If principals can freak out over Black hairstyles or girls showing their shoulders -- they can enforce a mask mandate: columnist
school hallway in North Paulding High School via Hannah Watters

Each year when school starts a renewed conversation begins over the sexism of dress codes that girls must comply with because schools think it's a female's responsibility not to "distract" a male student. Racist principals and teachers end up suspended when they flip out over a Black girl's hair being natural or a Black boy's hair having a design shaved into it. But somehow, a mask mandate is too much for schools to handle.


Writing for the Washington Post on Tuesday, style reporter Monica Hesse noted that the Georgia school that was forced to shut down after a COVID-19 outbreak will return to school with rules mandating face coverings the way they mandate girls' knee caps be covered.

"Punish mask noncompliance the way many schools have for decades wrongly punished teenage girls for spaghetti straps, shorter skirts and scooped necklines (all prohibited in North Paulding’s dress code), yanking those girls out of class for 'distracting' their fellow classmates with scandalous body parts like knee caps," she wrote.

What Hesse said is probably more distracting to students than shoulders or hair is "being yanked out of class while you’re just trying to learn trigonometry. Hearing that your male classmates’ learning experience is your responsibility. Fearing that a visible bra strap, or the 'personal choice' of your clothing will get you called a slut."

She noted that North Paulding’s handbook also claims the school's administration “reserves the right to alter the dress code for special occasions." She noted the pandemic is probably "special" and she advised districts to take masks as seriously as they do girls without sleeves.

This week has just begun and there are already a slew of reports of adults losing their minds over masks, despite them being state-mandated around the country.

Ironically, Republican legislators have suddenly discovered "personal choice" after spending years claiming that the government should regulate the healthcare of women. While the GOP may hate abortion, science has yet to find a case of pregnancy being contagious, much less as contagious as the coronavirus.

"But if that’s the comparison that anti-mask folks want to make — fine," said Hesse. "Pretend an unmasked face is a woman trying to obtain the birth control that her doctor has prescribed but her employer disavows. You know what to do: Find your inner bureaucrat and go to town. Pretend an unmasked face is a member of the LGBTQ community asking for the same treatment and rights as the rest of the population; you will surely then find a way to enforce some mandates."

Unfortunately, she closed, ending the COVID-19 pandemic isn't the "individual choice" conservatives wish it was. It's dependent on everyone.

Read her full column at the Washington Post.