Dress Codes Are Discriminatory: Here’s Why


Olivia Woo, Contributor

The Eugene Women’s March in Eugene, Oregon
David Geitgey Sierralupe

If you open your BMS agenda, one of the first things you will see is the dress code that students are expected to follow. While most of the rules focus on sensibility, and Beatty’s rules have not sparked much protest, other schools are not as lucky.

Students—especially girls—have a history of speaking out against the oppressing rules they are forced to abide by.

One of the main reasons why dress codes are hugely protested against is that they promote misogyny. While dress codes can be unfair for students of all genders, they have a history of especially targeting girls.

By dictating what girls can or can’t wear, they are being called a “distraction.” Not only this, but schools are submitting to the societal assumption that what girls wear is responsible for how males think.

According to educators and sociologists, dress codes are typically a way to say that women are responsible for attracting unwanted attention, and that showing skin is “asking for a response.”

A 15-year old high school student, Miranda Larkin, broke the dress code at her school by wearing a simple skirt that was an inch above her knee. She was then humiliated in front of her class, taken to the office, and forced into a neon green t-shirt and bright red pants.

Even worse, the shirt read, in huge letters, DRESS CODE VIOLATOR. The school later explained that students who violated the dress code were given three options: they could wear the outfit and go to class, go into in-school suspension if they refused to wear it, or call their parents to bring them a new outfit.

But Miranda was only given the first option, and was told that she would be suspended if she tried to call her grandma to bring her new clothes.

So Miranda was humiliated, pulled out of class, and almost got suspended. All because she was showing her knees.

Schools with strict dress codes claim that violations of the dress code are “disruptive.” But it’s much more disruptive to come into a classroom, humiliate a girl, distract the class from learning, and then prevent her from learning to tell her that her KNEES are a distraction!

 If a civilized student or teacher can’t control themselves at the sight of a knee, shoulder, calf, or any other body part that girls should be allowed to show, then they’re the ones with a problem.

No one is responsible for controlling how another thinks; we’re not mind readers, for crying out loud!

7th grader Alice Ahn stated, “Dress codes are meant to protect and make it look like that school cares about education and learning, but the system is directed mostly towards women. It’s so sad how girls are forced to cover up, when it’s the boys at fault.”

Another student, Cierra Gregersen, was attending the homecoming dance at her high school. The administrators asked female students to sit against the wall, touch their toes, and lift their arms to determine whether their outfits were appropriate.

Gregersen recalled that the girls were all crying hysterically while the boys were all allowed in.

They were treated as objects, causing them to miss out on what could’ve been a fun night.

Instead, the school’s ridiculous dress code made the dance memorable in the worst way.

Another reason why dress codes are a toxic implementation is that they promote body shaming.

A Florida High School proved this when they edited 80 yearbook photos, all of girls. Although they all obeyed the dress code when taking these pictures, the school edited their bodies and clothes to “show less.”

Riley O’Keefe, a 15-year old attending the high school, noticed that her image was altered to include a black bar along the neckline of her shirt and down the side, removing any hint of skin showing.

She stated, “They need to recognize that it’s making girls feel ashamed of their bodies.”

The high school did not even touch the photos taken of the boys; not even the ones taken of the swim team, where the members posed in Speedos.

By telling girls that their bodies need to be covered up while boys are allowed to wear whatever they want, schools are sending a horrible message to young women. They’re telling them that their curves and their bodies are nothing more than a distraction, nothing more than something they should be ashamed of.

A student who would prefer to stay anonymous said, “Dress codes tell girls that their bodies are indecent and need to be covered up. There’s also a ton of double standards depending on body type. For example, less curvy girl showing skin could get away with her outfit, while a more curvy girl wearing the same thing could get in trouble for something she can’t control.”

Dress codes are needed to an extent. But the sad truth is that they commonly target girls.

They tell girls to be ashamed of their bodies. They blame them for how male students think. They turn their bodies into objects that can’t be shown at all.

By forcing girls to face punishment for showing a little shoulder, or a sliver of knee, or a hint of their calves, schools are finding yet another way to control women.

Of course there’s a limit to how much skin you can show, especially in a professional setting. But many schools are known to take dress codes to the extreme.

It’s insane how much they care about a girl’s knee showing, to the extent of taking away their education and disrupting the students around them.

We, as a society, need to work harder to ensure that everyone feels safe and comfortable in their own skin. We, as a society, need to stop telling women that their bodies are a distraction. We need to stop blaming the victims.

This can start by altering dress codes. This isn’t the 1800’s, after all!