A vast majority of young girls are brought up to be conservative with their clothing by their own choice or their parents, but primarily through the strict dress codes that arise at schools. Whether a girl is 13 or 16 years old, school administrators will often tell young girls not to wear a particular article of clothing so as not to appeal to the opposite sex. Girls’ education is affected by the expectation that boys would be distracted by her clothing within the process. Many public institutions throughout the world have tried to set in stone a place of “unity” and an “appropriate learning environment” by setting dress codes that over sexualize women.
The debate about dress codes being sexist has been going on for decades. Young girls are often told not to wear spaghetti straps, keep their bra straps hidden and wear finger-tip length skirts and shorts. These dress codes are strictly enforced, so that female students do not “distract” their male peers. Making girls dress differently at school because of teenage boys only continues to perpetuate the saying “boys will be boys.” That saying allows for young males to be childish and behave terribly towards other people, but more importantly, women. Instead of teaching young women to take on the responsibility of their male peers being easily distracted by shoulders, society should teach young men to practice restraint and basic respect towards women.
The restrictions that dress codes bring enforce the idea that young males cannot respect their female peers, and in the end, teenage girls suffer. There have been so many instances of girls being suspended from school because of a tank top or some inappropriate article of clothing. Parents and teenage girls want to have an education, yet someone’s education is being taken away by young men that act immaturely. At many different schools, the administration has made rules for both males and females regarding dress code. However, one rarely hears about a teacher’s complaint regarding a young male student’s attire.
Since girls cannot wear clothing like crop tops or shorts shorter than finger-tip length, these restrictions perpetuate the idea that women are sexual objects. Due to girls having the inability to wear whatever they please, these dress codes emphasize that the only value a woman has is her body. These dress codes only shame women for their sexuality and make it seem as if “girls are asking for it” by wearing a crop top or short shorts. The logic behind the “girls are asking for it” phrase allows for more women to be victimized and become at risk for rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment. Just because a girl wears a short skirt to a party does not mean that she should be touched inappropriately by some teenage boy.
Some people even believe that girls deserve to be harmfully treated by some pervert because of their attire. Since when did clothing equal mistreatment? Punishing girls for exposing their shoulders will not fix any problems regarding women’s issues. Expelling or suspending girls due to dress code is unfair, and it only further embarrasses and shames women for being comfortable in their bodies. While one can agree that some clothing is a tad inappropriate for school property, reprimanding girls for exposing their shoulders or their shorts being an inch or two shorter only wastes time. The point of going to school is to have an education and go through life from that basic foundation of learning. However, if girls keep on getting suspended or taken aside from a class to discuss their outfits while men slide by, it further worsens the body image for women and allows the man’s world to continue.
Dress codes can be enforced in schools in a way that is not sexist as long as schools create rules that are enforced for both genders. In most cases, when it comes to issues regarding dress codes, many issues arise due to the female anatomy. Women have more physical body parts that need to be covered up, which in reality means that schools will be on the fritz when young girls showcase their cleavage, stomachs or shoulders. Although these regulations can be sexist, in reality, schools are trying their best to encourage their students to focus on their academics, rather than their attire. Dress codes essentially allow students to focus on their studies and eventually become productive, successful and happy citizens of the world.
Sexist school dress codes allow men to believe that they are controlled by their testosterone and have no control over their bodies, while women must change and not be a distraction. In some scenarios, men have had to demonstrate how school dress codes are sexist. When a group of young men complained about having to wear pants to school, the story went viral. However, when it came to females’ shoulders being out in the open, there was only the sound of silence. It almost reminds someone of how when women are in terrifying relationships with a partner; they are often silenced. Their voices are diminished, but if a man raises his voice, everyone in the room will be quiet and listen to his story.
As a society, one cannot keep living like this; there needs to be change. Instead of allowing for dress codes to sustain rape culture and silencing women, parents and teachers need to teach young men how to respect everyone. If women’s voices get silenced, there is always the ability to protest and express one’s beliefs because, if schools do not talk, then social media will talk about women’s issues. Boys no longer get excuses for their actions. Instead, they need to take responsibility for being hurtful and disrespectful. Rather than burying down the problems that girls face in private and public institutions, everyone needs to advocate for change. There needs to be change so that future generations of young girls do not have to live in a world where they are constantly victimized for their bodies and clothing. Future generations should be able to have the opportunity to live in a world with gender equality in schools, and it all starts with these heinous dress codes.