So why is dress code even a thing?

Caitlin Grisham, Managing Editor

School dress code isn’t a new concept. It’s been around for years, and almost every year without fail students are finding issues with it. Mainly, the female or female presenting population.

The reason being that there is an almost unreasonable focus on female bodies. Women have been overly sexualized for years, and of course, this would bleed into the dress code system that was first established in 1969, according to Findlaw.com. Times were completely different back then, but somehow we still are harboring the same ideals now, even if unintentional. 

One major flaw with school dress codes is that almost always the higher expectations fall on to the female body, and blame said female for how the clothes fit her. If she is dressed in a certain way, it is said she is distracting to not only her learning but also her peers.

The expectation about the female body is a conversation that has been ongoing for years. She needs to be modest and pure, but also alluring and hot. She needs to be covered up, but she can’t be a tease. She needs to be dainty and feminine, but not like other girls. These aren’t the school’s expectations, but the media’s and peers’ expectations, even if some don’t realize. 

Presently, women and girls are being exposed to these expectations younger and younger to the point they don’t realize that it is influencing their opinion on themselves or others and how they dress. It, for most, comes to a point where they eventually realize what they’ve been exposed to and decide to reclaim it. That they are in fact going to dress the way they want for themselves. This is called body positivity. Being happy in your own skin and dressing the way you want to dress for you, and no one else.

Illustration by Wendy Vang.

Even with this mindset in dressing for yourself, someone will always come around with comments or accusations blaming girls and women for “dressing up to impress someone else” and that they are “asking for it” dressing in certain ways. Something school dress codes accidentally encourage in the real world. By telling a girl she needs to change for distracting her peers, schools are teaching them that it is acceptable to make assumptions and blame the victim in the situation for the clothes they are wearing rather than teaching their peers to keep their eyes to themselves.

An example of this in our school dress code is in our gym dress code for the swimming unit. Male students are allowed to wear speedos, and swimming trunks, normal pool or lake wear, without being forced to cover up. Female students, on the other hand, are only allowed to wear one pieces. If they do not own a one piece, they are required to wear a shirt over the top of their bikini because it is not school appropriate. In reality, both of these options are normal choices for the beach, but the female body is deemed “inappropriate”, so they are required to cover up.

Why are females hyper-sexualized?

 Leaving the school environment for a moment, let’s address what women are sexualized for, or the better question, what aren’t women sexualized for? Society has a history of putting endless labels and expectations on women. Unfortunately, this is everywhere for everything. This has gotten increasingly worse because of social media and doesn’t seem like it will ever go away.

 A female’s main purpose isn’t to please or look good for the male gaze, and to jump through endless hoops thrown at them to match the ever changing definition of presentable. 

Will the school dress code ever be with the times? What is the real reason we have a dress code? Why do we always assume the worst when it comes to dress code when in reality it might be a woman trying to reclaim her body for herself? 

We all need to take a step back and look at what we have been taught and are currently teaching the younger generations. Maybe, one of the biggest changes we can make in society today starts with demolishing the school dress code and teaching