TW: This article may contain triggering information regarding sexual harassment
Clothes are a great way to express ourselves. Still, public schools worldwide have been restricting students and unfairly attacking them based on gender, teaching them misogynistic and sexist ideals.
School dress codes unfairly target girls and transgender students; they teach girls that it’s their fault if boys harass them.
In recent years, students and parents have begun to realize the misogynistic and victim-blaming roots of these regulations.
When looking at Dallas County High Schools dress code, the misogyny is apparent. Dallas County High School dress code reads as follows,
- “No too tight or revealing shirts, tops, blouses, T-shirts, and hoodies”
- “No oversized shirts (an oversized shirt/hoodie/sweatshirt/top is defined as excessively large and long).”
- “No bare midriffs, including when arms are raised.”
- “No halter and spaghetti strap tops/dresses are not permitted unless covered with sweaters or jackets.”
- “No-off-the shoulder shirts, blouses, dresses, or tank tops.”
- “No shirts with revealing armholes are not permitted.”
- “No showing or undergarments (undergarments must be completely covered).”
- “No hoods may not be worn in school buildings.”
These school dress codes are put in place to “prevent educational disruptions,” however they only reinforce the idea that women’s bodies create an inappropriate learning environment and fault women for causing these “distractions,” rather than placing the fault on the faculty or their peers.
This sexualization of women’s bodies and blaming them for “distracting other students” stems from our society’s response to sexual assault victims and instills fear in victims, resulting in them fearing coming forward. When a victim feels brave enough to come forward, she is met with questions like, “Were you drunk? What were you wearing? Did you give them the wrong impression or lead them on?” These ridiculous questions blame victims, forcing survivors to hide in fear of telling their stories. And it’s no wonder our society behaves this way; as soon as children enter the public school system, they are taught to adopt a victim-blaming mindset, to fault the women who show their shoulders rather than the men who forcibly push women’s shoulders down, gripping onto them like the handles of a bicycle.
No matter the situation or circumstance, the blame should never fall on the survivor.
However, since schools teach children sexist dress codes, it’s no wonder our society questions the top a woman was wearing.
By the time girls start dating or going off to college, they have all been instructed never accept an open container, never go to a party alone, never take an Uber at night alone, never respond to the harassment you experience on the streets, never walk home alone, never walk alone in a parking garage, always check under your car, always check your backseat, attach pepper spray to your keychain, hold your car key in between your fingers for self-defense, etc.
Every single rule we teach teenage and young adult girls to follow holds us responsible for what could happen to us because of the way we look and dress, and this begins with being sexualized and labeled “distraction” in grade school.
So, what do these sexist dress codes do for our students when it comes to learning? Nothing, because even when students disobey these ridiculous rules, they are forced to change, and if they don’t have a change of clothes and no one to bring them any, they are instructed to leave school, forcing them to lose part of their classes, their education. These rules that are put in place to avoid “disruptions in education” actually are the reason for the disruptions.
If we want to make a change within our society, we need to begin with teaching our children. We need to start teaching them that girls’ bodies aren’t objects there to take, and if you can’t control yourself because someone is showing their shoulders, then you are the real problem.
To end this victim-blaming society, we need to ban school dress codes from allowing for a fair and appropriate representation of what we want the next generations to learn.
If you have ever been sexually assaulted, abused, or harassed, it’s not your fault, and you are not alone.
We encourage you to call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.