The Double Standard of the Dress Code

Written by Natalie Drouhard, design editor

Even though women make up 50 percent of the world’s population, topics surrounding them are usually considered controversial. The dress code in high schools are no different. In our own school dress code policy, at least six of the first eight statements are directly pointed at females and their clothing. The rest are for both sexes, but no male has ever had to measure his shorts before buying them. Girls are also regularly “dress coded” for wearing school uniforms without sleeves while boys wear tank tops during spirit week as if it’s spring break in Florida. 

Instead of the dress code helping to ensure a safe learning environment for everyone, it perpetrates the rape culture that runs rampant throughout the United States in universities, high schools and the work force. According to NPR, 81 percent of women in the United States have been sexually harassed between the ages of 18 and 35, and yet girls’ clothing is still more policed than boys’ actions in schools. If a male peer is so distracted by a female peer’s clothing that he cannot focus in class, he should be taught how to control himself instead of blaming the female.

There should be a balance between having a discussion with the males when they become distracted and allowing them to dress code fellow students who dress too distractingly for a learning environment. Rather than the emphasis being placed solely on the females who break the dress code, the responsibility should be on both parties in creating a safe learning environment. Additionally, this enforcement should be student-led, under the guidance of the administration and teachers, rather than driven by them. 

Another issue with the current dress code is that violations aren’t recorded, and it is not consistent. One day you can get away with wearing leggings, and the next you could be dress coded and sent home to change. One purpose of high school is to express yourself in a safe learning environment, but it’s hard to do that when something that is acceptable one day is not the next. 

High school is supposed to be preparing us for ‘the real world’, or what we do after high school, but instead of it being down to measuring the inseam of your shorts, it will be more related to business casual or specific uniforms. The sad truth is, even in work settings, with professional clothing, women’s bodies will continue to be sexualized. At least high school dress codes prepare women for that. 

For our dress code to be effective, it needs to be revised to be less targeted directly at women and violations need to be recorded and discussed with both males and females. School having control over students with something as simple as getting dressed every day and then the students moving into the next stage of life with new freedom presents problems of its own. If we are supposed to be mature enough to make life changing decisions, like what we will do after high school, we should be trusted to be mature enough to dress ourselves in an appropriate way and have our choices honored instead of judged by other people’s standards.