Dress Codes in School

I was always frustrated by dress codes growing up in school, and I never found them fair. As early as 5th grade, my mom told me that I needed to wear a sweatshirt to cover my butt if I wanted to wear leggings to school. I remember arguing with her because I didn’t understand why I needed to do that and why I couldn’t just wear leggings. Why did I need to be worried about being sexualized in fifth grade? And by who? My peers, my teachers? I was a kid, and my body hadn’t even started to mature yet. Why did I need to worry about being sexualized in a school environment?

In high school, I had a teacher who spoke negatively about the outfits that the cheerleaders wore. I was shocked because the cheerleading uniforms were the same uniforms that the cheerleaders had been wearing since the ’90s. I remember challenging her point of view because I found it gross to hear an older woman speaking down on younger women. I have always felt that girls should support girls, and I think it’s disgusting when women put other women down. I also had a female teacher who put a picture of a woman on the smartboard and allowed the boys in class to raise their hands and state what they found distracting about the woman’s outfit. I found this so degrading and inappropriate, and I ended up contacting the principal, who agreed that it was an outdated lesson that had no relevance. It made me extremely uncomfortable because it seemed that as a woman that all parts of my body are sexualized, even my knees and shoulders.

I have also never understood why black people weren’t allowed to wear durags or bandanas to school. However, if a white girl chose to wear a bandana and tie it differently, then it was accepted by the school. I also remember a black girl in my grade that would get dress coded every time she wore shorts. However, I wore shorts to school and was never dress-coded. I find this to be a double standard. There are themes of misogyny and racism behind dress codes.

We should start teaching boys not to sexualize women and make them uncomfortable, instead of telling girls what they should and should not wear. The same goes for catcalling. Instead of telling women to avoid wearing an outfit to avoid getting catcalled, why don’t we start teaching men to treat women with more respect?

Media Studies and Production Major at Temple University • 17-year-old dancer who has a passion for writing as well • IG: @mialepage @mialepageblog