The Important Reason These Girls Are Wearing Scarlet Letters

October 2nd 2015

Laura Donovan

The story of Hester Prynne in "The Scarlet Letter" takes place in the 1640s, however, recently Charleston County School of the Arts (CCSOA) students used the symbolic "A" to protest what they see as sexist shaming at their school.

Female students at the school have started wearing the letter "A" on their clothing to protest the present day dress code, which often requires young women to groom themselves in a way that won't distract their male classmates. At CCSOA, students are upset about the manner in which administrators are allowed to approach the dress code, as well as the fact that the dress code is more strictly enforced for girls than for male students. Some CCSOA students feel teachers have confronted girls about dress code violations in aggressive and unkind ways that feel a lot like slut shaming. According to the Charleston Post and Courier, one student said a guidance counselor told her "heavier girls" must wear longer skirts.

“You see guys walking around in muscle tank tops with half their sides hanging out and their pants hanging down, and they don’t get called out for that," CCSOA junior Reese Fischer told the Post and Courier. "They don’t get called out for wearing a hat, but a girl will get called out for a short skirt in a second."

Fischer added that a teacher once told her that she "might as well be wearing underwear" rather than calmly explain that Fischer's shorts were too short for the school dress code standards. So far, Fischer's efforts seem to be resonating with many at the school. Around 100 students and faculty alike (but mostly students) wore the letter "A" last week to protest dress code enforcement, and principal Robert Perrineau not only met with Fischer, but told the Post and Courier that he is "impressed by the students’ peaceful activism."

There has been major backlash against school dress codes in recent months through hashtags such as #NotADistraction and #IAmNotADistraction, which girls at CCSOA have cited in the "A" protest:


A photo posted by REESE FISCHER (@reesefisch) on

"As many of you heard there's a new dress code policy being enforced as of tomorrow that will require students to leave class and sit in the office until their dress code violation is 'dealt with,'" Fischer wrote on Instagram. "Many students find it incredibly offensive that their outfits are being held at a higher importance than their education."

In the photo below, Fischer wrote that dress codes can be important but should not be used to slut shame women for their attire:


A photo posted by REESE FISCHER (@reesefisch) on

"[T]here is nothing comfortable or professional about being told you're 'asking for it' or 'selling yourself in the wrong way' or being told your body is 'gross,'" she wrote. "I'm so proud to stand among my peers as we stand up for what's right, and that is everyone should be treated with respect."


A photo posted by REESE FISCHER (@reesefisch) on

Other students shared their scarlet letter photos as well:


A photo posted by Erin Molony (@erinmolony) on


A photo posted by Zoie Rast (@peachyzoie) on


A photo posted by Meme Queen (@cassalessandra) on


A photo posted by Quinn Burgin (@quinnburgin) on


Today the White House announced the launch of the #ItsOnUs campaign to stop sexual assault. In light of the fact that 1 in 5 women are assaulted while in college, we recorded a video with our friend Taryn Southern to highlight some stats on the frequency of sexual assault on college campuses. Please watch and encourage your friends to watch too. We believe all students deserve to know if their school is maintaining a safe environment. There's a bill that would require colleges to publish their sexual assault statistics online so that parents and students can make an informed choice when comparing universities. If you support this bipartisan legislation, you can add your name here: http://wefb.it/55F7C5

Posted by ATTN: on Friday, September 19, 2014