Dress to suppress

Dress codes are sexist and should be modified

By Sabrina Sun | Staff Writer

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, students in the United States spend an average of 11,964 hours of their life in public school, so it is natural that a school’s top priority is to provide a safe and appropriate learning environment for students during this time; indeed many rules and guidelines are built upon this principle. School dress code policies, which were certainly created with the intention of eliminating inappropriate attire that may interfere with education, are no exception. However, the enforcement of regulations is much harsher on female students. These biased regulations prioritize male students’ education, violate female students’ first amendment rights of expression of individuality, and promote the sexualization and objectification of girls’ bodies, contributing to a casually sexist culture.  

The purpose of dress codes is to provide a distraction-free educational environment and even Irvington’s High School profile states that, “The discipline policy will be applied to all students with fairness and equality with the expectation that every student will acquire the skills to become a productive member of society.” Despite this statement, female students receive a disproportionate amount of dress code violations while muscle shirts and sagging pants continue to plague the campus. This bias is both contradictory and negative to female students’ education. These violations may result in loss of class time and cause the student to receive detentions, which will negatively affect teachers’ opinion of the student.

Since female students are rarely distracted by their own legs, shoulders or collarbones, the bias in dress code regulations exists solely to help male students control their sexual desires. Casual sexism allows such stigma to thrive, and the infamous excuse: “boys will be boys” does not help. Assuming that boys are unable to focus on education without intervention is both condescending to male students and hurtful to female students’ perception of themselves. If schools expect students of all genders to act maturely and respect one another, allowing potential sexual impulses to dictate their education is absurd.

For example, Florida teenager, Miranda Larkin, received a dress code violation in her sophomore year at Oakleaf High school, for wearing a black skirt four inches above her knees, and was forced to wear a flamboyant “dress-code-violation-outfit” as punishment. The dress-code-violation-outfit consisted of a neon yellow top and red sweatpants, both emblazoned with the words DRESS CODE VIOLATION. Larkin, who had just transferred to Oakleaf and had wanted to leave a good impression, was so humiliated that she broke out into hives. The mandatory privacy of individual student records, including disciplinary actions, does not appear to be held of high importance by a school district that finds the usage of public humiliation a suitable punishment. Punishment through this kind of shame borders psychological abuse, is harmful to female students’ self esteem, and conditions them to feel as if their bodies are merely objects of sexualization, which must be covered to prevent inevitable male harassment.

Supporters of the school dress code claim that it prepares students for limitations in future professional situations. While dress codes are certainly necessary in the workplace, rarely are they as harsh and specific as school dress codes. Furthermore, college campuses, which have no dress codes, function smoothly, allowing each student to express themselves in a successful learning environment. The lack of dress codes in colleges shows that it is in fact humanly possible to respect other individuals’ personal self-expression and focus on education.

The school dress code should be revised to accommodate all students, teaching them to dress appropriately without shaming them. The sexism of school dress codes wrongfully teaches female students that their bodies are merely distracting objects that naturally prompt sexual harassment. Instead, if students are expected to be responsible in school, revisions should made to balance the regulations between genders.