Dress code controversies and the sexism inherit within are usually the fodder of high school agendas, but on one hot summer Saturday, problematic clothes policing hopped the bounds of academia when a woman was kicked out of a mall for wearing a Finding Dory shirt. Yep, a shirt displaying the title character from Pixar's children's movie about the forgetful fish. Oy. (Bustle reached out to Woodland Mall, and they declined to comment.)
On Saturday, June 10, Hannah Pewee and her sister were looking forward to enjoying some much needed air conditioning during a shopping excursion to the Woodland Mall in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The 20-year-old student at Grand Valley State University who describes herself on Facebook as "Aspiring Disney Princess" and "One big nerd" was wearing an outfit suitable for the soaring 90 degree temperatures outside: flats, shorts, and a tank top emblazoned with Dory's upbeat catchphrase "Just Keep Swimming." The pair was enjoying their shopping trip when mall security ousted Pewee prematurely for "inappropriate dress." According to Pewee, an anonymous person had complained to mall security about her clothes, despite dozens of other girls in the vicinity dressed exactly the same.
Shocked and upset, Pewee immediately posted about the incident on Facebook, including a picture of her outfit and describing the series of upsetting events.
This woman was asked to leave Woodland Mall due to a dress code violation. Is this outfit really too risky? pic.twitter.com/lyH4SOJ2zY— Meghan Anne Bunchman (@MeghanBunchman) June 12, 2017
The incident hit Pewee hard. "I am so angry right now I'm shaking. I felt so embarrassed I almost cried," Pewee wrote in her original post. "All because a stranger didn't like how I dressed." Pewee rightly refuses to "put on jeans and a sweater" in 90 degree heat so that she could shop, expressing her disappointment that a fun day had been ruined for no good reason. "I was out having a fun time with my sister and next thing I know, I'm out on the street," Pewee continued. "Slut-shaming how girls are dressed is deplorable and outdated, and it needs to stop."
Almost immediately, her Facebook post racked up reactions and shares at an alarming rate. Supportive commenters echoed Pewee's outrage, demanding the mall issue and apology. That night, Pewee posted again thanking everyone for their support, adding that the mall's "clothing policy on their website doesn't say anything about clothing lengths. If there is such a strict policy, that needs to be *public information*, not something security officers spring on unsuspecting customers. Especially with summer coming around, there's going to be a lot of girls like me, going to the mall and not knowing their breaking some secret dress code." For the record, the only explicit guidelines concerning dress in the mall's Codes of Conduct state that clothing with "inappropriate words, phrases, or graphics" are not permitted, and shirts and shoes are required — so Pewee was well within her rights to shop (considering that a cartoon fish isn't too risqué for them).
The next day Pewee received a call from the mall's management and they apologized for the incident. "Apparently they're going to revise their clothing policy on their website so it is clearer what is and isn't acceptable," Pewee wrote in a June 11 Facebook post. "In addition, security will be discussing how to properly handle situations like this." Three days later the post has gone fully viral, with nearly 8,000 shares to date, sending an important message about "slut shaming" to both businesses and female shoppers this summer.
Dress codes are always a sticky subject, perhaps it's time we stop making women feel bad about their body, and spend more time teaching respect? Just a thought.