Addressing the dress code


It’s a common occurrence at Howell High School to witness a girl being held up in the hallway by a security guard. She isn’t harassing other students or skipping class. This girl is wearing a tank top. Due to her choice of dress, she will now be late to class, and will miss valuable education. Admittedly, she is consciously breaking the rules, but when there is no legitimate justification for these guidelines, and they cause detrimental impacts among the student body, it is quite understandable why girls are choosing not to follow these ridiculous rules.

Starting in elementary school, girls are taught that they must cover certain parts of their bodies, before they even understand why they are being told do so. The dress code requires certain body parts to be covered under the implication that these parts are “inappropriate”. Considering what these parts are, it is obvious that the inappropriate nature comes from their association with sex. By extent, the dress code groups children’s shoulders, chests, and legs into this same sexual category, effectively sexualizing little girls. At this early age, boys also learn about these special rules for girls, and they know the girls who break them are “troublemakers”. Obviously boys are restricted by the same dress code, however it really only targets clothes marketed to girls, such as tank tops and leggings. For this reason, the dress code is primarily a female concern.

Optimized-dresscodeIt’s the students understanding that the dress code originated to encourage modesty. This raises many concerns about whether modesty is a value which should really be forced upon students. When it is required that girls value modesty, their freedom to make decisions regarding their bodies is taken away. The idea of modesty relates that in order to respect yourself you need to cover up. The notion that self-respect is dependent on what you wear takes the assumption that girls dress certain ways in order to get male attention. This entire concept is based on pure assumption. In reality, most girls dress the way the do in order to express themselves and feel comfortable.

14-17 year old girls have been dressing themselves for quite a while. If their parents are allowing them to leave the house in the clothes they are wearing, that is all the “approval” needed. If and only if someone reports that the way someone else is dressing is offensive to them should anyone’s choice of dress be considered for whether or not it is inappropriate.

Sometimes it is said that someone’s clothes can be “distracting.” This is mostly taken in the context that a girl distracts a boy when wearing clothes that go against the dress code. It is rather counterintuitive that the response to dealing with clothes that administrators deem will cause a distraction is to remove a girl from class. This sends the message that the boy’s education, which they might be distracted from, is more important than the girl’s.
In conclusion, schools should not have a say in what students can and can’t wear. Only when a problem arises does it become appropriate to step in. They may call this being “proactive”, but maybe they should think twice considering the consequences of this dress code on girls.