By Sarah Copeland
Unfair dress codes are singling girls out as the reason that boys in school do not pay attention. School districts are implying that it is the girls’ fault that boys can’t pay attention, yet we don’t shame the boys for ogling girls’ bodies. The reasons behind strict dress codes in schools are blatantly sexist and need to be addressed (no pun intended).
I have always felt strongly about this topic ever since I was in high school. I thought it was insane how many rules there were to restrict girls’ clothing when the boys had little to no stress over the matter. I did not know how huge this issue was until I began research on the topic to help me write this blog. Several articles share my distaste for how sexist schools have become concerning the matter of dress codes. Even some powerful movements like “I am more than a distraction” have erupted on the east coast (Zhou 2015).
I have read some articles that use the argument that dress codes are to help prepare students for the “next level” past high school (Halkidis 2014). That excuse is beyond ridiculous. The “next level” for students (at least optimistically speaking) is college. College has no dress code and is refreshingly freeing for students when it comes to personal day-to-day decisions. The only need to dress nicely is for special events or important first impressions such as interviews.
First impressions are important, yes, but it is important to realize when those impressions will be made. It is improbable to expect that every day, for 180 days, a student will wear “interview appropriate” clothing in order to “prepare” them for their future. That puts an extreme amount of stress on a teenager. Instead of micro-analyzing every outfit a student (and let’s be honest, it really is only the girl students) are wearing and stating it’s to “help them understand” what would be appropriate for a job interview, why not just hold a school lecture to prepare all students (Halkidis 2014)?
Overall, it’s truly the girls losing out on their education through the distractions that dress codes bring forward. When they are called out and sent out of class for their outfit, it disrupts their learning. I fail to see how this is NOT a sexist act. The school districts with oppressive, unfair dress codes are basically saying, “We don’t want to distract the boys so please leave and change your clothes.” I feel like that is rather obvious sexism.
Another issue comes from learning where would girls even find appropriate clothes! I used to work in retail at a tween girls’ store. The hardest things for parents to find was always clothing that would be school appropriate. I apologize, but shorts that are long enough to be considered “dress code appropriate” are ugly. They are unflattering and, usually, don’t even exist. The majority of clothing stores that girls can shop at don’t offer longer length shorts, skirts or dresses.
On top of all that, it is not the school’s job to tell students what they can wear. It is the school’s job to teach and educate students. Of course, there is always a limit. Neither girl nor boy students should show up to school in bathing suits. However, it is the parent’s responsibility to enforce proper dress codes upon their children.
Enough of this “boys will be boys” crap that allows school districts get away with showing sexism to girls. It’s unfair, it’s demeaning and it’s infuriating.