In October, I walked into my teacher’s class with ripped jeans. They only revealed my knees, nothing more, nothing less. She immediately dress coded me as I walked into the classroom and sent me to the principal’s office. I met with the principal and they said if I did not have any pants to cover it up with I would be sent to AEL, or in school suspension. My friend had to buy me new sweatpants and I had to change into them in order to avoid these consequences. I went back to my class and during the time this happened I missed an entire quiz.
I believe that schools should value someone’s education rather than paying attention to whether or not their shoulders and knees are showing. Not only does the dress code target girls when it comes to the majority of the rules, but boys do not get dress coded nearly as much.
According to the ACLU, school dress codes “may reflect the sexist and harmful view that girls’ bodies are inherently vulgar or inappropriate.” The rules that were put in place with the dress code feed into the idea that boys will be distracted by girls’ bodies and that girls should regulate themselves more than boys when it comes to clothing. According to The Atlantic, “The dress code implies that women should be hyper cognizant about their physical identity.” It is not necessarily the dress code that is misogynistic, but the message that it sends to students. Girls may feel ashamed and self-conscious of their own bodies. School should be a safe place, not a place where girls have to regulate themselves and feel uncomfortable because a tiny sliver of her stomach showing is apparently going to distract men. Girls should not have to be responsible for creating a “distraction free learning environment” for their male counterparts. Teachers and peers should not look at female students as sexual objects.
An article from Planned Parenthood claims that rather than shaping young girls to be uncomfortable and afraid of their own bodies, schools should start teaching men “to treat women with respect and see them as equal participants in the educational system.” Girls are not to blame for boys’ weird and predatory behavior on school grounds. Instead of gawking at girls’ revealed body parts and having that be blamed on the girl, maybe they should be disciplined for not paying attention and creepily staring at a peer. I am not advocating for dress codes being completely erased in the school system. I understand that sometimes certain outfits are way too revealing for school, but little things like a small bit of cleavage or straps that are not three fingers wide should not interrupt a girls education in order to penalize them. IDRA says that districts simply need to acknowledge how “problematic the current dress codes are and change them to create a better and safer learning environment.” During Women’s History Month, it is important to recognize that the dress code is rooted in misogyny and must be changed.