Dress Code and Its Effect on Female Students

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

 

A discussion in one of my classes really got me thinking about how dress code affects female students. I significantly related this to my own personal experiences that I had growing up in school. I remember one instance like it was yesterday, despite it happening in the 8th grade. I was sitting in my homeroom class when the female 8th-grade teachers came in and asked only the female students to stand up and put their hands to their sides in order to measure how long their shorts were. Not only was this extremely annoying, but it was also embarrassing. All of the boys got to sit in their desks and observe the obvious sexism that was occurring while getting a great view of us girls. I noticed throughout my high school career that females were generally the target of much of the punishments involving dress code. When someone was violating the dress code, they had to cover up with clothes they had at school, or go home and change and were expected to come back to school ready to learn. I always wondered, is punishing them for their clothing worth the time they are missing out on learning?

 

But, the truth is, my school was not the only one that held females to a higher standard than the males. This happens all over the world. However, students are now doing more to go against their administration and speak up for what they think is unfair. I have seen countless news articles of female students opposing the strict and unjust dress code imposed by their schools. I am sure that many of you reading this have ever experienced these things yourself. What are your thoughts about these rules and do you think they are fair?

 

In When Schools Dress Codes Discriminate, Kira Barrett states, “In the past year, schools all over the country made national news for the ways they enforce their dress code—asking a student to put duct tape over the holes in her jeans, suspending a student for a skirt that was too short, or sending a student to the office for not wearing a bra—all of which take the focus off learning and place it on girls’ bodies.” While some may think that the issue of dress code and education should not be our main concern, it really worries me. I think that by enforcing these rules, female students are being overly sexualized and made to feel uncomfortable in a place where they should feel at ease and focused.

 

The rules in place are definitely targeted towards a certain group of people. Jean shorts in compliance with the rules on one girl maybe two inches too short on another. All of our bodies are not the same. Therefore, clothes do not fit all bodies the same, so to think that a dress code can apply to all students is absurd. These rules are also shown to specifically target female students of color. The National Women’s Law Center said, “These rules aren't neutral: many target girls, and especially black girls, by regulating skirt length and headwraps.” There is this clear internationality of race and gender that forces girls to be left behind in education because of the clothing they choose to wear.

 

Here at New Mexico State University, I am continuously amazed when I look around and see students wearing exactly what they pleased with no restrictions. There is generally no judgment from professors or other students, people can just be themselves. Why is this? What is this sudden shift from high school to college that makes women showing their shoulder or legs no longer “threatening?”  Perhaps it is because we are no longer following these unnecessary notions that tell us that we are “distracting boys” or that we can not properly learn unless we are covered up. I think it is time that all schools adopt these ideas and stop focusing on how we dress and instead focus on the importance of education.