Cleavage is literally empty space. Yet teenage girls who reveal "enough" of it, unintentionally or otherwise, are often humiliated and punished by high school administrators who feel uncomfortable with the hollow between a teenager's breasts.
Brittnay Minder, a high school student from Washington State, was recently turned away from her senior prom because her strapless dress — made specifically for women with big breasts — showed too much cleavage. Strapless dresses are allowed by her school's dress code, as long as cleavage, midriff and lower back are covered. But what does "too much" cleavage mean? Who gets to decide the difference between inappropriate cleavage and, like, boobs?
High schools do. And Minder's high school humiliated her by barring her from entering the prom while allowing other, smaller girls in strapless dresses to dance the night away.
"In my opinion, I feel that it is because I'm bigger chested and there is more cleavage that you can see, and there's nothing I could really do about that," she told KATU 2.
Minder's (wisecracking) parents are on her side: "All women are not created equal, and you can not compare a golf ball to a grapefruit. It ain't gonna happen," her mom said. "A girl like Brittany should not have to go to a dance in a burlap sack because she's large busted," added her father. "It's ridiculous."
Ridiculous but all too typical. I recently wrote a plea to revamp the "Don't Be a Slut" dress code: schools have got to stop imposing standards on female students' attire based on misogynist ideals of modesty and a fear of teenagers as sexual beings. The standards are totally subjective, too, judging by recent news stories, like the one about the Cincinnati high school that asked two girls to leave prom for being "inappropriately dressed." Reason? Appropriate dresses "can have no curvature of the breasts showing."
But teenagers have breasts! And different teenagers have different types of breasts! Girls with big breasts will have deeper cleavage because they have bigger breasts. Tall girls are more likely to show "too much" leg because they have longer legs. Girls with big butts might appear to be wearing tighter leggings because...you've got the idea.
These irrational rules are geared towards making adults feel safe rather than teenagers. Minder, who was eventually allowed to enter her prom shrouded by a shawl, was mortified while her teachers were spared the horror of feeling creepy for staring at her boobs. Who are we protecting by banning a space between two mammary glands? Let's remember what cleavage really is: nothing. And definitely not any school's business.
Image by Jim Cooke.