Why dress codes are inherently problematic

Sophia Guyton, Staff Writer

In recent years, an uproar against school dress codes has justifiably taken place. Students all over the country have been walking out, protesting and rising up against the sexism and sexualization that lies in the wardrobe restrictions of many American schools.

Dress codes were created under the guise of limiting distractions in the classroom. However, a deeper contemplation of the idea reveals that these rules are actually deeply flawed. For starters, clothing restrictions in many schools are mostly directed towards female students. School publications may attempt to refute this by including a disclaimer saying something like “Our dress code applies to all students regardless of gender,” but in reality, people who present as female get reprimanded for dress code violations more than anyone else. 

In my 6 years of experience with dress codes, I have never once seen a male presenting student get chastised for what they are wearing. Contrarily, when Placerita Junior High had a ridiculously harsh dress code, I would see female students wearing P.E. clothes in class due to dress code violations almost daily. 

During my time at Placerita, we weren’t allowed to wear leggings, sweatpants, ripped jeans, tank tops with straps under two inches thick or bottoms that rose above the mid-thigh. This gave us barely any options for school attire, while the male population of the school had almost complete fashion freedom. Administration claimed that our shoulders were provoking and our midriffs were sensual, but said nothing when a male student wore a muscle tank with the sides fully cut out or shorts that rose above the mid-thigh.

When we wear something against the schools’ very limiting set of rules, they say that our clothes are inappropriate and sexual, but the same description could be applied to their restrictions. Clothes are just pieces of fabric that we wear so we aren’t naked; they don’t have connotations. If someone thinks teens are sexualizing themselves by wearing certain clothing, it’s because that person is perceiving them as sexual. This is a major issue within itself. 

If adults are the ones determining when minors look sexy and distracting, they are inadvertently sexualizing students. As a female student, knowing that our administrators look at us and judge us based on how “distracting” we look makes me very uncomfortable. 

The whole idea that we, as students who are at school simply to learn, need to learn how not to distract others with our bodies is absurd. It’s not our job to make others more comfortable so they can “control themselves” around us. It’s their responsibility to see us as more than sexual beings.