Sexism in Dress codes

Toni Gifford, Writer

Waking up in the morning as a female student, you often look in the mirror and wonder,
“Could I be dress coded for this?” Even if there is a mere chance of the answer being yes,
changing is the ultimate result. Preventing that embarrassment and shame of being sent home for
an outfit you may have felt confident in. Alyssa Alexander, 2019 Vice President of the senior
class, in her interview, answered with the following statements to the preceding questions:

“I choose not to break the dress code for the most part, what I wear inside and outside of school
is drastically different…I choose not to wear them at school because I know that my body type
has been targeted through other people even though I haven’t technically had the issue.”

“Yeah I definitely wouldn’t wear things to school because I know and I don’t want to go through
the embarrassment.”

“Yeah, yeah I do feel like my body type is targeted more rather than someone who has a slimer
figure than I do.”

What drives Alyssa’s fear? The Woodbridge Senior High School handbook has not one, not two,
but five policies that specifically target female students; and they are as follows:
6. Garments that do not meet the fingertip rule
7. Sheer garments
9. Garments that expose midriff
10. Garments which are too revealing, expose undergarments, are excessively tight and
form-fitting or which have very low necklines or do not meet fingertip rule guidelines
12. Tops with over sized arm openings, strapless tops, tube tops, tops with spaghetti straps, tank
tops, racer back tops. If sleeveless, the shoulder must be covered.

Rules like these over sexualize young female bodies above keeping their attire strictly
appropriate. “Garments that are too revealing.” What defines “too revealing,” and who dictates
it? There is no set definition, leaving the policies justifiable enforcement up to the interpretation
and opinion of the on enforcing the policy. Although there is a level of appropriateness that high
school attire should be held up to, simply anything that slightly accentuates the female body is
met with embarrassment of being alienated in front of your peers and covered up to hide
everything. Is fear really the emotion schools want young female students to feel when getting
dressed in the morning for the day? Fear, fear of being scrutinized in front of peers, in front of friends, the embarrassment can be scaring. For what in fact? Wearing a shirt that accentuates the
bodies we have and have no way of changing? For what reason? That it is “distracting or causes
a disruption in class?” On the contrary, a shirt is far less of a disruption in the classroom than the
phones used by students to actually distract themselves from instruction.

The cell phone policy at Woodbridge Senior High school only permits its use in-between
classes and during lunch. However, cell phones are consistently used as a distraction in class and
often lead to conflict between the teachers and students, resulting in harsher restrictions and
referrals written. The enforcement of the no-cell phone policy is to legitimately reduce/ restrict
the distractions in class that ultimately inhibit learning. However, the dress code policy is
enforced under the same implications of reduced disruptions in the classroom environment.
Which of these actually restricts students learning? A shirt or skirt is far less likely to impact
learning, even in the slightest, compared to ear buds on blast and snapchat. Yet it is the dress
code policies that are met with alienation and shame in front of peers under the implication that
they are just as much as a distraction as devices used to actually distract themselves in the
classroom environment.

Wearing a t-shirt and yoga pants was considered breaking the dress code and was harshly
enforcement in the 2016-2017 school year . Now, in the 2018-2019 school year, teachers of all
departments can be seen wearing the same attire many young girls were sent home for wearing
not too long. What message does this send? Teachers and staff are meant to set an example for
students to follow and display that the rules apply to them too! This shift in what is considered to
be appropriate and professional restricts female students attire simply by the hypocritical opinion
of those who we are supposed to look up to and respect. A female student can have five dress
code rules that apply to her/ them, but apparently not to teachers who deem when it becomes
appropriate and professional. This hypocritical effect of sexist dress codes that target females,
attire is only appropriate for school when those who enforce the dress code deem it to be
appropriate for themselves. This ideology has yet to be applied to male students , who have only
a couple of policies that loosely target them; which then are mostly ignored or at most, met with
a slap on the wrist.

8.Trench coats/coats exceeding jacket length
11. Jewelry or other items which could be regarded or used as a weapon (i.e., belt buckles that
conceal weapons, studded belts or collars, large rings, etc.)

“Yes, the dress code is definitely sexist towards girls,” says Marques Ventura, a senior, when
asked for his thoughts on the issue of sexist tendencies in the school dress code.

“I bet you nine times out of ten, I can come in with a penny and a teacher wouldn’t bat an eye;
but if a female did, it would be an issue. There are guys that are not wearing fingertip length
shorts, take me for example, and are still not getting dress coded as opposed to females.”
It seems that even from a male perspective as a student, female students a target when it comes
to school dress codes. While female student violations result in a call home for skirt not
fingertip- length, male students are simply told to pull up their pants while the entirety of their
undergarments are hanging out of their pants. To which afterward are immediately adjusted to
their original exposure with no recognition. Although these two policies do target male students,
they both are policies against violence and articles of clothing, rather than the five dress code
policies that target female students for their physical bodies. While male students are restricted
from wearing clothing because they are associated with violence, female students are restricted
from wearing attire that accentuates the bodies they are born with and are in for the rest of their
lives. What message does this send to the young adults in a school environment? That young
men are more entitled to their own bodies than young women are? This sexism in dress codes is
what leads to the decay of self-confidence and self-love for young women; it tells them that even
a slight exposure of their bodies will be met with shame. This ideology is what leads to the male
mentality that it is appropriate or even acceptable to go shirtless to a football game on school
grounds. How will this affect the image young women will have for themselves later on in their
future years of school and adulthood? Not the problem of the high school, I suppose this is the
perspective chosen when enforcing policies like these.

High school is where thousands of students will spend majority of their lives for four years, and
in those years students are surrounded by their peers and teachers/staff they are meant to respect
and look up to. A sexist dress code impacts their experience and the memories of high school
that they keep with us forever. Memories that can be much more pleasant without the
remembrance of being shamed in front of our peers for even daring to have breasts. Those of
which hardly cause a “distraction,” ( the reason often given for covering up young womens
breasts) compared to the cellphones that are actually often used as a distraction in the classroom.
The effect of a sexist dress code? Fear for females. Entitlement for males.

This article was read by Principal Abney and by the Administration team at Woodbridge Senior
High School. After meeting with Mrs.Abney about the article having been taken down, the
author of the article was brought to an administrator meeting to discuss the contents of the article
and the actions that could be taken to correct some of the behavior called out in the work. After
the discussion of some possible changes in the ethics of the school pertaining to the enforcement
of the dress code, the writer was inducted into the PWCS Code of Behavior Committee, in hopes
of further, more countywide, development of the the code behavior.