Sunday, May 10, 2015

Dress Codes

     For the past couple years, I've been extremely passionate on the subject of dress codes.  Having been dress coded many times, for showing legs, chest, or -god forbid- shoulders, I get extremely involved when it comes to discussions on this topic, but I want to cover it in a calm and logical fashion rather than getting all riled up and forgetting English.

     Having gotten into arguments centered around this topic many times, I understand that there are certain social norms that we're expected to adhere to as well as basic understanding of practicality   You wouldn't wear a swimsuit to a funeral just as you wouldn't wear a pair of five inch heels on a hike.  However, there's a difference between that and telling a five year old that she can't wear a sphagetti strap shirt.  It's a hard line to draw, I will give you that.  Exactly when do a girls shorts become "too short" or her shirts straps become "too revealing"?  At the same time, however, what makes people feel that this is line that needs to be defined and what do they think gives them the right to make that distinction?  

    While I understand that young girls can't walk around naked in schools, for the obvious legal purposes, that's not the point I'm trying to make.  My view is simply that telling girls from a young age what they can and can't wear is dangerous to their self esteem.  If girls are given dress codes from grade school through high school, then they spend the critical period of puberty worrying that what the clothes they like and feel comfortable in might offend someone else.  By implementing this mind set from a young age, this sets this young women up for a life time of insecurity and constant anxiety about appearances and the need to meet the standards of others.  It's a dangerous mind set to instill in the future leaders of America.  How can we tell girls that they need to be strong and take initiative while simultaneously telling them that they always need to be double checking that they aren't making someone uncomfortable, that they fit in, that they're showing just the right amount of skin?

    Additionally, I would like to admit that my school's dress code is nowhere near as stringent as many other private schools'.  While the student handbook prohibits students from wearing leggings as pants, and skirts/shorts/dresses despite the weather conditions, these rules are not enforced and administration generally acknowledges that many of the students' clothing choices are made based on comfort.  However, there are still many flaws within this system, both within my own school community and outside,  Girls who are considered "larger" or more well-endowed are often dress coded more stringently than smaller or skinnier girls.  Girls are often dress coded for wearing tank tops when the weather climbs into the 80's and 90's near the end of the school year yet I have only ever heard of one male being dress-coded for the tank tops that are in violation of the dress code.

     In short, I am not asking for the abolition of dress codes.  I agree that having dress codes in place to prevent the wearing of gang colors or dangerous jewelry during gym class is simply logical.  However, I ask that administration take a second before dress coding a student to question whether they would treat a male student the same way, whether the body part being shown is unnecessarily sexualized, whether the student in question is simply being targeted due to their body type.  And if they believe a dress code truly is necessary, to do it in a respectful manner.  Please do not threaten to send the student home before questioning what they think about their outfit, do not call them out in front of their peers, and please listen to what they have to say.

Below are a few outfits I was dress coded and a bit of background, my apologies for the bad quality pictures.

A teacher informed me that a slip was considered underwear despite the fact that it reached my knees and was therefore not appropriate for a school setting.

A close friend's male teacher told her to cover up which she did and kept her after class for a discussion which made her feel uncomfortable.  When she asked to leave after she believed he was done talking, he allowed her too but later deducted points from her grade for "walking away when he was talking" and "violation of dress code".  

My biology teacher walked up to me and pulled up my shirt herself instead of asking me to pull it up myself.

While wearing this, I ran into my principal who had the following conversation with me
Principal: Where do you think you're going?
Me: To my locker to put away my gym bag.
Principal: No you're not, you're going home.

Instead of prefacing the conversation by a request to cover up my stomach, which was mostly covered up anyways, she immediately tried to send me home in a rude and abrupt manner.  When I asked if I could zip up my sweater over it instead of going home, she agreed angrily and walked away.

This one I included simply because of how ludicrous I thought the dress coding was.  I was wearing a floor length skirt, a long sleeved shirt, and another scarf that was actually even bigger than the one in the picture.  A teacher told me that my exposed shoulders *GASP* were inappropriate and I needed to cover them up.

No comments:

Post a Comment