Abuse of High School Dress Codes to Body-Shame Young Girls

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In recent times, there has been an uproar on social media and other platforms regarding the issue of discrimination against girls when it comes to the system of dress codes in high schools. Despite it always being that way, it was only about two or three years ago that people begun to voice their opinions on the disturbing issue. If one were to look closer into the pending subject, high school dress codes currently do discriminate against girls and something must be done about it.

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To begin with, a recent study showed that “:19% of 7,800 students surveyed in middle and high schools across the country said they were prevented from wearing clothing deemed 'inappropriate' based on their gender”, according to the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network's 2013 National School Climate Survey” (Sorto Gabrielle), most of these people being women. This statistic proves one thing, that dress codes are being biased, and it often favors males over females on the most part. Discriminatory dress codes such as the “no shoulders” dress code which restricts female students from wearing clothes that show their shoulders tend to do nothing but put girls down, make them feel uncomfortable, and also make them believe that their bodies are harmful to society. 'Such behavior among adults toward girls as young as 12 shames them by communicating that their bodies are dangerous and inviting of unwanted attention. At the same time, it also tells young boys that the way girls dress and behave is responsible for how they react to them.'(Imam, Alyssa) Many young girls are told to go back home and change their outfits because, “their legs” are distracting. It is very ironic because it is in this age in time that more people are beginning to preach women empowerment, encouraging women to accept their bodies and who they are. So telling girls at these ages that their bodies are to be hidden because it distracts the other gender, does not make the case any better.

Pursuing this further, the fact that the reason for most if not all of the girls’ dress codes are to avoid distracting males is completely absurd. It demonstrates the existence of misogyny even in our school systems. “In addition to the built in racial bias against hair extensions and braids, Roth notes that many of these policies have inherent sexism as well – they are often designed and enforced around the excuse that attire could be “distracting” to their male classmates, rather than whether the attire is actually appropriate for school and comfortable for the girls wearing it’’ (People Magazine 1). What these dress codes do is oversexualise the developing bodies of teenage girls who are getting to know and embrace their own bodies. Instead of allowing girls to feel comfortable wearing what they feel comfortable in, these dress codes will rather sacrifice the comfort of women to please men. Among all things, it also encourages victim blaming, which is a situation whereby the victim of a crime or any wrongful act is held entirely or partially at fault for the harm that befell them. In this case, these dress codes are trying to imply that, if anything (sexually) happens to these female students (involving males), it is solely their fault for not dressing “appropriately”. “Instead of teaching the male students to keep their hands to themselves, and to control their own 'sexual urges.' We are instead telling women that they must dress modestly to avoid the attention from men, therefore if female students dress 'scandalously' they are just begging for attention” (School Dress Codes: Why It's A Proponent Of Rape Culture) This creates the idea that it is the female/girl who seeks the attention, or who “calls for it”. Which isn’t right.

Granted, some people might argue that dress codes do not discriminate but are rather helping girls to prepare for the working world. This point of view makes sense because it is more or less the same way that girls/women are discriminated against when it comes to the working world. 'Dress codes are generally put into place in order to prepare students to enter the adult world. Adults are expected to dress to impress their bosses at whatever job they decide to take' (School Dress). However, they fail to see how it is just as wrong that girls are not just tormented with dress codes in school but also during their working adult lives as well. 'A contrasting example would be explicitly requiring women to wear dresses or skirts, while male employees must wear tailored shirts and slacks'(Gender-Based Dress). Therefore, we must try our bests to eliminate the discrimination in both areas if possible.

To sum everything up, even though the purpose of dress codes was to do good, it has been sent too far to the point of over sexualizing, shaming girls for their bodies and also making them uncomfortable in the process hence giving rise to discrimination. Even though we cannot stop the discrimination overnight, it is our duty as other citizens to bring awareness to on the matter, in other to bring equality in the system.

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