Sexism and School Dress Codes

October 21 is Unity Day!
October 20, 2015
The Truth
December 11, 2015

Sexism and School Dress Codes

In regards to the implementation of dress codes in schools, I see it negatively affecting women by openly or covertly sending the message to young girls that their manner of dress is responsible for the actions of others. However, it is not a lack of female modesty, but a sense of male entitlement that leads to sexual violence. The idea that a woman can change a man’s behavior by changing her clothes is disconcerting and has been proven false numerous times. A woman does not avoid sexual violence, or the sexualization of her body by adding an inch to her inseam or strap width. And though men are the individuals committing acts of objectification and sexualization towards the female body, women are the ones who suffer. Through the implementation of a dress code, women are constantly told that they are responsible for controlling men’s actions; while men remain free of accountability. Women are being shamed into hiding their bodies because their flesh and bones are “provoking” to men; but even in modest clothing, men are going to be continuously viewing women in a sexualized manner; it is human nature. What is not human nature, however, is the idea that men biologically cannot control their actions, and therefore women must adapt to fulfil the gratification of men. A woman’s body is not dangerous; it will not cause harm, nor will it cause men to make poor decisions. If a man chooses to speak or act in an inappropriate manner it is simply because he chose to make that decision. He needs to be the individual punished for immaturity and disrespect.

Dress codes tend to amplify a broader societal expectation: that women are the ones who need to protect themselves from unwanted attention and that those wearing what could be considered as provocative clothing are “asking for” a response. There is a toxic culture being built up through dress codes where girls are receiving very clear messages that male behavior and male entitlement to their bodies is socially acceptable, and they [girls] will suffer consequences on behalf of men. This mentality of excusing men’s actions and condemning womens’ leads to slut shaming and victim blaming in situations of sexual violence. Too often, the sexual violence a woman faces is discredited due to her manner of dress. One of the first questions a victim is faced with when revealing her personal experience is “Well, what were you wearing?” as if her response holds merit regarding the justification of what happened to her. No female should ever be held accountable for the violence someone else perpetrated against her. And there is nothing a girl can wear, or not wear, that holds her as deserving of rape or sexual assault. As a society, we need to start noticing the correlation between dress codes and male entitlement and find a way to administer dress codes in a way that does not promote sexism and violence against women.

– Madison Bogard


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