Michaela H. Wisconsin

Dress Codes

While dress codes can be useful, they preserve rape culture, humiliate students, and target specific groups rather than the whole student body.

Dear Future President,

Dress codes in schools have been around since 1969 and haven’t changed much since. The first dress code law (Tinker vs. Des Moines Independent School District) was because of students wearing black wristbands to silently protest the Vietnam war. It was specifically aimed to limit student expression. Not only do dress codes limit personal expression, but it also has been found to limit religious freedom. In the following cases, students have challenged school dress codes for their religious beliefs: a muslim girl was suspended for wearing a headscarf, there was a ban on cross necklaces, there was a ban on wearing traditional dress (such as feather or tribal cloth) to graduation, there was a ban of wearing non-US flag necklaces, there was a ban on rosaries, and finally there was a requirement that boys cut their hair to comply with a campus dress code. Some of these examples are extreme, but there are more cases that are far too common. While dress codes can be useful, they preserve rape culture, humiliate students, and target specific groups rather than the whole student body.

Often, girls will be targeted more than boys. In fact, there was a hashtag created- #iammorethanadistraction- to call out school’s sexist dress codes. This hashtag has gained so much popularity on social media because dress codes can come off as outdated. The dress codes enforced in many schools can even come off as harmful because they often order young women not to wear clothes that might distract their male peers from learning. This is a terrible issue because it puts the blame on girls for boys’ concentration issues. This can come with issues of its own such as perpetuating rape culture.

School dress codes are putting the weight of body shaming on the shoulders of young girls who shouldn’t even be exposed as they will “distract their male classmates.” School-aged girls are being oversexualized by dress codes, saying that they need to be covered up. If a teacher or student is getting distracted by shoulders, they probably shouldn’t be in the school, much less teaching it. The idea that dress codes are to not distract other students because they simply can’t control themselves, this gives the notion that boys really can’t control themselves, a notion that is completely false. Giving this idea to boys and girls at a young age completely perpetuates rape culture. It increases the stigma of victim blaming, an idea where girls are blamed for their own sexual assault because they were dressed a certain way, and “asking for it.” “It’s not our responsibility to make sure boys aren’t distracted,” said Estella Fox, a senior at Westside High School in Omaha, Neb. “They should be taught that women aren’t just objects and they have the right to dress how they want.”

Dress codes, however, are necessary in schools. In order to reduce any gang related activity, dress codes are enforced. They are needed to make sure students come to school decent and not like one extreme article suggested, “in bikinis.” While all of these are valid points, tighter pants such as yoga pants or shirts exposing collar bones aren’t suggestive or inappropriate in any way. Dress codes are necessary to a point, but some schools are borderline prison-like in their policies.

To summarize, dress codes can be necessary but they’ve gone too far. Not only do they target mostly girls, but they also promote rape culture. Males’ education should not be valued over females’ by pulling girls out of class or sending them home to make them change. Since dress codes are aimed more so toward girls than boys, it is putting the responsibility on girls to cover up rather than the boys to not become distracted by something so absurd as collarbones. 

Sun Prairie High School

AP Lang and Comp 2

Advanced Placement Language and Composition students.

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