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Jillian Herman

ENG 2010-030
Jim Beatty
2 November 2015

Dress Code Bias

Young girls in grade school, starting as early as 1st grade, are taught to
cover their bodies as if it is shameful. Girls grow up being punished for showing
innocent parts of their bodies and are told the least sexual parts of their bodies,
like shoulders, will distract boys. Men are never taught that it is wrong to
sexualize the entire female body while women are told that they are distracting to
men and that men can not control themselves when they see a womens body.
Transgender and queer individuals are taught that dressing the way they feel is
right for them is inappropriate and are shamed. This way of teaching is sexist and
discriminates against girls starting their first day of school.
In todays society grade schools have started to implement dress codes as
fashions have changed. According to The National Center For Education
Statistics, 58% of all public schools enforce a strict dress code. These dress
codes include prohibiting clothes depicting drug, sex, or violent references, no
chains on wallets, and more things that can promote violence. Though the dress

codes prohibit other things their number one focus is on girls clothing. In your
average dress code you will find that girls cannot wear tank tops, low cut shirts,
belly shirts, shorts, skirts, and dresses that are less than 2 past the finger tips,
tight shirts, tight pants and anything else that may be seen as provocative.
(Summers 2014) The last thing dress codes are about is clothing. Schools with
strict dress codes often have more problems of sexism throughout student body
The more highly gendered a school's dress code, the deeper the problems of
inequity (Chemaly 2015). Girls with larger breasts or hips are especially
targeted with punishment for wearing tight or more revealing clothing when it
comes to these dress codes, and told their outfits will distract boys (Orenstein
2015). Woman are taught that they are doing something wrong for dressing in a
way that expresses their identity.
Many schools have people that go class room to class room making sure
all girls are in dress code. At my high school it was a daily occurrence for a hall
monitor to walk into a class room and make all the girls stand up to see if there
shorts were long enough. This not only took away from my learning for the time it
takes to do this, but if a girl wasn't in the correct clothing they would be removed
from class and forced to change. Often times girls are so embarrassed that they
were dress coded they wouldnt even bother returning to class. The clothes we
were forced to change into were bright green scrubs. If you got dress coded

everyone knew. It was almost shameful to have to walk around campus in

scrubs. You never see any boys walking around in scrubs.
Another issue is the discrimination against transgender and intersex
people when it comes to dress codes. Many school dances have dress codes
that say things like Girls must wear dresses or skirts, no pants. (Chemaly 2015)
This issue causes many people who dont conform to gender binary to feel
discriminated against and therefore do not attend school events. Transgender
people that are of such young age already have enough struggles in their day to
day lives without being told by their school they cant dress in a way that makes
them feel comfortable and able to express themselves. In Batesville Mississippi a
transgender person was told they can wear what they wanted to wear, and other
students protested because they saw this as special treatment (Summers 2014).
This reaction is not very surprising. Everyone should have a less strict dress
code so everyone can feel comfortable being themselves without other students
seeing something like this as special treatment.
Dress codes in school systems are degrading and bias to girls. They are
often forced out of class when not dressed correctly taking away from their
education. Transgender people are often not allowed to express their identity
because it is believed this is special treatment which can cause depression and
lack of motivation. Girls are told boys will be distracted if they see your shoulder

or bellybutton. Boys need to be taught not to over sexualize females instead of

girls being taught not to distract. The dress codes standards in schools need a
big change. Girls should no longer be shamed for dressing how they want to
dress, and boys should no longer be taught that they are going to be distracted
by the female body. (Friedrichs 2014) If we allow the continuation of this way of
teaching girls will never truly be equal to men.

Works Cited
Friedrichs, E. (2014, December 11). 4 Lies About School Dress Codes
That Cover Up Their Oppressive Effects. Everyday Feminism.
Orenstein, P. (2014, June 13). The Battle Over Dress Codes. New
York Times, A25-A25.
Chemaly, S. (n.d.). Every Reason Your School's Gendered Dress
Code Is Probably a Sexist Mess. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
Summers, J., & Seidel, A. (2014, June 14). The Anatomy Of A Dress
Code. Retrieved October 12, 2015.