Sex and Gender

A case for dress codes

It’s summer again. Time for shorts, short skirts, maxi dresses, and those strange tank top things that athletic guys like to wear that shows off way too much armpit. This time of year is also an interesting one in schools.  Back in the Stone Age when I was in high school–the early 2000s–there was a dress code in my schools (I went to two high schools) to keep the students looking neat, orderly, and semi professional. But in the heat of the Illinois or Michigan summers, what we know we should wear and what we want to wear are two different things; a pair of shorts sounds nice when it is over 90F outside. Luckily, I went to schools with air-conditioning, but I know that isn’t the case everywhere in the United States, and especially worldwide.

Within the last few years the discourse surrounding school dress codes has changed. The argument has changed from wanting to teach children that there is an appropriate way to dress for a time and a place to “not distracting.” School dress codes, while still usually containing gender-neutral pronouns, focus on female clothing more than male clothing. Leggings, short-shorts, and bare shoulders have all been labeled as “distractions” by school administrators and these words have been stated to the female students. While girls are being given detention and forced out of the classroom due to this view, boys aren’t given half as much trouble. I could go into a completely different article about the inherent sexualization of the female body and how that leads to self-esteem and self-image issues that I have had myself, but that’s for a different article.

I have been working overseas the last few years with people from the UK and Australia, and they don’t have this issue. They wear uniforms, no matter if it’s a public or private school. I don’t know if US students would want to get on board with uniforms, but I see a point in a universal dress code:

1: A dress code teaches kids what kinds of clothing is appropriate for a specific setting. School is your job, and you should want to put your best foot forward.

2:  There will be less confusion. When I was in school, there were no bare shoulders, shorts, skirts, dresses couldn’t be above the knee, no sagging pants, no rips or tears in clothes, no visible piercings or tattoos, and no visible underwear. These were general rules. An administrator could point at and say, “you are breaking this rule”, not “you are being a sexual distraction.”

I may be showing my age with this, but it seems to me that rather than putting blame on girls for showing too much skin, put the blame on the administration for not saying anything to her less-endowed friend. We live in a sexualized world, but we shouldn’t put that burden on our teenagers  Make a rul, that is easy to follow & easy to point to and discipline accordingly. What do you think?

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