Is our dress code fair?

June 7, 2018

Why our dress code is unfair

Students protest their dress code in Turkey.

Students protest their dress code in Turkey.

The modern day dress code in schools comes in many different forms. In some schools, students are restricted to uniforms, long sleeves, and other conditions that many perceive as excessively restrictive. Across the country, teenagers argue that this restriction of self-expression limits the way they choose to represent themselves. People in support of a dress code argue that it contributes to a safe and orderly learning environment.

The emphasis on uniforms and a dress code began as a campaign in the 1960’s with the slogan “dress right, act right.” The aim of the campaign was to curb juvenile delinquency and gang activity, and it has continued into the modern era. Clothes have been tagged as a means of identification: intimidation, bullying, and other negative effects have resulted from this.

At Glen Rock, the dress code (from page 59 in the student handbook) states conditions such as no spaghetti straps, no exposure of stomach, and pants that must reach fingertip length. Speaking from personal experience, in practice, the school has very easy demands to meet. There is no villain, no unreasonable authority that polices the halls, searching for girls whose pants are an inch too high or straps too thin

I personally believe that the current administration does everything in its power to allow for students to express themselves as well as hold to their responsibility of enforcing policy. The motive for policy this is clear, and understandable. However, I believe that dress code policy contributes to the systematic oppression of young girls.

In the workplace, or in public, there is clearly an unspoken dress code that exists. Schools have a responsibility to teach it’s students that there is a certain way that a person must dress in different environments. However, just as much as there is a dress code outside of the classroom, there also is freedom in self determination and expression. Limiting specific students’ rights to wear things that are legal in the state of New Jersey does not teach them anything, it shows them that the way they choose to express themselves is fundamentally wrong in the eyes of authority. As a result of this, students feel misunderstood from their administrators, creating further isolation between the two groups.

Dress codes not only create a sense of ostrcization and isolation, but essentially charges young girls with the task of preventing the sexualization of their bodies. They are told that dress codes are put in place in order to prevent distractions. According to the leader of the American Civil Liberties Union Nadine Strossen, the only studies that have been produced on this so called ideal learning environment are “self-serving, anecdotal reports from particular schools that have promoted dress codes and are not surprisingly, trying to justify them.”

The solution to this problem is clear; let students dress as they see fit. As long a student’s clothing does not violate any laws in the state of New Jersey, the school can state that they are adequately preparing their students for the “real world”. The justifications for dress codes are based in dated views on the safety of female students and prejudice. They are outdated and do not belong in the modern era of female empowerment.

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Why our dress code enforcement is fair

In 2018, dress code is a big deal.  Students are becoming aware of how their schools can target young girls unfairly through dress codes.  Thankfully, Glen Rock is not one of those schools.

I firmly believe that no young woman should have to feel self-conscious about revealing her shoulder or knee under the pretense that this would distract her male peers.  This national and international issue is something that America needs to work together to fix, and Glen Rock is in a perfect position to help.

That is because the dress code here is fair.  The rules target both males and females. These rules are put in place to show students that, to be professional, there are certain things you can and cannot wear.  No one should walk into a job interview wearing a crop top the same way no one should walk into a job interview wearing a “bro tank” that exposes their ribs. A dress code should be educating students and not hindering their education.

Our dress code aims to be professional.  I am not going to lie, I find the rules annoying, but all in all they are not sexist or unfair.  For example, the dress code denies students the right to have a bare back showing. This is a nuisance if you have a thing for wearing cute halter tops, but, in my opinion, it is a rule put in place to give the school an air of professionalism and not a rule made to keep girls from “distracting” boys.

I would also like to point out, it is very easy to bend the rules of the dress code.  The unwritten law is that you can break one rule at a time. If I wear shorts that don’t “reach a finger tip length when the arm is fully extended along the side of the body,” no one will say I have to change.  However, if I wear these aforementioned shorts with a skin tight crop top, I’ll get in trouble.

The dress code written in the handbook is not the dress code that is enforced.  Because of the relaxed dress code enforcement, not only is the dress code even more fair, but students learn boundaries and how to read the situation to see what is and isn’t appropriate.  

Learning is what dress code should be about.  Life is about learning boundaries and knowing when you can and can’t stretch the rules.  As a student at GRHS, I have learned how to dress in a way that shows I care about school rules while also wearing clothes that make me feel good.  

As a proud feminist however, I realize that, as a country, America has a ways to go to make dress codes fair throughout the nation.  The big problem that many people have with dress codes are that they blame girls for boys’ behavior.  The reason that spaghetti straps are not allowed is because a young girl’s shoulder can “distract” boys.  It is an unfair idea that aims to desexualize children.

There are schools where girls are told that they can’t wear yoga pants because “the boys would get turned on and then be embarrassed.”  They are told to wear shorts that extend below the finger tips when most stores don’t sell shorts that length.  The problem is that dress codes blame girls for the faults of young men. It’s clear the purpose of the rules is to protect boys from girls’ “sex appeal”.  Thankfully, this is not Glen Rock’s purpose.

If you feel that you want to help change the issue of unfair dress codes, I highly recommend researching all of the infuriating firsthand accounts to inspire you to change the world.  Use your position as someone who goes to a school with a fair dress code to help others who lack this luxury.

There are many protests and petitions to be part of, and social media is a great place to shed light on this issue.  Spread the word and educate others; this is more constructive than trying to change a dress code that is not part of the core issue.  So many people have it much worse, and we can help them.

For me, dress code is all about intent and purpose.  Glen Rock’s intent in their dress code is to teach and to create a professional atmosphere.  It is not to shame, to desexualize, or to harm, and this is what makes our dress code fair.


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