In schools all around the United States, dress codes are enforced to “keep a sense of professionalism.” They usually aren’t prevalent until middle school or later, but in some school districts, they can make an appearance in schools as early as kindergarten, as evidenced in this report of a five-year-old girl who had to change because her dress had spaghetti straps. Although these rules were originally set up in schools to make a safe and appropriate learning environment, they have evolved to unfairly target and sexualize girls.
Schools in America can start as early as August. Schools can get very hot, and it’s hard to learn in uncomfortable environments. Although we should be able to dress for the weather, the dress code makes that very difficult. A common rule in many dress codes is “no undergarments visible.” This rule makes it possible for boys to walk around is muscle tanks with their whole chest and stomach visible, but girls can be dress coded if even a little bit of bra pokes out. Some dress codes are even as extreme as saying that you can’t show collar bone, making students wear things that make them uncomfortably hot.
These dress codes are also often way too vague. An extremely common dress code rule is “shorts that reach your fingertips” (a rule, might I point out, that targets a fashion primarily worn by girls). Fingertip length differs greatly on different body types, letting some girls wear much longer shorts than other girls. Another problem is that girls with bigger breasts are targeted more, especially when the teacher/principal/etc. is taking on the “it will distract the boys” approach.
The “it will distract the boys” approach is misogynistic bullshit. This is when a teacher enforces a dress code because the girls clothing will, apparently, distract a boy from their learning. Meanwhile, the girl will have to change or get clothes, taking away from her time so the boy can learn. This is just adding to the ever present problem of undermining female education in favor of educating males. It also perpetuates rape culture by implying that boys shouldn’t have to control their urges and that it’s a girl’s responsibility to watch what she wears, otherwise it’s her fault.
The final problem with dress code it’s enforced. A lot of times, a dress code is broken in a minor way. This leads to teachers looking you up and down during class, trying to determine if you look sexual enough to be a problem. The sexualization of children and teens by these adults is disgusting, and it causes teens to constantly worry instead of letting them focus on their work. A lot of times female teachers dress code girl students, modeling the societal problem of girls being overly judgmental of other girls clothing.
In conclusion, dress code in schools perpetuates rape culture and sexualizes girls. It unfairly targets girls, especially those with curvier body types. It takes away from the learning environment and creates stress and uncomfortable situations.