As school begins once more, a prominent question on the minds of many is what to wear for the first day. Everyone wants to wear something new, something stylish; something fabulous to set the fashion tone for the year. What to wear is a question many will answer with excitement as they are free to be completely creative, except for--THE DRESS CODE.
Dress codes can be useful--they can assure a professional atmosphere in business, establish a uniform look in retail, or help dictate what guests wear to a wedding. Many schools (especially middle and high schools) adopt a dress code to maintain focus on learning and keep all students in 'appropriate' attire. However, it seems many current dress code policies are targeted towards one gender--females. Many schools ban clothing items such as leggings, short skirts or shorts, low-cut tops, or jeans with holes. Not to mention some schools ban girls wearing shirts that bare their collar bones or shoulders. Since many dress codes specifically highlight how girls dress, they are sexist, but that's not even the worst part. Many schools ban these clothing items to ensure males will not be 'distracted' by what their female peers wear. I suppose schools do not think girls can be distracted by anything a boy could possibly wear (for me this includes pull-over sweaters, suspenders and bow ties.)
Though these dress codes may seem like safeguards against 'inappropriate' dress, the underlying message that they exist to not 'distract the males' perpetuates a dangerous message. It teaches girls that their bodies are 'distractions' that cause males to lose control. It also teaches a girl who may want to distract males that her body is what males desire to possess, not her intellect, abilities, or personality. Essentially, sexist dress codes objectify girls so that they become a body, not a person. This in turn lowers a girl's self-esteem, especially if she is caught wearing something that breaks dress code. The girls featured in the documentary Shame: A Documentary on School Dress Code predominantly describe this experience as 'embarrassing,' filling girls with body shame.
But more than just embarrassment, being called from class to change a pair of pants or a shirt is the real distraction. Girls lose valuable class time while waiting for a change of clothes, all because one teacher thought her skirt was an inch too short.
Furthermore, it can be exceptionally hard to find dress code appropriate clothes, especially when current fashions deviate so far from what schools deem 'appropriate.' For tall girls, finding long enough skirts or shorts may become near impossible.
Perhaps schools should spend less time focusing on what girls wear to school and more time on what they learn at school. Perhaps schools should create dress codes that allow for more freedom. Or perhaps they should adopt a college stance and completely abolish dress codes. At the very least, schools should change their reason for implementing a dress code: so as not to 'distract the males.'