Dress code bias sends message
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In today’s society almost everything a female wears can and will be sexualized. And it is often males who decide what is too scandalous to wear at the office, at the grocery store, and most importantly, in the classroom. It is unfair that a female high school student is prohibited from wearing a shirt with thin straps because it’s “too revealing.” Instead of scolding girls for “inappropriate” clothing, adults should focus on telling boys that it is not okay to sexualize teenage girls, and if they find themselves compelled to write a girl up for her exposed shoulders, they should take a beat and tell themselves the same thing.
Peggy Orenstein, writer for the New York Times, words it perfectly: ¨Girls, particularly those with ample hips or breasts, are almost exclusively singled out, typically told their outfits will ‘distract boys.’ As if young men cannot control themselves in the presence of a spaghetti strap.¨ Since the girls are being told to leave class and go change they are taking time out of a girl’s learning because her clothes are too provocative. The article comments on the fact that boys and girls both do get in trouble, but not for the same things. “Boys run afoul of dress codes when they flout authority: “hippies” defying the establishment, “thugs” in saggy pants. For girls, the issue is seductiveness, and that, too, has become politicized, exposing a new generation gap.”
An article by Today talks about the Twitter trend #IfAnythingSchoolHasTaughtMe, which prompts students to share what they’ve been taught by the institution of school rather than the classroom itself. Dress codes were a popular topic, with responses such as: “#IfAnythingSchoolTaughtMe that shorts and spaghetti tank tops are so inappropriate and distracting to boys” (@rainyjoseph) and “#IfAnythingSchoolHasTaughtMe that pulling me out of class for wearing a tank top and leggings is more important than my education” (@comicjacks).
Time Magazine had an interesting thought about what is taught at schools: ¨Some of our most powerful and lasting ideas about the world around us are learned at school. Hard work pays off. Success comes from working together. Girls’ bodies are dangerous and harassment is inevitable.” The article discusses how when boys see girls being chastised by schools, it perpetuates the idea that girls will submit to the demands of others without a fight. This leads to later mistreatment and inflated senses of superiority in males.
Often times, the dress code appears gender neutral, but only on paper, prohibiting students from wearing what the administration deems “inappropriate,” indirectly referring to clothes usually worn by females. The chances of a male student electing to wear a shirt that is low cut is likely. However, he is not as likely to get identified as violating dress code. It’s impossible to reorganize something society has told us is normal, that girls’ bodies, though almost identical to boys’, are somehow unseeable and not appropriate for school. We need to consider what we’re telling girls when we send them out the room so they can cover up their bra strap: that their education is not as worthy as a male’s. We are willing to interrupt the lesson to make sure that boys are comfortable, never thinking about the roles we’re solidifying in both male and female minds.