by Caroline Simpson ’22
Walking down the hallway during freshman year of high school I constantly worried about getting dress coded even though I never wore anything risque. One day towards the end of the year it was extremely hot out, so I wore a tank top. The whole day I thought about how I might be sent to the dean’s office because I wanted to wear clothing suitable for the weather. Whenever the subject of dress codes is discussed, administrators will attempt to justify girls having to cover up because they say it is important that boys don’t get distracted, but no one comments about men being more modest for the sake of women’s gaze. This is one just of the reasons why I believe dress codes are sexist.
If I read the dress code section in the school rule book, there are a dozen rules about what girls can – and cannot – wear, but only a few about what the boys can – and cannot – wear. Why is clothing being restricted to the extent that it is preventing girls from learning? When a girl wears something that shows too much skin, her learning is hindered because she is sent to the office. The reason girls have to stop learning is because boys are apparently “unable to stay on task” with girls’ skin showing, which is completely sexist. Dress codes fuel the idea that women are sexual objects, and when they are distracting to men, women must be removed, implying that boys’ education is more important than girls’. Dress codes inherently sexualize girls. Girls dressing for the weather or embracing their natural figures is seen as an unconscionable misdemeanor. In addition, dress codes give boys a bad rap. Using boys as the justification for misogyny demeans them to no more than hormonal animals, when in reality most boys are not affected by a girl’s bare shoulders or legs.
Dress codes also make it acceptable to publicly shame girls based on their body types. Two girls could wear the same shirt, but because one girl’s figure is curvier, she will be dress-coded. Additionally, faculty have no shame in telling a female student to go to the dean’s office in front of the entire class. I’ve seen it happen on multiple occasions. Even when administrators try to be discreet, it can still be quite obvious. In one instance a teacher made my friend lift up her arms to see if her shirt was cropped too short, an uncomfortable, embarrassing, and sexualizing experience. Teachers dress coding students makes it seem like it is okay to shame women. Boys observe teachers calling girls out for their body types and the clothes they wear as far back as middle school, so in their minds, it becomes okay.
Dress codes are sexist because they restrict girls’ rights to equal education, freedom of expression, and self-love. Not to mention, they teach boys bad habits both through example and by forcing girls to adapt to boys’ needs. If schools are going to keep writing dress codes, at least hold boys and girls to the same standard with the same treatment.