Having been required to wear a uniform for all 12 years of pre-collegiate schooling, I was always envious of friends who eagerly awaited back-to-school sales in August. They were easily able to express their style, their art–hell, they were teenagers–it was their identity! Today, unfortunately, dressing for school is not so liberating–well, at least if you identify as female.
Many educational institutions throughout the nation and the world have implemented overtly sexist dress code policies that specify which body parts may or may not be revealed in the classroom. It appears that administrators believe that the female anatomy can prevent boys from learning and that this lack of concentration falls squarly on sweater-covered shoulders of girls.
Skirt lengths, opaqueness of clothing, and types of clothing (no yoga pants) have been investigated, researched, and determined to be the reason why boys are “distracted” at school. The latest member of the human physique to be vilified is the collarbone. Apparently, school officials believe that not only are girls disturbing to hormone flooded boys, but that boys are completely unable to control themselves. Unfortunately, this myth becomes everyone’s problem. And we see it continuing to exist well beyond middle school…
Recently, the Missouri House Speaker and another State Representative resigned amid sexual misconduct allegations involving an inappropriate relationship with a 19-year old intern and the repeated sexual harassment of another intern, respectively. The government’s answer to this deplorable behavior? Implement a dress code for interns. This type of chauvinistic response not only exacerbates body shaming, but it inherently leads to a “rape culture” where victim blaming takes hold. Personally, the most egregious aspect of these “solutions” are that they are being developed by educators, community leaders, and politicians–the people with the most power whose job it is to represent all of us!
However, many people (especially women and girls) are equally outraged and are not accepting this dominant discourse. Documentaries on shame and school dress codes, men’s groups which advocate for educating boys, and online community activist sites are stepping forward and calling out these misogynistic rule makers and their statutes. I am uncertain if the people creating these codes genuinely buy into what they are trying to sell us. But, I am sure that these outrageous rules are used to distract people from the real issue at hand-the objectification of girls and women from the sandbox to the Capitol.