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Dress Codes in Schools Are Sexist: Here's Why

Student Life

As a girl living in New York City, the so-called "Big Apple", home of self-expression and freedom, I can tell you straight up that schools here do not fit in that category of open-mindedness. As a junior in high school, I have seen so many girls, including myself, sexualized by our teachers and told to "put on a sweater". You want to express yourself with a fashionable outfit that's a little too short? Well, too bad. You can't wear it. It's a distraction.

Of course, no one should be walking around with shirts that have offensive phrases on them or anything of that sort. But, when it comes to the length of shorts or the straps on a tank top, these things aren't offensive to people. Our bodies shouldn't be a problem or a distraction to a boy's learning. Or to anyone's.

What Are Some Issues With The Common Dress Code?

It is common for an education system to enforce the concept that girls cannot wear spaghetti straps and even a thicker strap can be a potential violation.

Another common rule in a dress code contract is that girls can’t wear shorts above the knees. The problem with this is that women’s clothing is not made to fit that way. Finding shorts that are up to the knees that make you feel confident is extremely difficult when walking around the store. Longer shorts are more accessible to boys and fit their body type. Girls should be able to wear what makes them and their individual bodies comfortable.

There’s also another problem with how schools judge a girl’s outfit…the way her body is shaped under the clothes. Two women can wear the same outfit, but one will get in trouble and not the other. For example, a girl with a smaller chest area and skinnier waist can get away with a tank top, but a curvier woman with bigger boobs can be labeled a “slut” or “inappropriate” for wearing the same shirt.

There is nothing wrong with a dress code that doesn’t single out young girls and their bodies. It’s completely normal and should be enforced that in a school setting there shouldn't be inappropriate or offensive language on clothing. Rules, as such, don't sexualize women or create an imbalance in the system. It's a unisex rule and enforced as such.

Why The Dress Codes In Schools Can Be So Dangerous

The problem with our system is that it trains adolescents to have a mindset. It shows them that boys will just be boys and girls will just be sluts. And, of course, this is never the case.

A shoulder or a bit of stomach should not make a boy have trouble controlling himself. Dress codes sexualize women and embrace rape culture and the concept that if anything happens to a girl, it’s her fault for what she wore that day.

A boy can get turned on no matter what a girl is wearing, and that’s just the disturbing truth. Some men find it more attractive to see a woman in baggy clothing because it’s like a challenge. If boys can’t control themselves, why are you making us change because of their immaturity? Why should we be the ones to change?

Stop training girls to accept sexualization and teach your sons to be gentlemen. Then, there wouldn't be this problem in the education system in the first place.

Time interviewed teenage girls in high school about their dress codes, and here's what some of them had to say:

“I got dress coded at my school for wearing shorts. After I left the principal’s office with a detention, I walked past another student wearing a shirt depicting two stick figures: the male holding down the female's head in his crotch and saying ‘good girls swallow’. Teachers walked right past him and didn’t say a thing.”

“At my school our dress code dictates everything about a girl's outfit: knee-length shorts or skirts only, no cleavage, no bra straps, no tank tops. We can’t even wear flip flops, and girls will be given detentions and sent home for breaking any one of these rules. There’s no dress code for men, and the reasoning? Girls can’t dress “ provocatively” [sic] because it could distract and excite the boys.”

Dress codes that target girls give boys more control and power. Why are we sexualizing the bodies of 13-year-old children? Why are their thighs or shoulders too much for you to handle? Dress codes need to go if they continue to isolate young girls for showing too much skin or sexualizing their bodies. It shames young girls and destroys their feeling of equality with their male classmates. The education system needs to do better.

Sarah Serran
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