Barnard College is a private, women’s liberal arts college known for its progressive and feminist ideals. Yet the 125-year-old institution is in the news for a very un-feminist reason.
Feministing reports that Barnard imposed a dress code on its 2014 resident advisors (RAs) that said they could not wear clothing revealing any part of their stomachs, chests, or backsides during training. Via Feministing [emphasis ours]:
Dress appropriately for training. While we want you to be comfortable, this is a work environment. In the words of from [sic] our friends in Admissions, ‘No belly, no butts, no bras,’ meaning that none of these should be showing in the clothing you choose to wear. We ask that you come dressed as you did for Group Process. Those dressed inappropriately will be asked by their HD to go home and change.
The rule was a part of the “Training Expectations” contract that Barnard RAs were asked to sign after returning to the institution two weeks ago for orientation. According to Feministing, which spoke with some of the RAs, the students were made to sign the contract and the rules were “not discussed or negotiated before their signing.”
Let’s be clear. A resident advisor sets an example in the college community and will most likely be the first resource for incoming students. They must apply, interview, and train for the position, agreeing to uphold and adhere to personal and professional conduct as outlined by the school.
But none of the Barnard RAs were aware of any dress code rules when they accepted their positions and then were asked to sign a document dictating their clothing choices.
The message Barnard’s RAs are being given is clear: to be deemed professional and acceptable, women must wear clothing that covers them — even if those women are still college students working in the summer heat, and especially if those women have butts, boobs, and bellies (you know, all of them).
One RA also made the salient point that the rule promoted body shaming and was obviously biased against curvier body types. “I’d just like to highlight the racial aspects of it,” she said to Feministing, “certain bodies are policed and deemed as not welcome.”
Another agreed, saying that the image Barnard wanted to showcase was of a “White corporate feminist.”
In an age where young women are frequently shamed for their choice of clothing and school dress codes unfairly target young women, one would expect a women’s college — fierce advocates of feminism and liberal thought — would be exempt from this.
Business Insider has reached out to Barnard College for comment, and will update if we hear back.
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