School Dress Codes: Influence On Females, Minorities, And Those Who Don’t Dress In Their Conforming Gender
Imagine living in a world where you have to put duct tape over the holes in your jeans or being suspended for not wearing a bra. Well, you don’t have to imagine because this is the everyday reality for girls in school.
And this tool that objectifies the womens body and also offends boys is called the dress code.
What’s in it for them:
Today I will be talking to you all about the school dress code because it is something that has been used to discriminate and objectify others.
School dress codes has affected most of you in here and will most likely affect any children or future children you guys may have.
First I will go over how school dress codes became a social norm, then how big its negative impact is on all people. And lastly, how school dress codes should be changed.
I would like to start off by telling you how school dress codes started.
As stated in the article School Dress Codes by education.findlaw.com , The first school dress code law was established in 1969 by the U.S. Supreme Court. The case, known as Tinker vs. Des Moines Independent School District, involved several high school students who wore black armbands to school in a planned protest against the Vietnam War.
In a far-reaching decision, the Court essentially decided that schools may limit student expression, such as enforcing dress codes, if there is a legitimate concern that such expression will be disruptive to the learning environment or violate the rights of others.
Proponents of dress codes say that codes improve the learning environment, enhance student safety, place less stress on students’ families, particularly low-income families, and eliminate student preoccupation with fashion.
School dress codes are typically implemented by school districts to promote learning, safety, and image, but we all know that this isn’t all that they do.
So we know why school dress codes were created and why they are still used in today’s society but now I am going to tell you how a dress codes purpose which is supposed to make the school environment more conducive to learning does the opposite.
It’s not a secret that school dress codes target females more than their male counterparts.
Recent headlines in the popular press highlight stories of girls and young women who were forced to wear a sweatshirt over a tank top during a heat wave, put tape over their nipples if they were not wearing a bra, or remove hair extensions.
I can honestly say that I was dress coded more than once while attending primary, middle, and high school for things such as my shirt straps being too thin, bra strap being visible, or my shorts not being longer than my finger tips, and it was always an embarrassing experience because the school officials that would dress code me would always make it their goal to do so.
A report looking at public schools in the District of Columbia, found that three in four D.C. public high school dress codes say students can be pulled out of class or school for dress code violations.
This sends a disturbing message to all students: what a girl looks like is more important than what she learns and thinks.
- By sending out this message, school districts all over the country are objectifying the female body.
- Every time a girl is taken out of class on a hot day for wearing a strappy top, because she is ‘distracting’ her male classmates, his education is prioritized over hers.
Females are not the only ones who are targeted, minorities of both genders are also targeted.
The National Women’s Law Center (2018) recently reported that although many dress codes in the Washington, D.C., area included race-neutral language, they specifically banned styles mostly worn by Black girls and women, such as hair wraps.
According to neatoday.org, in 17-year-old Maddie Reeser’s Baltimore City public school, it’s the black girls at her school who are the most frequently dress code which is a double discrimination. She says that her white friends rarely get sent to the office, but her black friends do quite often.
Another student said she brought up this issue to a male administrator, who told her it was “because white girls don’t have as much to show.” The student says this comment made her feel uncomfortable, let alone failing to address the inequality.
Black girls are more likely to be targeted for ‘unacceptable’ hairstyles.
The parents of a 12-year old African American student attending Faith Christian Academy in Orlando, Florida, said she was threatened with expulsion for refusing to cut her naturally styled hair.
Her mother was told she violated school dress codes for being “a distraction”.
For males of color, the dress code and the ways it is enforced are related to the larger U.S. narrative that criminalizes them. On the other hand, females of color are sexualized by the dress code and blamed for creating a negative school climate.
According to the Everyday Sexism Project, boys have been banned from school for having hair ‘too long’ or wearing traditionally ‘feminine’ fashion, from skinny jeans to skirts.
A transgender student attending La Feria Independent High School near the Texas Gulf Coast said he was threatened with having his photo barred from the school yearbook simply because he chose to wear a tuxedo to prom.
School dress codes not only are sexist but they perpetuate rape culture and victim blaming.
Girls are told all of the time that they have to cover up because it’s distracting to their male peers or that it makes the male teachers uncomfortable.
Girlhood expert Shauna Pomerantz of Brock University says that “dress coding” students for being distracting is a form of victim-blaming.
When a school takes the decision to police female students’ bodies while turning a blind eye to boys’ behavior, it sets up a lifelong assumption that sexual violence is inevitable and victims are partially responsible.
Students are being groomed to perpetuate the rape culture narrative that sits at the very heart of our society’s sexual violence crisis.
Furthermore, dress codes are used as a justification for openly policing female bodies.
According to The Washington Post, school district officials in Maryland even directly compared dress code enforcement to policing to explain why it may be that some have gotten away with violations while others have been punished: “As with a police officer issuing a speeding ticket, not all violators are caught at any given time”
Such treatment of female bodies fosters the development of slut-shaming attitudes.
This issue matters very much.
III. So now you’ve heard exactly why school dress codes aren’t just for keeping school environments safe and distraction-free, I am now going to list some ways the school dress code should be altered.
School dress codes should make all students feel comfortable.
Schools should make their dress codes gender-neutral and equal to all.
East Longmeadow principal Flanagan said she’s tried to target inequalities at her own school by creating a gender-neutral dress code, and by involving students in the dress code process.
So instead of saying no low cut shirts or cleavage, their dress code says all private parts must be covered at all times.
If something truly crosses the line, there’s a way to tell them, without enforcing victim-blaming.
A question that could be asked is “What is it about dressing this way that’s so important to you?”
Many schools are looking into updating their dress code policies by making them more gender-neutral, gathering student input and changing the wording—just taking the blame off females for “distracting” male students.
Instead of calling out specific garments typically worn by girls, such as spaghetti straps or tube tops, SJUSD’s new dress code (2018) states that “Clothing must cover the chest, torso, and lower extremities.”
So eliminating gender-specific language in school dress codes is definitely needed.
Administrators need to recognize that asking students to change their clothes takes away from learning time, so they need to be attentive to how their decisions negatively impact students’ educational opportunities.
So today I have talked to you all about how school dress codes target females, minorities, and those who don’t dress in their conforming gender, how school dress codes perpentuate the rape culture, and how these school dress codes should be altered to fit our time. I hope if any of you are ever in a position to have some control over school dress codes, you remember my speech and choose to alter it for the better. Thank you.