A Blame Game Based Upon Gender

Carolina Jay, staff writer

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No spaghetti straps, no holes above the knees, no shorts above fingertip length; these are just a few of the restrictions imposed in school dress codes. School dress codes are enforced in about 53 percent of schools nationwide (Jones). These policies are designed with a purpose to keep students from being distracted by wardrobes and remain focused on their studies. School dress codes have raised quite a bit of controversy in the media lately. The focus in the media has been that dress codes are sexist and tend to mainly target female students. Many people argue that female students should acknowledge that these strict dress codes work to protect girls from sexual harassment, sexual assault, and even potentially rape. However, many argue that school dress codes don’t protect female students, but in fact body shame and discriminate against girls. Additionally, dress codes should be enforced in the educational environment; however they should be fairly enforced and not be gender biased.

School dress codes are sexist and unfairly single out female students. The rules and regulations of school dress codes are often bent for male students, allowing them to get away with wearing things that females would otherwise be written up for. Male students can be seen wearing cut off shirts, athletic shorts, and even ripped jeans, but if a female student were to wear these items it would be considered distracting. Solomon interviewed a female student on the issue; “‘ It’s like boys can’t learn without us being covered,’ said Julia Blakesberg, 15, a sophomore at Olympic Heights High School in Boca Raton. ‘A lot of guys wear short shorts or rips in their jeans and they don’t get dress-coded.”’ Solomon’s interview clearly expresses the unfair enforcement of dress codes. Allowing male students to wear clothing that is prohibited to female students is degrading. Dress codes make girls feel like their body is the issue and that they must be covered up in order for students to learn. Hardesty quoted students,“It oppresses us and makes us feel like we need to be ashamed of our bodies because it teaches us that our bodies are dirty and inappropriate and need to be hidden. Dress codes make us feel shameful.”  These sexist dress codes are responsible for body shaming girls, and teaching them their bodies should be covered up in order to be acceptable for the learning environment. Teachers and school officials should work to enforce a non discriminative or gender bias dress code.

Female students should not have to take the blame for the offensive and observe comments made by male students. Too often girls are put at fault for boys’ offensive comments. A female student from Forest Hill High School in West Palm beach wore a pair of ripped jeans to school and got punished for not considering the hormones of the male students in her class. Solomon states, “In the middle of a quiz in her (International Baccalaureate) History class, a male administrator came to classroom, told her she needed to consider the guys in her class and their hormones when choosing her wardrobe, yanked her out of class and threw her into In School Suspension for the remainder of the day.” It is absurd that female students are being asked to consider how males will react to their outfits. Girls should never have to take the blame for the inappropriate actions of boys’. What a girl wears should not be swayed or based off of a boys’ reaction. The mom of the Forest Hill student expresses anger on the issue:  “I’m sorry but EXCUSE ME? Perhaps she should have worn a different pair of jeans. But why should she have to worry about dressing a certain way to curtail a boy’s potential behavior? So, like, it’s her fault if the boy touches her because of what she was wearing?” (Solomon). It is in no way a female students’ fault if a male inappropriately reacts to what she has chosen to wear. This is where society has to teach boys to control themselves and stop blaming girls for their actions. Girls should be allowed to wear whatever they like without having to worry about males’ hormones or reactions.

Blaming and punishing girls for boys actions and reactions is not only wrong, but it also takes away from their education. Pulling girls out of class or suspending them for breaking dress code takes away their valuable class time. Lindsay states, “Many girls say that the implication of these dress codes is that schools are more concerned with the boys’ learning environment than the girls’.” Girls’ and boys’ education should be equally valued; forcing girls to miss class as a punishment  prioritizes boys’ education over girls in a way that goes unnoticed. Laura Bates commented in Time Magazine saying, “When a girl is taken out of class on a hot day for wearing a strappy top, because she is ‘distracting’ her male classmates, his education is prioritized over hers” (Hardesty). Bates’ comment clearly shows the loss of educational time for female students due to dress code violations. Schools are focusing too much on the appearance of their students and less on how they are educating them. No one should have to give up their freedom to learn because of their appearance. Many are frustrated and feel it is wrong to take away from the learning of female students. NWLC Education Fellow and report co-author, Kayla Patrick declared, “It’s outrageous that girls are losing critical class time simply for what they are wearing,…This sends a disturbing message to all students: What a girl looks like is more important than what she learns and thinks. No girl should ever have to forfeit her education because her shirt is the wrong color or she has a hole in her jeans” (Barrett).  The message sent by excusing female students from class due to a flaw in their wardrobe is what students wear is more important than their education. This is not only unfair to girls but also can cause them to fall behind in their studies creating a lesser opportunity for success. School officials shouldn’t take away females education because they have violated dress code.

The opposing side argues that men are naturally attracted to women and for that reason strict dress codes must be enforced specifically on female students. Forcing  strict dress codes on female students takes away the desire and possibility for male students to make inappropriate comments. A mom of a Notre Dame student expressed how she too believes boys can’t help themselves when girls wear clothing that shows off their bodies. She argues that female students should not wear leggings on campus because it is distracting to male students. She wrote female students begging them to stop wearing leggings. She says, “Her own sons were ‘nice guys’ but leggings were a temptation too far” (Hesse). The Notre Dame mom explains that even though she raised nice guys, her boys can’t control themselves and are tempted by girls who wear leggings. Although leggings are made to fit tight that does not in any way imply they are a temptation to boys. Globe and Mail mentions that,”Guys must learn that girls deserve respect no matter how they dress.” This statement is entirely true. Boys have to learn the lesson that they must control themselves and stop blaming girls for the actions. Enforcing strict dress codes on girls is not going to teach this lesson. The only way that lesson is going to be taught is when people stop discriminating against girls for the way they dress and start asking boys to control their actions.

School Dress codes are heavily enforced in schools nationwide. Therefore, this issue deserves national attention and debate. In the 21st century, American society can not continue to police and punish young women who simply want to dress as they wish. Women should not feel discriminated against any longer. It is time to focus on individuals and what makes them most successful through their own merits and stop focusing on how they affect other people.

 

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