In your lifetime, have you ever been dress coded at school? If you are male the answer is most likely no. Unfortunately for women the answer is almost always yes. Dress code sets our society up for inequality. Dress code is an important topic because it is unfair and it sets the precedent that women need to change the way they express themselves because of a man’s opinions and urges.
Throughout history, we see the many ways men have controlled women. Whether it may be our right to vote, get divorced, equal pay and job opportunity, and the way women dress. Even though most of these issues have been resolved, women still experience unfairness and oppression when it comes to self expression. Before the 1920’s, women’s clothing was strictly confined to long skirts and long sleeved shirts that were bland and boring and covered almost every inch of skin. Even later in the 20th century there are many examples of unfair dress code regulations for women. Joanne Magin, and instructional educator at Oak Ridge High School was kind enough to share her experience with the dress code policies when she was a young lady in school. “ Girls were not allowed to wear pants. Only skirts and long dresses that had to touch the floor when kneeling down. If any of these regulations were violated, ladies would be sent home to change” (Magin). Joanne’s statements are prime examples of how bad the dress code was for girls in the late 1900’s which was not that long ago. History continues to show us the major unfair issues women face in society.
If you were to ask a high school girl about a time she was dress coded would she say that it was fair and justified? The answer is almost always no. Personally, i have been getting unfairly dress coded since the third grade. Dress coding at such a young age has ingrained in the minds of little girls that it’s okay to let people control the way you dress and it teaches men that it’s okay to tell a little girl how they should dress. The fact that someone can look at a third grade girl and say that what they are wearing is ‘inappropriate’ is disgusting. Our society literally sexualizes little girls and teaches them to accept it. At Oak Ridge, there are policies in place that stop girls from showing their shoulders, backs, stomachs, and thighs. That’s almost every exterior body part right? When it’s August and the weather in El Dorado Hills is 100 degrees, women are expected to wear shorts/skirts almost down
to their knees and shirts that cover their shoulders whereas guys can wear tank tops that literally hang down so low their nipples are exposed. Girls sweat too and they should be allowed to wear a spaghetti strap that doesn’t cause sweat stains! That’s just unfair. Midriff is also a big issue at Oak Ridge. I have heard countless stories of my peers getting dress coded for showing an inch of their stomach in the summertime. Maggie Sand, a current Oak Ridge student, was kind enough to share a story and a photo of a time she was unfairly dress coded by and Oak Ridge teacher. The photo on the right was the shirt she wore when she was unfairly dress coded. Clearly this outfit is covering her entire body except a small sliver of her midriff, yet the administration deemed it inappropriate enough for punishment. This student claims she was called out in front of the entire class by her teacher and felt embarrassed when she her learning was interrupted for absolutely no good reason. She was immediately sent to the office. This incident relates to the statement made by Joanne Magin because it shows that schools care more about controlling what girls wear than their education. Even though Joanne was sent home, which causes the young lady to miss hours of education, Maggie still missed out on learning when she had to walk down to the office, get written up, change, and walk all the way back to class. When is the last time you heard of a male student having to go through that? Unfair!
What is the real reason dress code is enforced? Schools will tell you it’s for a safe and distraction free learning but where did this come from? It comes from the fact that young men get distracted by developing girls and can’t control their urges so now women have to modify everything they wear. School has constantly made me and other young women feel embarrassed because of the opinions of a man. I do agree that school is a semi-professional environment and that some regulations should be in place. If women walked around with their breasts and booty’s hanging out that would be a little distracting even for me but thats almost never the reason girls get dress coded. Parents usually don’t let their teenages walk out of the house with too much showing. Yet, schools punish girls for showing their shoulders, backs, and thighs. How can a girls shoulder be distracting? How can a girls back be distracting? How can a girls thighs be distracting? The answer is that society has taught women to cover up to prevent them from being a distraction instead of teaching men not to get distracted by a normal human body part that literally all genders have. It’s the same concept as rape culture, don’t teach women how to dress, teach men not to rape. I constantly see tank tops and shorts being worn by young men at school that show shoulders and thighs and I have never heard of a girl getting distracted by it. Once again, unfair!
Oak Ridge dress code, and dress code in general, is extremely unfair and sexist. It sets the precedent that women need to change the way they express themselves because of a man’s opinions and urges. Oak Ridge needs to loosen the reins on dress code and the students need to speak up for themselves and talk to leadership or the administration about these policies. Students can help challenge the status quo by writing letters to Oak Ridge administration, getting leadership representatives involved, or expressing their concerns directly to the office. Strict dress code is outdated and needs to be changed so that girls feel more confident and can learn without the constant worry that they will be punished for expressing themselves. We are human beings, not distractions!
Article by Bella Bertsch
“What Clothes Did People Wear?” BBC News, BBC, 27 Jan. 2014, www.bbc.co.uk/schools/0/ww1/25268180.
Room 241 Team. “School Dress Codes Should Put a Priority on Fairness, Equity.” Concordia University-Portland, 13 Nov. 2017, education.cu-portland.edu/blog/leaders-link/dress-code-fairness/.