The Debacle over Dress Code

TW: mentions of eating disorders, disordered eating, body dysmorphia


School is beginning soon, and as exciting as that might seem for some people, others look

at the start of school with dread. For some students, mainly girls, the dress code imposed restricts

most of their wardrobe and forces them to change their style, making some uncomfortable in the

clothes they have to wear. The dress codes enforced by most school districts targets attire worn

by the girls rather than the boys. The targeting of women’s attire done by school boards around

the world paints the loudest message to the young girls everywhere; your education is not as

important as your male counterparts. Although not directly stating this, forcing girls to leave

class or miss important education hours to change their clothes because they’re “distracting”

indirectly states that their education is not as valued as boys’ education is. The debacle of

whether dress codes should be changed has been one that has been prevalent for years, however

most school districts have done little to nothing to make the dress code situation any better.

For most girls, pieces of attire they cannot wear include crop tops, shorts, skirts, leggings,

tank tops, shirts that show their bra straps, ripped jeans, low cut shirts, and many more

female-targeted items of clothing. But what about the boys, don’t they have a dress code too?

Most dress codes targeted towards male students include rules about not wearing hats, no vulgar

language on clothing, and no pajamas/ sleep attire; and all of these rules apply to girls just as

equally. Although the boys are forced to follow this dress code as well, most rules enforced by

the dress code target female students. When a girl is a dress coded at school she might be

forced out of class to change, given detention, embarrassed in front of her classmates, and

sometimes even sent home for the day if she can’t change her clothes. These punishments raise

the question as to why such extreme measures are taken to make sure girls aren’t wearing

specific items of clothing. Why is it so important that a girl’s bra strap might be showing that she

is forced out of class? The answer to that question is rooted in sexism.

By forcing girls to change their attire in order to be “less distracting,” schools are

basically saying that girls should dress appropriately so that their male counterparts are able to

focus. Girls are told that their education isn’t as valued as boys when they’re told to not distract

them with their clothing. The problem of “distracted boys” has nothing to do with the clothing a

girl might wear, but everything to do with the boy's own personal control issues. The dress code

teaches girls that it is their duty not to distract boys when in reality it should be boys’

responsibility to control their own selves.


Another issue with the dress code is it is enforced differently based on the student's body

type. For example, one shirt worn by one girl might be seen as school-appropriate and would

raise no question when worn to class. However, that same shirt worn on a girl who might be

bustier might cause her to get dress coded. How is it fair that just because of a student’s body

type she can’t wear an item of clothing that her classmates get to wear? This is a common

occurrence at school and it shouldn’t be. If there is a dress code enforced by the school, it should

be enforced equally for all students, no matter their body type. Forcing girls of different body

types to change their clothes, indirectly shames them and makes them insecure. These

feelings can lead to things such as disordered eating, body dysmorphia, or eating disorders. No

person should ever feel this way, but the twisted dress code standards around the world, unfortunately, cause these emotions and habits.

In conclusion, the debacle of whether or not there should be a dress code or whether it

should be changed is one that is still being debated on; even more commonly as school begins to

start again. The dress code is controversial for many reasons, seeing as it shames female students

for wearing what they feel comfortable in, and promotes body-shaming for some as well. Only

the young can help change the world, so if you want to make a difference with dress code try

speaking at school board meetings, talking to your principal or school teachers, signing petitions,

and encouraging others at your school to take a stand as well. It is our generation's duty to try

and change the sexist ideas that are demonstrated when a strict dress code is enforced in the

adolescent years of self-development for young girls around the world!


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