Six In Search: Part 1
By Anjali Bala
Is The School Dress Code Sexist?
The original intent of dress codes in a school was to foster a professional and focused environment in classrooms. Over time, however, they have become a crutch to control, oppress and sexualize young, impressionable women. School dress codes are sexist. The school dress code promotes rape culture, denies girls a consistent education, and advances that girls are sexual no matter the context.
A school dress code promotes rape culture. A journalist named Lyn Mikel Brown researched blogs and posts written by students, about biased dress codes. She compiled a list of steps to improve the dress code, based on prior study. One section entailed, “Girls want school dress codes that make it very clear they are not responsible for how boys view them and that their clothing choices are not responsible for boys’ inability to focus or learn. Such assumptions excuse unwanted attention and harassment. It’s a short leap to blaming victims of sexual assault. ‘Can we throw the phrase ‘provocative clothing’ out the window, please?’ Izzy asks. ‘Saying that clothing is provocative insinuates that it provokes sexual assault or rape or harassment, which is totally false. Harassers harass and abusers abuse regardless of clothing choices.’ Instead of policing what girls wear, girls say they want schools to actively teach boys to respect girls and teach everyone to respect transgender students and those who are gender nonconforming.” (rethinking schools). By excusing predatory behavior, schools tell victims that it is their fault they were harassed/assaulted. When schools label an article of clothing as “provocative”, such as leggings, bra straps, or shorts, they rationalize the idea that certain clothing is a free pass to abuse, harass, or assault. Perpetrators often get a free pass, and blame is passed to the attackie, as long as what they were wearing was ******* enough”. If schools wanted less distraction in the classroom, they would teach their boys how to respect and not objectify girls. It is a simple solution for a major problem.
Along with promoting rape culture, dress codes prohibit young women from getting a proper, and consistent education. The article, as previously stated, elucidates, “A good policy does not send those who violate the rules home from school. There is no logic to a policy that takes away a girl’s right to education because her skirt is too short. ‘What’s more distracting, my shoulders or the fact that I just missed an entire history lesson?’ Ejin asks.” (rethinking schools). If the intention of dress codes is to ensure a non-distracting environment, it is hypocritical to distract from a girl’s education. It is far more distracting to send someone out of class for clothing, then to just continue in a lesson. Girls have and deserve every right to a complete education without worrying about being sent out of class. While adding a layer of stress and anxiety, it limits girls’ ability to focus on the lesson if they are constantly concerned about their outfit or the next time they are going to get dress-coded. When this worry is eliminated, it promotes a truly distraction-free environment, for all parties involved.
Dress codes indoctrinate the idea that girls are sexual no matter the context. An MTV News contributor wrote a piece on dress codes and how they sexualize young women. It cites, “It teaches boys that it’s acceptable to disrespect girls and misbehave if they can see her skin. Instead of teaching boys that they are responsible for their own actions, it teaches them that girls are responsible for them.” (mtv news). Dress codes nurture the belief that women are sexual objects in any setting. They not only authorize boys to think that girls are there for the male gaze, even when they are trying to learn, but encourage it. Schools further support this by not holding boys accountable. Instead, they pass blame onto the girl because of her wardrobe. Regardless of what a girl is wearing, she does not deserve to be sexualized and objectified. School is a place where everyone should feel safe, no matter their clothing decision.
Ultimately, the dress code is sexist. What initiated as a solution for in class distraction and a promotion of a professional environment, has overtime become a way to sexualize, control, and oppress young girls. Dress codes promote rape culture, deny girls a consistent education, and promote that girls are sexual no matter what. Dress codes are harmful and need to be changed. Future generations of boys and girls deserve better, and that starts now.
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