Bazen defended the practice with a shocking display of religious paternalism. In his own opinion piece in the Press responding to the op-ed, the Plymouth Christian High School administrator didn't even pretend that dress codes are about anything but policing sexuality.

Students "need to be taught about modesty in the classroom and at home," he wrote. "You say that harping on the young ladies to 'cover up' does more harm than good. To me, that's a double standard because as a female you will never completely understand the male mind."

He goes further: "Women should not be afraid of their sexuality. Women should be afraid of those who admire them only for their 'great body.' We would like them to preserve this wonderful gift (virginity) for their 'one and only.'"

In case that wasn't disturbing enough — and it's more than disturbing enough for people to feel disgust and concern about this man's proximity to children — follow-up comments Bazen made to People are also deeply unsettling. "I stand by my basic thought: The way to help women is to get rid of pornography, and get rid of the dress that is provocative," he said, before citing the Bible. "People can call me a pervert or whatever they want, but the fact is, I am coming from the point of total depravity. I don't put myself above anybody. I say to the ladies, 'Please dress in a non-provocative way.' And I need to control my eyes as well and not think in a lustful way."

Girls in schools of all levels have faced bans on pants for being too form-fitting, been sent home for donning dresses without sleeves, and have almost missed graduation over where a hem hits. It's impossible to pretend that these rules don't make getting dressed a minefield of anxiety for girls. When a principal openly admits that dress codes are good because of the way they focus on female sexuality, how can any student feel safe about being in class?
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