Being a young girl means you are not allowed to have shoulders, collarbone or legs… well, at least you’re not allowed to show them in public, without being deemed inappropriate. While a dress code policy (occasionally) makes sense in guiding students to wear appropriate outfits (aka, not should up to school nude), they are usually completely sexist and harmful for young girls (and everyone).
“You’re Distracting To The Boys”
When a girl’s education is deemed less important than their collarbone or bra strap distracting the boys in her class, you are teaching young girls that the boys in their class are more important than them. I’ve heard numerous stories of young girls being pulled from their learning environments to change because their collarbone was revealed, or maybe their tank top was revealing that she was wearing a bra (by the bra strap sticking out), or by her skirt being too far up her leg. Most of the time, these girls are not actually doing anything wrong. Fashion is an important way for any student to express themselves, especially in middle school and high school. Instead of expressing themselves through their clothing, their learning is being interrupted over mundane parts of the body that every human has. I have never once had a male student distracted by me when my shoulder was on display in class. In fact, I have only ever been told this by adults, and most often, adult men. Which brings about issues on its own.
Girls Are Dress Coded, Boys Are Not
Have you ever seen a boy get dress coded? In fact, I have. My fiancé was dress-coded in high school because he was wearing a T-Shirt that referred to alcohol. While boys can get dress coded, they are not often dress coded for the same reasons that girls in their class are. Have you ever heard someone say “you’re going to distract the girls in class”… no, you haven’t. I’ve actually seen boys at my high school wear tank tops so small that I could see their nipples. Was this ever brought to their attention? No. This notion creates two very harmful concepts about young children and teenagers.
Harmful concept 1: That boys in class are constantly creeping on their classmates, and even the smallest bit of skin will distract them from their studies. And not only this but that this distraction is to be expected and accepted. Boys are allowed to ogle at their classmates with no repercussion because…
Harmful concept 2: It’s the girl’s fault. Instead of teaching young boys not to look at their classmates inappropriately (which I’m not sure they even really do), girls are taught that they must cover their bodies so they will not be disrespected. This harmful ideology follows women their entire lives, and questions like, “Well, what were you wearing?” are asked to victims because of this idea.
As you can see, school dress codes are just the beginning of a woman’s experience with victim-blaming. Even as a child, they are told that they must cover their entire bodies or they will be harmed, and if they don’t, it will be their fault. Dress codes also perpetuate the idea that all men are inherently violent and that they can’t control themselves, as if they are rabid animals. Instead, we should be teaching our children that no lack of clothing equals consent, and that thinking about your classmates inappropriately is not OK, whether their shoulders are out or not. Victim blaming is never OK, but beyond that, it’s being taught to our children at very young ages. Boys are not inherently violent beings, and girls do not need to cover their entire bodies to receive respect.
Are school dress code policy and rules sexist? Let us know what you think in the comment section below!