It’s that time of the year again, back to school. As much as I’ll miss my 15 year old daughter, I am so glad that we are back in session, that is unless we’re talking about the Dress Code Blues. It is the third day of school today. My daughter casually informed us that she has already seen ten students get “dress coded”. Now, the paraprofessional in me knows that you have to start the school year off strong. You enforce the rules early, and can relax a little once they are established and being followed. That’s how it works in so many places, from group homes to high schools.
Curiously, I asked my daughter what the ratio was, boys versus girls, when it came to students being caught violating the school policy. In response, she laughed out loud and waved me off as if the question had no validity whatsoever. I questioned her laughter, and she told me point blank, “In my entire school career, 11 years so far, I have only ever seen one boy get in trouble for what he was wearing, and that shirt had the ‘F Word’ on it”.
As we discussed the policy, and what was “fair” and “unfair”, it occurred to me that this has always been the case when it comes to dress code and dress code enforcement. Girls are the target. Girls bear the burden of what’s appropriate and what is inappropriate, but why?
The hands down most common argument I have seen thrown around is that girls who break the dress code essentially instigate the boys in the classroom. I’ve seen it posted time after time, “boys can’t control their hormones” or “boys will be boys” or “they only think with what’s in their pants”. As a father, I’m perplexed by this, as a father of a teenage girl I am appalled by the excuse making.
Look at this image, for example it features six female students and two male students. The male students are basically told not to sag their pants, and not to wear pajamas. THAT’S IT!
Are we saying that boys cannot be taught common decency, and that they simply cannot stop themselves from giving in to their own urges and desires?
Should we be implying that girls don’t deal with arousal issues at that age?
Is it even safe to imply that it’s somehow the responsibility of teenage girls not to incite the boys? Isn’t that paramount to blaming the victim?
Do you know that an overwhelming majority of dress code rules are specifically targeted to girls? Read them from time to time…
Girls can not wear jewelry unless it falls within certain parameters. Girls can not wear shorts unless they fall inside certain parameters. Take a look! In many cases it’s unacceptable for a girl to wear “coochie cutters” but if Lil’ Jimmy is wearing “nut huggers” nobody bats an eye. Girls can’t typically wear tank tops, because…boobs. Yet, the wording on the dress code talks about width of straps/sleeves. You do realize that almost every brand of boy’s tank tops falls within the width guidelines, but almost all brands of girl’s clothing does not!
It’s actually not just girls that we need to talk about either. Most dress code policies do not even take LGBTQ students into the equation either. Are only straight kids getting urges in high school? Are only straight kids unable to control those urges? Do only straight kids get distracted? Isn’t that what the policy implies when the burden is placed firmly on the covered shoulders of our girls?
We could do a whole other post about the feelings of shame these dress codes cause, or the standard is even more screwed up when it comes to curvy girls, but let’s save that for another time.
Now, I’m not encouraging anyone to break the rules. In fact, in my house we have a very strict policy when it comes to rules. We agreed to these rules when we started the school, and they will be followed. However, that does not mean that dress code rules have to stay the same forever. I encourage our young women, and our young gentleman, to go out and challenge the dress code rules. Change takes time, but it also takes action. Speak to your Student Council. Speak to your school administration. Make quality change from within the system.