When School Dress Code Becomes Irrelevant and Inappropriate

June 11, 2014

As we approach the summer season, the weather is beginning to change. The temperature is rising, humidity percentages increasing, and generally, students shed their layers of sweatshirts and long pants for more t-shirts, tank tops, and shorts. Easy enough, you may be thinking, but many schools are making this more complicated than it has to be.
Typically, most schools have some kind of dress code, which may include no inappropriate or offensive images or language to be printed on a student’s clothing. This should be what a dress code in a school is limited to. Instead, schools are aging themselves drastically and making it so students, mostly girls, cannot wear a large majority of the items in their closet. In many schools, the clothing that is not allowed on a girl’s body includes, but is definitely not limited to: strapless tops, tank tops, crop tops, tops that are too low, shorts/skirts that are above fingertip length, sheer tops with bandeaus underneath, any shirt with any kind of see through material, leggings, sweatpants, and anything else an adult is unhappy with. If you asked every female high school student to remove all of the clothes that were against her school’s dress code from her closet, I’m sure most of them would have very little left to wear to school.
Many can relate to the following scenario: Waking up early for school, not ready to take on the day, and ending up just throwing on pajamas for the day. A reason many schools give for having dress codes is that they feel they must teach students about professional dress for their future careers. With this in mind, does it seem reasonable that schools feel that class is a “professional” place and that many fashion trends are banned for this very reason, when half of the boys in the class are dressed in what they woke up in? How many employers would accept their employee wearing their pajamas to work? As important as having an idea of how to dress for work is, this shouldn’t be up to the schools to teach. Most teens know what kind of dress is important for a job interview or a day at work. If not, it should be a responsibility of parents to teach them. Since most students don’t come to school dressed to impress, giving the reason of “professional dress” as an excuse for limiting girls is hypocritical and useless.
The most infuriating reason for dress codes in schools has been the variable of distraction from education, mainly the distraction of boys. In the year 2014, a girl can’t wear a pair of shorts because a boy may be staring and his stares distract him from his studies. This, to schools, is the girl’s fault. The solution is to scold the girl and make her cover up, so boys have nothing to stare at. Is this right? If this kind of blaming was used in the situation of rape or murder, wouldn’t it be absolutely ridiculous?  If someone gets murdered or raped, would the first response be: “Well, were they wearing a crop top? Maybe they shouldn’t have been wearing that, they deserved it.”Absolutely not. This is the future we are heading if we are handing boys a scapegoat for everything they do. Not only is this creating a toxic environment for girls, but it sets up mindsets of boys to disrespect not only women, but all kinds of people. This also sets up a mindset that boys are animals and cannot control themselves. If a boy really can’t hold back from ogling a girl in school and it makes them fail their classes, maybe they should get in trouble for that and get a written rule in a code. Maybe they should be reminded everyday on the morning announcements not to stare at girls.
Recently, there was a shooting near the University of California, Santa Barbara by a young man named Elliott Rodgers. He had a dark hatred of women because he never had a girlfriend and made countless video blogs showing how sick and unhealthy he was towards women, including his plan to murder a whole sorority and his desire to eliminate the entire female population. Eventually, this led to the murder of three girls and three males. He felt the women were at fault because they wouldn’t date him and that they were responsible, that they were his objects and should have obeyed. When you compare this to dress code in high school, it may seem extreme, but years and years of implementing that girls have to obey and change themselves for boys leads to this kind of thinking and behavior, not only for boy’s minds, but girls believing that other girls are wrong because of what they wear. How many times have you seen what a girl is wearing, thought something nasty, and assumed something rotten about her? Everyone is guilty of it, and it’s the fault of this kind of mindset being drilled since puberty.
The way girl’s feel about themselves is so important in this day and age where Photoshop is being used more than ever. We’re filtering our selfies to perfection on Instagram, and every kind of movie, TV show, and music video has all the women looking completely flawless. What a dress code really says to me is this: “Your body is not okay. What you look like and what you wear is not okay.” This message is one of the worst things anybody has to hear, and although schools don’t realize what they are doing, it’s what’s taking place. Many people comment when they see a girl wearing shorts or something along the lines that it’s “too much skin” or “nobody wants to see that”. What that is saying is that their bodies are not accepted by society, no matter their size or shape. Women’s bodies are shamed in person, but so proudly displayed on billboards and in the media. Girl’s bodies aren’t okay unless they’re Photoshopped, filtered, and edited to death. No matter how you analyze it, the ugly message is there. Girls can’t wear certain things because you can’t accept their bodies. They are young women with young women bodies. Also, consider the fact that many young girls have spent years struggling with how they perceive themselves, and maybe have finally built up the confidence to wear those shorts or that dress. Imagine how hard of a smack in the face that must be to already be insecure about your body and then have several adults say what you’re wearing isn’t okay. It hurts. 
Our school is getting closer and closer to becoming more small minded and toxic with the ideas that are being implemented. You may think dress code is so petty of an issue that it doesn’t matter in the long run, but that’s exactly the opposite. To keep our school open for students to express themselves and be confident, we must eliminate some of the ridiculous restrictions that are being put. When kids are in the real world, there is no dress code, except in work atmospheres. We cannot shelter our students so much that they are shocked when they leave the house the first day of being an adult.
The matter at hand here isn’t just that girls are mad they can’t wear their Forever 21 crop tops; it’s not that simple. This fight isn’t about seeing how little clothing I can wear to school without getting arrested. It’s about acknowledging this: it’s not my problem that some boys can’t handle a girl in a tank top and it’s not my problem if you have a problem with my body. What is my problem, however, is the dangerous culture being created where girls are being sexualized, targeted, and blamed, simply because of what they chose to wear to school that day.
No matter what you wear, love your body. Know you aren’t defined by the clothing you wear, the remarks people may make, or the body you’re in. Listen to some Beyonce and hold your head high. Work it.