An appeal against school dress codes

Dress codes are unfair and shouldnt be enforced.

Dress codes are unfair and shouldn’t be enforced.

by Daisy Tahan, Staff Writer

Sophia Abuabara, a junior at Tom C. Clark High School in San Antonio, Texas was called out for her dress being too short on April 7. She called her mother in tears and was later escorted out of the school after she refused to leave because of the length of her dress.

Look at any middle school or high school’s website and you will most likely find a page listing requirements for how students should present themselves in school each day. The rules usually consist of things like “No visible bra straps,” “No dresses or skirts that go above the knee,” “No exposed backs or midriffs,” and so on. But what do these rules have in common? Every single one seems to be aimed at girls. In general, if you look around, you probably won’t see too many guys wearing dresses or bras. So, obviously, there’s an issue here.

In my four years of experience with middle school and high school, I have never seen one boy get called out for their pants sagging down so much that you can completely see his underwear, and I have never seen any guy get yelled at for showing his shoulders.

However, in my four years here, I have seen or heard about many girls getting sent to the principal’s office every single day for not dressing “appropriately.” More often than not, the reason for girls getting yelled at for their clothing choice is that it’s “distracting.” But it seems to me that the only people who feel offended by a girls’ knees or shoulders are teachers and administrators.

I was pulled out of class in middle school by a teacher (who never even taught me) because my stomach was showing. It was mid-June and the temperature was well into the 90s. She asked me, pointing at my stomach, if that’s how I wanted boys to perceive me. She, apparently, didn’t understand that I wasn’t wearing that shirt for the boys in eighth grade. I was wearing that shirt because it was hot outside, and I just really liked the shirt. After that, I felt scared every morning to go to school wearing clothes that I genuinely liked in fear that some misogynistic and outdated rules would prohibit me from feeling good about myself.

Even though our high school is way more lenient than the middle school with the dress code, I have a friend in high school that got called out this year by a middle school teacher. And our school isn’t even the worst of this dress code issue. Search “School dress codes” on google and you’ll find pages and pages of schools ridiculous dress codes around the country, each rule stricter than the last.

Many rules state that any clothing that is “indecent” or “inappropriate” or “distracting” is not allowed. But what even constitutes clothing as inappropriate? Does it really just depend on what an often middle-aged male principal says is too short or shows too much skin?

School’s dress codes also over-sexualize children. Shoulders, knees, and stomachs aren’t body parts that are there just for boys to ogle over, so why do these rules suddenly make it so taboo for a girl to show parts of her body that every single other person on earth has as well? Personally, it makes me extremely uncomfortable if a 40-year-old man with a wife and kids is concerned about how much skin a 12-year-old girl’s shorts show.

Girls being perceived as a “distraction” is extremely sexist and conveys the (very untrue) fact that male education is more important than female education. Being pulled out of class to have the length of your shorts measured is degrading and humiliating. Having to dig through the lost and found to find a sweaty, ill-fitting old gym shirt while simultaneously missing a lesson in class is something that I thought we as a society would be past by now.

Women used to have their bathing suits measured at the beaches to make sure they weren’t showing too much skin. The same thing is happening to this day in schools throughout the country, and I really hope that one day future generations won’t have to go through the same sexist embarrassment that hundreds of other girls go through each day.