Maggie L. Walker Governor‘s School in Richmond, Virginia banned all girls from wearing shorts via an announcement of the PA system with no prior warning (Ballou). Ayoung girl at New York’s Stuyvesant High School was told that, “even though [her] skirts were technically acceptable, they were still too short for [her] to wear” and that she should follow a separate dress code that covers her curvy figure (Valenti. ”Targeting ‘Slutty’ Students”), About 100 students walked out of Bingham High School in South Jordan, Utah in protest to sexist homecoming dress code enforcement in which girls were lined up and individually assessed by school staff (Carroll), My third day of middle school, my teacher threatened to send me to the administration office unless I covered my shoulders with a sweater, despite the fact that it was 98 degrees Fahrenheit that day Dress codes are, of course, necessary to school functions: it would not be appropriate for students to arrive at school wearing absolutely nothing.
However, dress codes and the enforcement of such codes have repeatedly been used to “slut»shame“ girls in high schools across America While it may seem that dress codes are for the betterment of the learning environment, the general American dress code is sexist and targets women, and the enforcement of these codes is simply flawed, The most common argument in favor of such dress codes is that their purpose is to prevent classroom distractions and promote a professional learning environment.
It is true that students should learn to “dress for success,” However, is it not more distracting to be pulled from class and forced to change into PL clothes or wait in the administration office for parents to bring a different set of clothing than to simply wear shorts in class?
Additionally, students are not responsible for the thoughts of other students.
Instead of teaching women to cover up, should we not teach men that women are not sexual objects to be goggled at? Jessica Valenti, a journalist for The Nation writes on her personal website that “[t]his ‘distraction’ standard for a dress code sets up a model in which the default student we are concerned about – the student whose learning we want to ensure is protected – is male. lt presumes that female students are a distraction to male students’ learning, and therefore it‘s young women‘s actions that must be policed” (Valenti. ”Female Bodies as “distracting”: Another Quick Thought on Dress Codes & Sexism”). By forcing women to change clothes in the middle of class, we are telling girls that their appearance is more important than their education, that their comfort is less important than men’s education, that they are responsible for the thoughts and drives of other people, and that their education is less important than men‘s education.
Dress codes are in need of revision. Many dress codes around the country use the length of a person’s fingertips to measure how long shorts, skins, and dresses must be, However, this test is faulty. Shorts can ride up, a person‘s arms may be much longer than another‘s, and this method does not take into account girls with long legs, who have a very difficult time finding shorts to fit this requirement. Our own school dance dress code here at my high school prohibits “dresses that expose cleavage.” Some girls at our school are simply busty, and there is nothing they can do to change that. Prohibiting cleavage is simply unfair to these girls. I challenge anyone to find a dress that fits a girl with a large bust and does not show cleavage. Unless the administration expects these girls to show up to the dance wearing a t»shirt sewn onto a skirt (which may not be allowed anyway if the staff does not find it “tasteful” enough), such a dress is almost impossible to find.
Dress codes should be equally restricting for both females and males, rather than consisting of a long list of what females are prohibited from wearing and a single regulation for males (“shirts must remain buttoned and tucked in”). In her related article on The Nation, Valenti writes “the thinking behind the code sends a dangerous message to young women — that they are responsible for the way in which society objectifies and sexualizes them” (Valenti. ”Targeting ‘Slutty’ Students”). The biggest problem is the enforcement of dress codes. Across America, the vast majority of dress coded students are female. This is not because females intentionally break dress code more often than males; it is because dress codes are tailored to restrict female apparel rather than clothing in general: no “short shorts”, no visible bras, and no spaghetti straps, How often have you seen men walking around school flaunting the sexist t-shirt that reads “Cool story babe… now go make me a sandwich?” Do they get dress coded for these offensive shirts? No.
However, women are constantly sent to the administration office and forced to change. On the news, we see horror stories of the garb that girls are forced to wear after a dress code in other states, Oakleaf High School recently received attention in the media for forcing girls to wear “oversized red sweatpants and a neon yellow shirt, each with ‘dress code violation‘ written on them” (Carroll). Even the RE, clothes our local middle school and our own school uses to cover and hide students’ bodies are mortifying. Instead of giving students RE. clothes> we can give them school apparel to wear for the rest of the day, This way, the dress-coded student blends in with their peers and does not feel singled out and publically humiliated. Dress codes commonly receive attention in the media. More and more schools are rightfully berated by news sources because of sexist policies, It is my hope that instead of just saying that school regulations are equal for both sexes, one day they will really become equal.