Code behind the dress code: boys matter more

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An email was recently sent out to the student body reminding us of the dress code policy. The email reminded that the dress code “has been devised to promote a positive learning atmosphere” and that attire must not “interfere with the educational process.” It discussed dresses, leggings, undergarments, shorts, which are “specific items that may cause distraction.”  The vast majority of these restrictions focuses on clothing worn by girls.

Most disconcerting was this threat: “Failure to comply will result in 3 demerits for being insubordinate. Students have been warned many times.”

Insubordination? Isn’t any violation of the rules an act of insubordination?  Why is a dress code violation worthy of such special attention?  Students have been told not to cut multiple times.  By the new policy’s logic, shouldn’t a cut after a number of warnings be considered both a cut and an act of insubordination which would therefore deserve six demerits?

Dress code violations, I suppose, are more worthy of attention than cutting.

There’s something about dress codes that brings out the irrational in this country.

Two girls in Ohio were recently turned away from their prom for being “too revealing.” An administrator told the local news that the girls were only allowed to wear dresses that had “no curvature of their breasts showing.”

A kindergarten student in Georgia was forced to change her “short” skirt because the principal regarded the skirt to be a “distraction” to fellow students.

Before you jump to say that these schools are senseless, ask yourself whether Townsend Harris is truly any different. Notice how every school has one thing in common: dress codes that focus on girls. Why have we become so overwrought with policing girls and their bodies?

We, as a society, fail to realize how far down the wrong path we’ve gone. We’ve developed cultural attitudes towards women that are simply intolerable. We’ve somehow taught girls both to fear their sexuality and to consider themselves erotic objects that need to be tamed. We’ve allowed people to judge “suggestive” clothing and insult lifestyles that might not be understood by all. We’ve bred men to disrespect women and women to disrespect each other.

Of course, some would disagree with the very premise that dress codes such as ours are sexist.  They maintain that codes create a “professional” environment and teach us how we should dress in the “professional” world. If students come into school wearing sneakers, jeans, and a t-shirt they are considered to be following the dress code, but is that professional dress? We do not dress professionally.  Schools that require more formal attire can make this argument.  THHS cannot.  Nonetheless, if you want to teach us to be professionals then teach us how to make choices. Don’t make them for us.

People might also claim that dress codes are not sexist, but are merely meant to preserve students from distraction in an educational atmosphere. It’s abundantly clear that these “distractions” are the hypothetical distractions that scantily clad women will create for males. This idea of distraction unfairly places blame on women.  I shouldn’t need to care about the potential that a boy cannot handle being distracted by women’s bodies anymore than I need to care that a student in a computer lab can’t stop himself from playing solitaire and missing the lesson.  It’s called personal responsibility.

But let’s say we did have to make rules for all major sources of distraction.  If distractions are so threatening to “the educational process” then why isn’t there a deodorant requirement? Rooms reeking of body odor can be quite distracting.  It sounds rude to even suggest regulating body odor, doesn’t it?  Well, it’s just as rude to tell women to be obedient because the education of males must be protected from bare shoulders.

If the women of this school feel constrained, they need to take action. We are mature enough and smart enough to make our own decisions.  Unfortunately, some would see this as girls fighting for the right to be “sluts,” and therein lies the problem–it’s not. It’s fighting for our right to dress how we want.  Sometimes dressing how we want is about comfort.  Sometimes it’s about looking good for ourselves, because we don’t need someone to tell us we look good to feel good about how we look.  And, yes, sometimes it is about looking good for others, and however that manifests itself–whether some consider that being “slutty” or not–we as a community must learn to deal with it because we will have to in the real world.  And some in the community will have to learn to deal with it because, frankly, it’s just none of their business.