Here’s a topic I actually don’t think I have ever discussed here! DRESS CODES!
Dress codes are getting quite a bit of media attention lately as people start to get a little outraged that schools seem to be adopting the stance that, to keep boys from getting distracted, we need to shame girls for what they wear.
(For the sake of this entry, I’m talking about dress code rules that mandate length of shorts/skirts or widths of straps/sleeves. Not dress code rules that say you can’t wear certain logos or words on your outfits. Those are different issues all together that I haven’t really thought much about.)
I understand the foundation for dress codes, because I was a teenager who would have tried to wear as risky of an outfit as possible. But, I have a hard time really seeing what the downside would be if we let kids dress how they dress outside of school. I mean, if it’s not something they could get a citation for wearing to the mall, then what might happen if we allowed them to wear it to school?
Let’s imagine if every girl showed up wearing booty shorts and crop tops for a second. Do you know what I think would happen? Initially there might need to be classroom discussions if the girls get rowdy responses. BUT – ideally the lesson here is, “Grow up. Who cares what people wear. You are responsible for your own attention level and if you find someone’s clothing too distracting to work, then that is on YOU, not her.”
The second we try to police what kids wear, we get into sticky territory.
First of all, how do you make sure no one wears something against the rules EVER? This girl wore a dress 5 times before finally getting sent home for it. Are you going to insist homeroom teachers inspect clothing every day? Because, if you’re trying to be “fair” it seems incredibly unfair that some girls get away with clothes that other girls get noticed in, simply because some girls have more noticeable bodies. I never really had boobs or curves to speak of, so I’m betting I could have work booty shorts and a crop top and not many people noticed. But my friend with the hips and the boobs would have been noticed. So, they might have called her out and measured her outfit to see if it fit standards. At that moment, we have just given that girl a message that “This body you have no control over? That body needs to be covered because the people around you find it distracting.”
That is not the message I want to send my daughter.
And then! Then we decide to “punish” the girls and send them home to change. What then? We have just decided that the students who shouldn’t be “distracted” have more of a right to an education than she does. These kids growing up in these moments and the messages we send them will be foundations for who they become as adults. In these dress code violation situations, we are sending teenagers messages that will perpetuate the problems we’re seeing as adults. This idea that women who are scantily clad and get raped are partially to blame. The idea that men can’t be held completely responsible for their actions if a woman is A) Drunk or B) Wearing revealing clothing. Those messages right there, that make college campuses havens for rape? Are rooted in these attitudes we establish during the teenage years that girls need to think of boys and their weaknesses when they get dressed in the morning.
This is wrong on so many levels.
ALSO – do people not realize how often girls think about boy’s bodies? A lot. Girls see the boys with their shirts off at basketball practice and ogle them. It’s not like girls don’t ever get distracted by boys bodies. THEY DO. They just tend to be more discreet about it. (Sometimes. Not always.) I won’t even discuss the rating system my friends and I had for our classmates in their football uniforms. Also, even if a girl’s body is fully covered, she can still be distracting. You can’t hide curves with skinny jeans and v-neck shirts. What do you do then? I just think it’s impossible to truly regulate how/when kids get distracted by the bodies of their classmates. It’s happening. No matter what you do.
I just think that if you look at the Pros/Cons of allowing girls to wear anything that they would legally be allowed to wear to the store, the cons are very minimal. Yes, some girls would intentionally wear as minimal clothing as possible, but those girls are also wearing those outfits outside of the school walls. And to me, the cons with allowing this type of clothing are much less than the cons with banning it. We allow it and we have to teach our kids that the world will always be giving them distractions, it’s up to them to learn to deal with it. If we ban it we teach our girls that they need to be mindful of what they wear at all times because the people around them can not control their thoughts.
I don’t know. It just irks me. I understand that idea behind these type of dress codes, but I think in the big picture, it’s not doing anything but creating college students who will perpetuate this notion that is so prevalent today – that if a girl gets raped while wearing a minidress or while drunk – then it’s her fault.
But then, I don’t want to make a teacher’s job more difficult than it already is. Do dress codes make their job harder (because they have to worry about if anyone is violating them) or easier (because they honestly keep kids from being distracted). I tend to think kids are going to be distracted anyway, the dress code can’t make too much of a dent in that.
What are your thoughts?