Are dress codes sexist? | The Tylt

Are dress codes sexist?

Dress codes call to mind rules about hats, tank tops and skirts. Many feel these rules target girls more than boys and believe dress codes introduce the idea that the female body is a "distraction." Enforcing such rules is sexist. Others argue that dress codes are good for girls and boys and allow learning to be the top priority in school. What do you think?

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On paper, dress codes aim to create a level playing field. They are rules meant to encourage modest behavior and minimize distractions in the classroom. Common dress codes include rules like skirts and shorts reaching students' fingertips when their hands are placed by their side, all tops must have sleeves (no tank tops), no showing of the midriff, no hats, no bra straps or undergarments of any kind may show, and little to no cleavage

It doesn't take long to realize that the majority of these rules apply to clothes largely worn by women, rather than men. Schools often cite "distraction" as the reason behind their dress codes, and in doing so, they contribute to the idea that a woman is responsible for male behavior simply by the clothes she wears. All students' behavior should not be blamed on the clothing of their classmates.

According to Education Week's Sasha Jones:  

"These rules aren't neutral: many target girls, and especially black girls, by regulating skirt length and headwraps," a report on school dress codes in the District of Columbia that was compiled by the National Women's Law Center states. "And the rules aren't applied equally, either. Students report that black girls, and especially curvier students, are disproportionately targeted."
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Any girl who has gone to public schools can easily hear the words "too revealing" echo in their mind. It seems like no matter what students wear, something is always too tight, too low-cut, or too short, sending kids to detention or even suspension for no substantial reason whatsoever. 

According to Education Week, Change.org has over 400 open petitions against school dress codes. It's time for these systems to reform in order to apply equally to all students or be done away with. As Arkansas Times' Autumn Tolbert puts it: 

Girls are too often treated as temptresses who must have their clothing choices closely monitored to prevent them from distracting the boys from their schoolwork. They are sirens, existing to wreak havoc on the poor male students.

The classic "hemline" rule, for example, both perpetuates gender binaries and sexualizes many girls' clothing from a young age. Tolbert concludes: 

You know what is distracting? Construction noise nearby, being hungry in class, a stray dog wandering into the classroom or another student continuously talking. Those are distractions. A girl's clothes and her body are not.
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Dress codes are simply a part of life. In most office spaces, employees are expected to dress a certain way, or at least avoid certain clothing items. For young kids, school is their job, and practicing professionalism and respect is part of it. 

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It all comes down to framing and implementation. Dress codes certainly have the potential to be sexist, which is why it is crucial for administrators to be proactive in preventing biased rules. 

For some, it starts with the language of the dress codes themselves. Dress codes should be gender-neutral from every angle. NPR's Lee Hale looked to Erik Burmeister, an assistant superintendent and former school principal, for more insight:

The dress code Burmeister created a few years ago, when he was a principal, was gender-neutral. It listed five simple "norms" for students, starting with the most important: "All students must be covered from mid-thigh to top of chest in non-see-through materials."

This kind of language is essential when it comes to enforcing the same rules across the board, while also preventing language that perpetuates gender binaries. The message is: No matter who you are and what you choose to wear, everyone is subject to the same rules. Rather than do away with order, schools can and should do what's best for all students. 

FINAL RESULTS
Culture
Are dress codes sexist?
A festive crown for the winner
#DressCodesSexist
#StayFocusedInSchool