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Will A School's Ban On Mirrors Help Teen Girls Focus?

In a somewhat extreme move, a British school is enforcing a ban on make-up by removing the mirrors from the girls’ bathrooms. They’ve also issued “make-up removal kits” to teachers to deal with any make-up applied before school hours.

The school is co-ed, but the rule applies only to girls. I guess boys wearing too much eyeliner wasn’t a big problem this year. The school administrators say the issue isn’t just that heavy make-up can be distracting, but that girls were congregating in the bathrooms to stare at themselves and tweak their make-up instead of focusing on school. Some of them were even bringing their lunch into the school bathrooms.

As Jezebel says, a ban on lunches in the bathroom would seem to solve that problem, but instead the school went after what they thought was the root cause: teen vanity. As Jezebel puts it:

Children at the co-ed school wear uniforms, but administrators weren’t just worried that the girls’ elaborately painted faces were distracting other students. Just as early humans would congregate around a fire, the girls were drawn to the mirror in the girls’ bathroom and would meet there to share gossip and get eye infections from trying each other’s makeup.

On the one hand, I’m kind of charmed by their approach. Having school be a place that radically de-emphasizes your appearance in favor of a focus on academic work and social skills seems like it could do girls a lot of good. They get enough media and social messages about the need to be pretty. Having a break from all that could be a blessing.

But could it possibly work? It’s not really mirrors that cause girls’ obsession with their appearance. It’s…I don’t even know what it is. Some combination of social pressure, media pressure and a natural fascination with your radically changing body, would be my guess. Taking a girl’s mirror away isn’t going to stop that. It’s just going to make it harder for her to check her hair in the middle of the day.

Instead of proscriptively banning make-up and mirror-gazing, it’d be awesome if the school put those resources into teaching strong self-esteem for all its students. Maybe then they’d feel less internal pressure to pile on the mascara.

Photo: Laura Tourettes

Pogs, skinny jeans, and …hugging? More memorable school bans

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