Dress Codes In British Schools Need To Become A Topic Of Discussion

Trigger Warning: mentions of r*pe

The start of September seems to be a very appropriate time to talk about the sexualization of young girls and the school dress codes that perpetuate this action, as most students have just returned to school or will be starting their autumn term in the upcoming days. There is and possibly always will be a lack of articles written about the sexism behind the dress codes in America (an issue that has yet to be fixed all over the world), but a quick Google search shows that the dress codes in Britain (and in other countries across the world) seem to be an even less talked about issue and I can’t say that I have even seen any videos or news stories online about these ongoing issues in Britain. This may be because the majority of schools in Britain have a school uniform policy that leaves little space for interpretation or maybe because there is lots of the media’s attention on American politics at the moment.

But I can say with confidence that British school uniform rules are inherently sexist, promote the sexualization of young girls, the issue needs to be the topic of discussion and that THINGS MUST CHANGE. 

It is a fact that the British school uniform policies that millions of girls throughout the UK are forced to comply with promote rape culture and are sexist, however, the issue is often downplayed due to the lack of attention from our own government and the media. Not to mention the fact that if someone dares to bring up the issue they are bombarded with phrases such as: “You’re just too sensitive.”, “It’s not a real issue; you’re overreacting!”, “Ugh, stop being such an angry feminist.” or even “Are you on your period or something?”

But believe it or not, the school uniform policies are negatively affecting millions of girls every day.

Because after assembly all the boys in my year are allowed to return to their next lesson, but the rest of the girls are left sitting at the back of the hall while our headteacher lectures us on how inappropriate showing our thighs are and how “there is a time and a place to flaunt your skin, and frankly school isn’t it” (and maybe there is a time and a place, but making a girl feel as though their body is a nuisance will never be okay), while the rest of the teachers scan our body as if we are sexual objects rather than humans to check that our skirts are at an appropriate length.  And if a teacher sees us during the school day with a skirt that is too short we could be sent home for the rest of the day. That’s six hours of school I could miss because a teacher thinks they or anyone else has a right to sexualize my body.

When you interrupt a girl’s school day to tell them that what they’re wearing is inappropriate or that her skirt’s too short, you are telling her that hiding her body is more important than her education. You are telling her that ensuring boys have a distraction free learning environment is more important than her education.

When you tell a girl to cover up her body rather than telling the boys to keep their eyes to themselves and to stop sexualizing every aspect of a girl’s body you are promoting rape culture because that situation will carry on into the real world. Into a situation in which a female rape victim is told that she should have covered up her body, instead of the rapist being told that they shouldn’t have raped her. A situation in which rape becomes the victim’s fault.

If you sexualize an 11- to 18-year-old’s thighs, you are the problem. If you place value on a boy’s education rather than a girl’s, you are the problem. If you ask “Well, what was she wearing?”, you are the problem. If you ever think you have the right to comment on a girl’s body, you are and forever will be the problem.

The dress codes in Britain are a problem that needs to become a topic of discussion within the government and within everyday citizens, in order to try and end the sexualization of young girls, rape culture and the inherently sexist ideologies that are the backbone of the British education system.

WE WILL NOT BE COMPLICIT IN OUR OWN DEHUMANIZATION. 

[Featured Image: Courtesy of Pixabay]

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Pippa is a British high school student who is interested in social justice, intersectional feminism and international issues.

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