Dress Codes Promote the Sexualization of Women

Brianna Carloni, Fall Reporter

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Some believe that dress code restrictions in public schools target young females and propagate the sexualization of women’s bodies. Most schools believe that by enforcing dress codes, they are minimizing distractions and ensuring that educational goals remain the primary focus. However, many young women feel that these dress codes are unfair and are designed to single out women specifically. In many cases, females are in the hot seat as violators due to policies that declare specific areas are inappropriate when exposed. Dress codes allow for individuals to be sexualized by claiming that shoulders are inappropriate because they are “too sexy”. In addition, by revealing your midriff, you are depriving other students of an education because you are a distraction. I believe that by pointing out these features, these policies continue to implicate their sexual connotations.

While some argue that dress codes prepare women for life as an adult, the styles and trends of fashion outside of school do not correlate. In fact, most clothing options currently available to young women in stores violate school dress code policies.

The CNN article “Do school dress codes end up body-shaming girls?” (2017) exemplifies the flawed mentality of society. It states:

“One 15-year-old girl… was given an in-school suspension for wearing shorts that were to her mid-thigh. Her teacher suggested that her clothing was suggestive…”

The young girl’s reaction is one that is shared by many other young women:

“The message her school is sending her, she said, is that she should cover up and be ashamed. ‘If I show a little bit of my body, I’m considered a bad girl,’ she said. ‘Just because I’m wearing this doesn’t mean that I want people to look at me sexually. I want to be seen as a woman. I don’t want to have to feel bad about my body.’”

The dress code scandal has become an epidemic not only in the US, but across the world. According to another CNN article, “Boys and girls spar over school’s warm-weather dress code” (2017), this issue is neither new nor exclusive to America. In Breton, Alberta, Canadian high school students posted the following statement in the girls’ bathroom:

“When you interrupt a girl’s school day to force her to change clothes, or send her home because her shorts are too short or her bra straps are visible, you are telling her that making sure boys have a ‘distraction free’ learning environment is more important than her education. Instead of shaming girls for their bodies teach boys that girls are not sexual objects!!!”

This elicited a defensive response from the school’s male student body:

“When you wear little to no clothing and dress provocatively because it’s ‘too hot out’ or because you think it’s ‘attractive,’ you are putting boys at risk of having a distracting working environment and saying ‘Your clothing is more important than their education,'” it said. “Instead…value the male education and dress conservatively.”

This situation became a “teachable moment” for the school as administrators addressed respectful communication of controversial issues among the school community. It also served to draw attention to the patriarchy in our society.

The problem that should be addressed in society is the inclination that women’s bodies are sexual objects. It’s 2017 and instead of taking a step towards equality, dress codes have done nothing more than take us a step back.


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