Two decidely different ways of fighting body shaming

  • Bartlett High School junior Jane Magnani helped rewrite her school's dress code, now more gender-neutral.

      Bartlett High School junior Jane Magnani helped rewrite her school's dress code, now more gender-neutral. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

Posted8/26/2017 2:00 PM

Who would have guessed that news of celestial bodies, which eclipsed all other coverage, was dimmed a few days later with the topic of body shaming?

Stories about Monday's 86 percent eclipse of the sun by the moon (and, of course "totality" in southern Illinois) occupied five of the top 10 positions of most-read items of the week on Leading the way was the story about the difficulty in finding the special eclipse glasses, especially the officially sanctioned version.


But while the eclipse was a ton of fun, we quickly move on. Two attention-getting pieces appearing in Friday's editions touched on body shaming, certainly not as much fun as the eclipse, but an issue that draws serious attention.

One version appeared in Robert Feder's column, where he reported on eight-months-pregnant Fox 32 WFLD news anchor Kristen Nicole, who received three emails her station characterized as a "body shaming experience." (One, though, questioned whether she was even pregnant and was for some reason creating a "fake baby bump.")

As Feder reported, that set off Nicole, who wrote on her Facebook page: "If you're writing to tell me that you're offended by the sight of my baby bump, don't hold your breath waiting for a response. It's not coming. I wear this dress probably once a month. No one has EVER had a problem with it. Wear it almost 8 months pregnant? Whoa ... disgusting, right? (insert massive eye roll)." Later, she was interviewed by her "Good Day Chicago" colleagues Corey McPherrin and Anita Padilla about how her "body shaming experience" had become a big issue. A story on Yahoo! Style followed. The station also posted, "Body shaming continues to be rampant on social media and it doesn't matter who you are or what you look like, you too can become a target."

By contrast, Jane Magnani, a Bartlett High School junior, took a measured approach to the same problem. She showed up at Monday's Elgin Area School District U-46 board meeting to suggest the dress code at her school, which she helped rewrite, be applied to other schools in U-46, second-largest district in the state.

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There, she said, the rules are not applied uniformly, and seem to show a gender bias.

"A large number of students face body shaming and unfairness due to the way they choose to dress," she said in the story by staff writer Madhu Krishnamurthy. "Some schools have overly restrictive dress code interpretations."

The Bartlett High dress code is unique in that it addresses what students must cover up -- upper thighs, chest, buttocks and midriff area -- rather than what they can't wear. The rules apply to all sexes.

And, there, it seems to be working.

Last year, 300 dress code violations were cited in the first seven weeks of school. Since classes started last week, there have been none. Principal Mike Demovsky credits the gender-neutral dress code.

"Changing the framework of that conversation, that really seemed to go a long way (toward) improving relationships between students and staff," he said. "Every group having their voice valued, that's how you truly make it an effective change."

And that's change you'd hope everyone can live with.

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