Every girl my age is complaining about dress codes and how they sexualize girls from a young age, make it so that girls feel like they are supposed to worry more about how they are dressed, rather than about getting an education, and allow boys to get more of an education because they’re more important.
And yes, dress codes can do that if they are enforced that way. There are many stories of girls getting sent home because their outfit “was distracting.” Some say that dress codes are forcing people into a box, not allowing them to express themselves. But dress codes are around for a reason
Dress codes are a way for an organization or event to display their “standards of dress.” Each business has it’s own dress code. For example, Target’s dress code is red shirt and khakis for most team members. In areas that work with food, you are also to have a white hat. Starbucks has all black, a Starbucks hat, and apron. Most business have “professional dress” as their dress codes meaning nice shirt and slacks. Or some may just have “Nice shirts and not shorts.”
So why are we ok with dress codes in the work force and not in the school system? I know how much of a joke “school gets you ready for the real world” is, but in a way, that is what they are for. The school system is teaching everyone that each organization has a standard of dress that has to be reached and maintained in order for you to be a part of that organization.
To me, I think it is the way that school’s enforce and express the dress codes.
In businesses and organizations, you are told upfront what is expected of you and your clothing choices. You are often told exactly what is appropriate and what isn’t. You also often get to see the other members or coworkers in their choice of outfit. But for organizations, if you don’t stay with the dress code they can cut you off or fire you.
School’s can’t really do that. As school is mandatory, a public can’t kick you out for something as little as breaking the dress code, leaving students not as afraid to break the dress code. That’s why they often have changes of clothes in the nurses office for students who don’t keep with the dress code. Many complain about this because they are humiliating, which they can be if they say something like “I BROKE THE DRESS CODE, DON’T BE LIKE ME” on them, however most schools just have extra sets of whatever the P.E. clothes are, which are mostly just white shirts and shorts.
But it also very hard for schools to show what is appropriate and inappropriate for students to wear. My high school often said if you wouldn’t want to see your teacher out on the town that day in your chosen outfit, you probably shouldn’t wear it. My school also made the point of telling us girls that there are lots of stairs that you will have to use, so we needed to wear something that would cover us if someone was walking behind us and happened to look up. When it came to guys, they were very clear about keeping your pants up and no muscle shirts. But it’s hard for schools to visually show what is expected out of students when there are so many options.
My school enforced dress codes in a very weird way. In my school district, the high school was split into two buildings, freshmen and then everyone else. My freshmen year, many of the coaches would stand out in the hallway looking for guys who were sagging. They threatened to zip tie their belt loops together when their pants were above their waist so they could still go to the bathroom, but their pants were still held up. When it came to muscle shirts or wife beaters or anything, they would hand you a PE shirt and ask you to change
For girls, they would often talk to you and make you change what ever was inappropriate. They would ask you during passing time to change or call your parents to bring you a change of clothes. They would take you to the nurse to get a pair of gym shorts or a new t-shirt in the meantime so you could still go to class. However, there is a story of a girl who wore only a long-ish t-shirt to school and they never asked her to change…I never liked her though…
But the real point isn’t how they enforce the dress code, it’s why they enforce dress codes. Some teachers say it’s distracting, which would work if your shirt said “FUCK OFF M8” on it, but not if you were showing your bra straps. Some teachers do it because it’s inappropriate, for example if you had a giant pot leaf on your shirt, but that doesn’t really work out well if it’s because your shorts are above your knees.
What I don’t understand is why teachers don’t just say it’s because it’s the rules. By explaining that dress codes are there to keep a standard of dress, just like codes of conduct keep a standard of behavior, we would not be sexualizing young girls. We would not tell girls that their looks are more important than their education. And we wouldn’t be telling girls that their education is not as important as their male counterpart. We aren’t inflicting on the way students express themselves, just telling them that if they want to express themselves there is context they have to do it within.
Dress codes aren’t bad, we just need to enforce and express them in different ways.
And let me know what you guys think. I’m open to discussion, so be civilized when commenting.
P.S. I’m making a video about it on my YouTube channel here soon, so I’ll put a link in when I upload that.