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Sexism in Dress Codes

By Tara Kurup

With its bogus rules about what you can wear, it’s no doubt most school dress codes are unfair. Many students are frustrated with the limited amount of freedom allowed for clothing. Obviously, there are limits to what we can wear, but many schools have gone way too far. Personal expression can’t be allowed if we’re so limited. But there’s one common pattern within most of the rules in the code. After looking closely, you see specific rules that stick out. Straps are only finger-width wide? Rips in jeans can’t be longer than 5 inches? They stick out to you for a reason; most of them are sexist.

Calling dress codes sexist may seem pretentious, but it’s true. A lot of these rules force women to cover themselves in unrealistic ways. The 5-inch jean rip rule is one of them. It forces many to over cover their legs because they can be viewed as “too distracting.” A lot of jeans made these days have rips that go over 5 inches. It’s unfair how the dress code forces women to cover our legs and expects us to find these kinds of products if we want to.

Another example of sexism in these dress codes is the strap rule. This rule implies that the width of your strap must be the width of your finger. Again, this also forces girls to cover their shoulders. Like I said before with the too distracting excuse, this is too far. A girl’s shoulders should not be distracting others, and if they somehow are, why punish us for it? Many get sent back home to change, taking away valuable class time. This implies that the thought of others getting distracted is more important than our education. Bringing up the unrealistic idea, many strapped tops made do not fit the finger width rule. This also applies to the midriff rule. Again, many schools hide their blatant sexism with the excuse of “it’s too distracting.” If a 15-year-old girl’s midriff is being sexualized, maybe she isn’t the problem. A girl’s midriff shouldn’t distract anyone, so don’t force them to cover their body.

Many think administrations won’t enforce these rules too strictly. They think they wrote just because they were forced to and won’t care about what students actually wear, but this isn’t the case. Many students online have had these situations where they were forced to change into baggy clothes from the school’s closet, essentially being a “walk of shame.” In Bartram Trail High School in Florida, over 80 female yearbook photos were altered for censorship. This included sloppy edits to cover exposed shoulders or chests. All of these acts combined send the overall message that girls should hide their bodies. They tell us we should be covered for the sake of others and be ashamed, which is not true at all. Our bodies should not be forced to be covered. We shouldn’t grow up while being ashamed of our bodies.

Written by writer Tara Kurup

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