It isn’t a secret that school dress codes are primarily aimed towards women. However, dress codes in schools are okay but the sexist attitudes that coincide with it, is not.
According to niche.com, the amount of schools with dress codes have jumped 21% from 2000 to 2013. Now, only two percent of schools nationwide don’t have a dress code and 10% of schools have a specific uniform.
The idea of where dress code had been implemented resides in 1969, where an issue regarding students violating dress policy reached the Supreme Court in the case Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District. Students had been protesting the Vietnam War by wearing armbands in protest. The decision enforced school administrative officials to have a legitimate reason in censoring speech, which can be found through the way students dress.
Since then, dress code has been enforced but its conservative connotations have enforced sexist attitudes in a means to protect men and isolate women. Women are aggressively targeted by often interrupting class to point out a ‘violation’ that had not been distracting peers in the first place. This often leads to girls developing a sense of emotional scarring due to the constant beratement: is there something wrong with me?
Now, I’d like to talk about my experience with Charter Oak’s dress code.
On Sept. 13, I visited the administration office with senior, Debbie Tien, to simply take a picture for my article highlighting and welcoming the new administrative officials on campus. Little did I know, heading up to the office I would be harassed by an office employee on my choice of dress. And as I walked down the hall heading to Mrs. Berry’s office, I was stopped by an administrator.
The administrator, who I will keep anonymous, stated something along the lines of which through showing my bra straps I was not only inappropriate but violating school dress code. I was immediately shocked and did not know what to do or say. The administrator led Tien and I to the vice principal’s office, where they explained that I was violating school dress and what the next step would be in fixing my “mistake.” However, Vice Principal Mr. Trask, confusedly looked upon me as if he was wondering where the supposed violation was on my outfit.
I then quickly suggested that I could put on a jacket which was something short of a lie since I did not bring a jacket that day. The administrator said only if I was to keep it on the entire school day, then I was excused to go back to my classroom; in addition I was to promise to show proof of my jacket.
Walking back, Tien and I were outraged. I decided if my bra straps were such a problem, I could just take my bra off and the problem would be solved, right? So then I proceeded my bra off. As a small chested girl there was not much of a problem to my decision. I came back to my class and told everyone about what had happened. The comments from my classmates, were filled with confusion and fury. Andrew Barron, senior, commented, “God forbid girls wear bras.”
I borrowed a friend’s jacket and headed up to the office where I was cleared. This brought up a few questions to mind: Why is the female body sexualized in the school environment? Would you rather have my nipples showing or my bra straps show? During our highly acclaimed spirit week, is dress code suddenly altered for males to become shirtless? Where do we draw the line between reasonable and sexist?
I decided to do research on Charter Oak’s dress code and I found nothing regarding bra straps besides, “All tops and dresses must have straps that connect from the front of the top to the back of the top. There are no exposed backs or halter-tops allowed.” Knowing all of this, why was I dress coded if my entire outfit was following the dress code? My outfit included a tank top, which covered my entire chest, with the exception of my bra straps peeking out.
I will be presenting my “violating” outfit to the School Site Council for review since I recently found out through the dress code rules that I could present an item of clothing or jewelry for review.
There needs to be a line of equality within the dress code at Charter Oak and across the nation. If a boy can walk around with a half-naked or naked woman on his shirt, my bra straps should not be seen as overtly sexual. Something needs to be done.
I took this situation online and found all of the interviewees agreed.
“I personally had never been dress coded but, I’m pretty sure that’s because I’m a male and it’s never the boys who have to conform to the rules of dress code set by the administration.” said junior Geoffrey Varas.
These rules teach young women to change because it distracts boys from their education. Why does our society imply a male’s education holds more value than a females? The way we choose to dress should not be more important than our education.
In school it is generally taught young women’s bodies, ranging from the elementary to high school level, are a distraction to the male student body. It needs to be re-taught that young women shouldn’t be sexualized, young men should be taught that if our bodies are THAT much of a distraction, it’s not our problem but yours.
Not to mention, Spirit Week is where I have witnessed young males who come to school shirtless with a slap of paint, and considers it school spirit. Is suddenly the school dress code altered for a week? How can men display their bare chests and women be criticized for wearing a bra to cover my chest. I truly do not understand this hypocrisy.
At the end of the day, it is just anatomy and we are all just human.