Spring is here and so is the dress code argument


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3rd June 1933: A policeman enforcing the ‘dress-code’ at Hyde Park Lido. (Photo by J. A. Hampton/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

With warmer weather coming, shorts listed as “too short,” and skirts viewed as “too short” are sure to cause some girls to be sent home and/or receive disciplinary actions. The topic of the dress code came up recently after the widespread rumor that one of the candidates for new principal at DHS allegedly said he wanted to “ban girls from wearing leggings,” although the statement was proven false. The key word with the dress code is: girls.

A revolt against dress codes soared nationally in 2015, with instances like the high school girls from Frederick, Maryland who protested their “body shaming dress code,” by wearing shirts that read, “I am more than just a distraction.”

In September 2015 the hashtag #IAmMoreThanADistraction trended on Twitter with many tweets from girls protesting their schools’ dress codes and discussing experiences they had with the dress codes while in school.

Instances of girls being sent home from school or having to change their attire ranges from high schoolers, to middle schoolers, to some elementary schoolers. The aforementioned clothing sending girls home consists of a “low-cut” top, spaghetti strap tops, and in some instances, leggings.

It’s apparent that girls are being overtly discriminated against for wearing clothing items deemed as “inappropriate” when in reality the only inappropriate activity going on is authority figures deciding what girls can and cannot wear.

The DHS Handbook classifies “inappropriate” attire as: “spaghetti straps, tube tops or other strapless shirts/dresses; shirts that expose midriff or cleavage.” The list of what is inappropriate is prevalently aimed at girls; what are the chances of male students wearing shirts that expose their “cleavage?” It’s not a valid argument since girls can’t control their “cleavage” and it’s more difficult in most cases for bigger breasted girls to control their genetics.

Sophomore Cali McMullen recalls being dress coded in the sixth grade. “I was told to change because I had spaghetti straps on. I didn’t really know how to feel at the time considering I was only 11, and I was told that my mom had to bring me a change of clothes because you could see my shoulders,” she said. “Now looking back on it, I think it’s sad how even at 11 girls are being told not to wear certain things such as thin straps because it’s somehow too “distracting.”

Clothing items that cause the biggest stir are spaghetti strapped tops and shorts. Spaghetti strapped tops break the “three finger” sleeve length rule, while shorts break the rule if they’re “not longer than your fingers when your hands are at your side,” according to the DHS Handbook. When it comes to clothing items that show more skin, it’s for good reason. Weather plays a large factor in clothing choices. Knowing it’s a hot day makes surviving in a sweater and jeans an impossible feat. These items of clothing are primarily what female students wear, making them more likely to get dress coded.

Associate Principal Rachel Chavier said, “I think dress codes are a part of life. If you work in a medical field you wear scrubs, if you’re a police officer you wear a uniform. Every workplace has certain standards for certain attire; therefore, we should prepare our high schoolers for the world beyond our walls.”

Jamie O’Neil, history teacher and advisor for the feminist club at DHS, said, “I just feel they’re hard to enforce. I think in general dress codes tend to focus more on what females are wearing than males.”

To get a male’s perspective, I first asked sophomore Noah Derrick his outlook. “I’ve never been dress coded. I’ve never really been in a situation where I was wearing something that broke the dress code, but I can see how it’s aimed primarily at girls,” he said.  “For me at least, it’s about respect. Teachers don’t deserve to have students show up in clothes that show more body than they cover.”

While Derrick is correct in the dress code’s target of females, respect is a different topic. Depending on the context, teachers obviously deserve not to deal with people dressed like they’re ready to go to a club, but if it’s a hot day out, and they find a girl’s shorts “inappropriate,” that’s more so the teacher’s own agenda since the circumstances call for more “revealing” clothing with hot weather.

Sophomore and DHS Cheerleader Lily Johnson said, “I have never been dress coded in high school, but I was in middle school for my shorts being too short. Still, if I’m wearing a shirt with slim straps or when I wear shorts, a skirt, or dress, I always bring extra clothing like a long sweater or extra pants because of the possibility of being dress coded,” she said. ”I just feel the dress code is completely targeted toward girls, with the exception of boys being told to take their hood/hats off in school, everything else is specific to girls.”

Junior Nate Vieira said, “I have been dress coded before, but I believe it was for something foolish. If one wears a shirt with something that the teacher doesn’t approve of or finds offensive, then you either have to cover it up or you have your parents bring clothes which can inconvenience both yourself and your parents. Specifically, I feel that girls are much more targeted by this because of the pickier scenarios that the school has laid out.”

“I definitely feel like guys are given a lot more freedom, I mean it’s not like I have trouble finding things to wear, but it’s definitely in the back of my mind when I’m getting dressed every morning,” senior Emerson Lawton said. “Even though I’ve never been dress coded here [at DHS], I’ve had guys pretend to make a big deal about me showing my shoulders or wearing a dress before, and it can be annoying and make girls feel self-conscious about both clothes and their bodies.”

Among freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors, there is the same outlook on the female discrimination in dress codes. Both female and male students have made a point to argue that they believe the dress code is very limited and set to build standards for females more than males.

Freshman Diogo Fernandes Tavares said, “The dress code discriminates females from expressing themselves, but males can. The rules are so twentieth century.”

“I definitely understand that there should be general rules for a dress code because there are some things that are just inappropriate for school (you wouldn’t wear a wedding dress to the grocery store), but I feel like there comes a point where it gets too strict,” sophomore Olivia Vital said. “It’s inherently more difficult to find comfortable clothes to wear to school that follow a strict dress code, especially in the summer. It’s an inconvenience to buy clothes to meet the dress code because not many stores sell the almost knee length “shorts” that the dress code calls for. These are issues that boys generally don’t face when buying clothes for school.”

The idea of dress codes was to help students be aware of what they should and shouldn’t wear in the workplace, which is an acceptable argument. Had dress codes not existed there’s a chance people would go into the real world without a clue on proper attire, but as of recent years school dress codes don’t seem to be aimed at helping, only embarrassing. I wouldn’t say dress codes need to be completely removed, but they most definitely need to be better contextualized, so they aren’t only aiming towards one gender over another.