Why Dress Code is Damaging Teens

By Marisa

I remember being in grade school and not noticing the difference between a two-inch shoulder strap and a spaghetti strap. In fact, I never even considered the fact that the girl who sat next to me in class always wore shorts that didn’t go past her fingertips. But in middle school a long list of rules was suddenly presented. A seemingly endless list of restrictions that completely squashed the concept of creative expression through physical appearance. Ranging from the judgment of what color hair should be to just how dangerous flip flops are. Yet to this day, not one student of any gender seems to notice or care whether a bra strap is peeking from a shirt or a belly button is exposed to the cool winter air because in reality it seriously doesn’t matter.

When schools constantly enforce the idea that shoulders are distracting because they suggest sexuality, they’re essentially implying that a female’s body is to be viewed as a sex object. They’re using that very sexist, narrow-minded perspective to somehow justify the regulations against self-expression via clothing. That objectification of a female’s body — especially sexualizing things as small as shoulders — is supporting the ideology that women are nothing short of material, and further presents that idea to people of different genders at a very young age.

And what about the end goal that dress code is supposed to aid? Of course: to not distract men. The assumption that a woman’s clothing can be blamed for the behavior of an inappropriate or distracted male is oppressive. It puts the responsibility on women not men, for their own actions. It completely degrades young women’s body image and restricts their rights. It also sends the prejudice that only men can be attracted to females, disregarding other sexualities. I understand that there should be some level of concern as to how students represent their school, but is a school that fully supports the idea of students really expressing themselves such a bad idea?

If a woman doesn’t feel comfortable with showing her thighs, midriff, or her cleavage — however little or much she has — then she doesn’t have to show any skin at all. However, if a young woman feels most confident in clothing that exposes what she loves about her body, let her wear those items in a school setting. Restricting what may make her feel most confident is so detrimental to self-esteem at this age. The only thing that is distracting is the restricted right to have confidence in one’s body, and to be able to express that in a school setting.

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