by Kelsey Morgan
For many boys and girls attending any kind of public, private, or other type of schooling in their early years, designated uniforms were required. Whether that included slacks, skirts, blazers, ties, and so on, depended on the preferences of individual institutions, but across all parties, there seems to be a certain attitude toward young girls and the things they’re allowed to wear.
Sometimes a school doesn’t even have a specific uniform for their students to abide by, but instead, seemingly arbitrary “rules” for what’s appropriate and what’s not — and most of these rules seem to only apply to what girls are allowed to put on their bodies, as their male counterparts would never experience the same “issues” that they do.
To quote Portland’s Concordia University, with added emphasis by me:
“Unequal dress code rules and enforcement are counterproductive if they reinforce the notion that girls’ bodies are a distraction. Social media is rife with images of beautifully dressed girls who were “dress-coded” for showing too much knee or collarbone. Young men almost never face these accusations.
Heavy enforcement that targets young women and carries a message of modesty reflects judgment of and bias against women’s bodies. Codes should not exempt young men from the requirements of self-control and respectful behavior or open a door to harassment by teaching young men to focus on skirt length or strap width rather than social studies and math.”
Girls and women of all ages are no stranger to having their bodies policed, whether that be through the way the look, the amount of makeup they wear, the clothes they choose to put on, or how much skin they decide to show — and the fact that these unfair rules exist in the most fundamental part of of human society, the school, means these unfair ideals are only continuing to be taught to younger generations who have no chance to learn otherwise.
Of course, this isn’t a plea to allow girls and boys to wear whatever they want, as there still exist societal rules that required certain school uniform standards help to enforce at a younger age. Some of these societal rules pertain to appropriate clothing for job interviews, working in an office, and all around just interacting with others in public.
But the issues come down to the fact that many instances of “dress code violations” fall on young girls and women, even when any logical person would be able to see what the girl is wearing and never think another thing of it. It’s this mentality than men and boys are so easily distracted, so easily frenzied by even the smallest peek at a little girl’s bare shoulders, that they cannot actually control themselves.
Are men actual animals? Is that the impression they’re purposefully trying to give people everywhere in speaking out against these arbitrary “dress code violations”? If the bare calves of a preteen girl gets you so bothered that you can’t think straight, perhaps working in education isn’t the right career for you.
None of this even touches on the same discrimination and racism that POC face in the world of school dress codes, with incidents more common than you might expect where students are either sent home, expelled, or simply put under the spotlight based on something as frivolous as wearing their natural hair or the person’s use of braids.
Luckily, there are already movements in the world working against this unfair treatment of girls and women in the world of education. Not only are popular news stories revolving around these incidents spreading and stirring up voices of opposition, but actual teens living in this world of discrimination are taking a vocal, purposeful stand against it.
With this new rise in voices and media attention, we can at least feel hopeful that these issues are slowly sinking their way into the institutions that continue to employ them, even if future changes are still long off. Everything has a beginning and needs a spark; surely, in this issue, the spark is more of a roaring flame.
Placing these restrictions on girls alone, and putting them under the spotlight without also addressing the types of clothing worn by their male peers, puts girls in the position where they believe their worth as a student and person weighs heavily just on the way they dress and present themselves. Not even in the way they feel about the way they dress themselves, but how well they follow arbitrary rules. They’re told that their bodies are a distraction, they’re told that in order to ever be “respected,” they have to follow these strict rules — and essentially, they are cut down to being nothing more than sex objects, even as little children who don’t know any better.
As women become more noticed in the world of politics, the world of entertainment, and most importantly, the public eye in general, their issues are equally becoming more and more visual to those who until now had been turning a blind eye. Sure, change is slow, but a slow change is more sustainable than a quick, desperate one — and even if it means only future generations get to prosper off the work of the women living now, that’s a success for all humanity.