When Stuyvesant says that women’s dress and bodies are distraction in a learning environment, for example, what they’re really saying is that they’re distracting to male students. The default student we are concerned about - the student whose learning we want to ensure is protected - is male. Never mind how “distracting” it is to be pulled from class, humiliated, and made to change outfits - publicly degrading young women is a small price to pay to make sure that a boy doesn’t have to suffer through the momentary distraction of glancing at a girl’s legs. When this dentist in Iowa can fire his assistant for turning him on - even though she’s done absolutely nothing wrong - the message again is that it’s men’s ability to work that’s important.
And when rape victims are blamed for the crime committed against them, the message is the same: This is something that happened to the perpetrator, who was driven to assault by a skirt, or a date, or the oh-so-sexy invitation of being passed out drunk. Women have infringed on their right to exist without being turned on. (Ta-Nehisi Coates describes this centering of male sexual vulnerability quite well.) Our very presence is a disruption of the male status quo.
I’ll never forget the day I almost failed a quiz because immediately prior to it my teacher publicly shamed me for my outfit. Several students called me a slut and instead of addressing that, she chose to give a “general anonymous announcement” that she was going to start enforcing the dress code. I told her I had another shirt I could put on and there was a chorus of “THANK YOU” from the men in the class, again unaddressed. And then during the quiz, she asked me if I had left the house wearing what I was wearing (I absolutely had, not with the extra shirt on). It still makes me so angry and it was years before I could wear shorts again. I am at a uniform school now but last year I was not, and I told one of my professors I would never, ever enforce a dress code. He got really defensive but I never said anything to anyone except the boy who wore a “Make Me a Sandwich” shirt. Ugh.