Eleanor Fitzwilliams never thought a photo taken by her own father would be flagged for being “inappropriate,” but that’s exactly what the Wisconsin high school senior was told about the picture she submitted for the yearbook.
Last week, Fitzwilliams was called into the office of the faculty member who runs the school’s yearbook program.
“She just sat me down and told me that my picture was too inappropriate to be used in the yearbook and (graduation) slideshow because you could see the side of my bralette,” the 17-year-old told TODAY.
Fitzwilliams was asked to submit another picture. Stunned and a bit embarrassed, she complied. But as she walked away, she started getting annoyed.
“I was like, wait, what just happened? Was that really too inappropriate? I started talking to my friends and soon I realized that was not okay,” she said.
Fitzwilliams took to Twitter to point out what she said is a blaring double standard in her school’s dress code, comparing her original senior photo with last year’s yearbook picture of the boys’ swim team, whose members are wearing nothing but their swimsuits.
“If they’re so concerned about skin, how come the boys get to dress like this and I can’t have a little bralette showing?” she said.
Her tweet generated widespread support and even stories from people who had similar experiences.
Fitzwilliams said she has nothing against the swim team, and is friends with several members.
“I made it very clear to them, I was not trying to personally attack any of the boys. They weren’t doing anything wrong,” she said. “But if the school was okay with them showing a lot more skin than I was, then why couldn’t I show the side of my bralette? It was a sexualization of my bralette.”
Calls and emails seeking comment from Verona Area High School’s principal and public information officer were not returned. The principal has spoken to Fitzwilliam’s mother but the “conversation didn’t go very far,” her daughter said.
The school’s dress code stresses the use of “good judgment” and that three areas of the body must be covered: chest, midriff and bottom. It also says “undergarments” must be covered.
“I think it can be argued that the swim team’s Speedos are also like an undergarment, yet they serve a different purpose,” Fitzwilliams said. “Well, my bralette serves a different purpose than to hold my boobs up. It covers up the side where my top doesn’t, just like the boys’ Speedos. This is very much about a double standard.”
Craig Fitzwilliams said he finds nothing wrong with the photo his daughter submitted, especially after seeing past senior photos that show far more skin or cleavage.
“The last thing I want to do is take an inappropriate photo of my daughter. If I thought there was something wrong with it, I would have said something right away,” he said. “I had no desire of her showing a lot of skin.”
Fitzwilliams said he thinks his daughter made a good point with her tweet and is proud of her for standing up for her beliefs.
“The boys' Speedos leave nothing to the imagination, and she has a small piece of a bralette showing? There’s definitely a double standard,” he said.
Fitzwilliams also stressed that his daughter is not someone who normally tries to get attention.
“She’s a pretty down-to-earth kid. She’s not someone all about self appearance. She’s pretty well grounded,” he said. “And she definitely wasn’t trying to make a fashion statement.”
Eleanor Fitzwilliam said she only meant to vent when she sent out her tweet last week, and she certainly didn’t expect the issue to blow up on social media the way it has, but she's now trying to use the spotlight to her advantage.
“I might as well start a conversation about the sexualization in dress codes. This is a problem everywhere,” she said.
The senior said she and her parents hope to meet with the principal later this week to have a much more detailed discussion about the issue.
“We hope to try to move the conversation along a little bit more, instead of being just told, ‘It’s against school rules, it’s against the dress code.’ We kept hitting a wall before,” she said. “We want to go a little deeper this time.”