Despite many schools continuing to uphold the infamous “dress code,” the question still remains: are dress codes sexist and damaging to girls?
School’s dress codes are often much more strict for girls than they are for the boys, and they arguably put blame on girls by indicating that their clothing leads to distractions for boys. Dress codes send the message to teenage girls that their bodies are a problem and, therefore, need to be covered or hidden. Yet it shouldn’t be a girl’s problem if a boy is more fixated on her outfit than on his work.
Women already have body judgements and shaming to deal with on a regular basis, and calling extra attention to how they look can have a worse effect. Thirteen year old Addie Lyttle was dress coded at her school just for wearing a T-shirt, athletic shorts and sandals. “It made me feel like my body wasn’t acceptable,” Lyttle said.
There are some people like Angels Little, a Northview Middle School parent, who thinks the way that schools treat female dress codes is the start of society’s influence on women, adding to the shameful feelings they may experience. It makes girls highly aware of the parts of their bodies the school says needs to be hidden, like the midriff, the most common area that some schools have banned being shown.
Drawing attention to certain parts of the female body and insinuating that they need to be hidden can make girls feel like there’s something wrong with they way they look; that there’s something that needs to be “fixed.”
In extreme, yet common, cases, obsessing over what girls and women wear can lead to blaming victims of sexual assault. For example, it may be asked, “Well what was she wearing?” or saying, “She was asking for it, wearing that,” both of which are insulting and irrelevant. It makes the victimized woman feel like what happened was her fault or that she deserved it for dressing a certain way. In other cases, this fixation can lead to girls developing low self-esteem, depression, and eating disorders.
Women have always faced an extreme amount of pressure and judgement from society to be what is deemed as “perfect” from a young age. Making them feel uncomfortable in their skin and blaming them for boys’ behavior, as dress codes do, just adds to the damage much sooner in life.