By Kaitlin Burch
You’re going to distract the male students.”
“You’re showing too much skin.”
“Boys will be boys.”
These are all phrases tween and teenage girls all over have heard – likely on more than one occasion.
If you attended a public school as a kid, you’re probably very familiar with what a “dress code” is. Dress codes are implemented in most schools and while they may seem helpful or at least harmless at a surface level, they can actually be quite demoralizing and are often ways to shame minors (often girls) for showing “too much skin.”
In most middle and high schools, tank tops are against the dress code. But why? What is so provocative about the shoulders of a minor? I remember being “dress coded” at the ripe age of 15 because I wore an athletic tank top in gym class.
Not only was I blatantly called out in front of my whole class by my male teacher, but I was forced to leave my gym class and go to the principal’s office. I was simply trying to play kickball with the rest of my classmates and blow off some steam before I had to get back to academics. But no, my shoulders showing were just too provocative in the eyes of my adult male teacher.
Being dress coded is humiliating. It teaches young girls that the boys in class “can’t focus” if you’re wearing a tank top, or if your shorts are more than three inches above the knee.
Give me a break!
Schools would rather take girls out of their classes and shame them for their clothing than get rid of a dress code that is clearly so deeply misogynistic. This teaches girls under the age of 18 that they need to “cover up” more in the presence of boys because the boys can’t control themselves.
This teaches girls that their education is less important than the education of their male classmates – not to mention how unequal these dress codes are. Girls are given a whole essay listing clothing items that are unacceptable to wear. The boys are just told to wear their pants over their behinds and not wear shirts with slurs on them. ... Seems easy enough, if you ask me.
And the worst part about the whole process of being dress coded is that school administrators want to punish these girls. At my high school, at least, we had a bin full of gross, ratty, “old people” clothes, and any time a girl was dress coded, she was required to wear something from the bin.
Again, this is teaching young girls to be ashamed of their bodies. Additionally, the fact that the
hypersexualization of minors is so normalized is incredibly alarming.
I sincerely hope that in the four years I’ve been away from my high school, these rules are starting to change. These sorts of rules are what cause girls to develop insecurities about their body image and that’s simply unacceptable.
Boys need to be held accountable for their actions. No more of this, “You’re going to distract the boys” talk. The education of young girls is equally important as the education of young boys. Schools need to realize what they’re prioritizing.
There is no instance where the outfit of a minor should even be considered an issue when that child’s education is at stake. I hope for the sake of all girls that these dress codes will ease up and school administrators realize they’re doing nothing but harm – for girls and boys.
This gives young boys who probably otherwise wouldn’t care what girls are wearing the idea that they’re in some sick way entitled to the bodies of these girls. Placing the boys at the center of the issue does no more than promote rape culture. Instead of telling women and girls to cover up so men and boys won’t attack them, we should be teaching men and boys that they are not entitled to the bodies of anyone and they need to have some basic human decency.
It’s 2021. It’s time to start treating young girls with dignity and respect, teaching them to be proud of their appearance rather than resenting or being ashamed of it, and tossing out the “Boys will be boys” garbage.
Boys will not “be boys.”
Boys will be held accountable.