Are Dress Codes Unfairly Targeted at Girls?
As a girl walks into school one morning an administrator stops her to tell her to pull down her shorts. A boy then walks into school with an out-of-uniform hoodie, and no one stops to dress code him. As the girl walks away upset, she feels insecure and that she can’t express herself without being looked at as an object, while the boy walks away with no problem. There are so many rules in the dress code about girls’ clothing, such as what to wear and the length of what they wear such as shirts, shorts, and skirts. However, there are few if any rules for boys, and the boys rarely get in trouble for breaking them. With more and more girls getting dress coded and becoming less confident with their bodies and not able to be themselves, one must wonder: Are dress codes unfairly targeted at girls?
Dress codes are a problem in schools around the world and are becoming stricter by the day. In fact, the National Center for Education Statistics states that nationwide 53 percent of public schools enforced a strict dress code during the 2015–16 school year. Dress codes often target girls with a specific body type which they cannot control, mainly girls with more developed bodies, which causes them to become insecure about their bodies. Schools are supposed to teach students to love and accept themselves, but dress codes make them feel the opposite. According to the Washington Post, “When school policies enforce restrictions on clothing perceived as too tight or low-cut girls who are curvier or more developed often end up being punished for their body types.”
While many dress codes are perceived as targeting girls, they also influence the way girls think about their bodies. According to The Atlantic, “The dress code makes girls feel self-conscious, ashamed, and uncomfortable in their own bodies.” Another article from The Tide states, “Dress codes stigmatizing bodies will only grow the insecurities of girls and make them feel more indignant.” Dress codes are sending the message to girls that their bodies are the problem so therefore they should cover them up. The reason for dress codes is always given as “distracting from the learning environment.” Girls feel judged and pressured and uncomfortable because of what society deems to be “perfect”. When asked about dress codes affecting girls’ bodies student Courtney Nizel stated, “I feel like dress codes make girls less confident and more insecure about themselves.” She went on to state that that she believes “Dress codes are not fair between boys and girls.” For example, boys get away with wearing their pants sagging down but girls aren’t allowed to wear a tank top. Clothing is a way for students to express themselves and the dress code blocks that creative outlet for many students. Piercings and extravagant hairstyles can also be ways that students express and represent themselves but because of strict dress codes towards girls the opportunity is taken away.
As a result of dress codes becoming more strict students are missing class time and even facing suspensions. Sometimes students who are already struggling and failing classes are falling farther behind in class because they miss too much time changing clothes or waiting while administrators measure their skirt and short lengths.
Dress codes are unfairly targeted at girls, and that dress codes should be changed to be equal between both genders. Girls at schools can come together to change the inequality of dress codes. By talking to administration about how they feel about the dress codes and presenting data to them so changes can be made. If students both male and female come together and start protests and petitions they can help to improve the outlook girls have on their own bodies, to help them feel less judged, and insecure and more accepted.