Dress Code: Is it sexualization?

Is the dress code too strict? Is it reasonable? Many students have strong opinions.


Si Griffiths, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Despite the hot weather, these girls would likely be reprimanded in a school setting for their clothes.

You’re walking to your second block class, when suddenly a teacher calls your name. You stop in your tracks and turn around. “Your shirt is too short,” says the teacher. “Cover up.” You don’t have a coat, so the teacher leads you to an office where you are given a sweatshirt worn by who-knows-how-many students before. By the time you get out, the bell has rung and you are late for class, all because your shirt wasn’t long enough to tuck into your pants. Unfortunately, this is a much-too-common phenomenon in high school hallways.

“The dress code should give space for creativity in style.” said LHS sophomore Cyrus Willis. Lorelei Little, a junior at LHS, agrees. “The code is too strict,” she said, “and for some students, it inhibits on their self-expression.” The dress code has been a very controversial topic in schools all throughout America, and though there are many different opinions on it, there is no doubt it is a popular subject.

Even in school uniforms, why are the boys allowed to cover up but girls must wear short skirts?

Sexualization, as defined by the Cambridge English Dictionary, is the act of sexualizing (the making of something sexual) someone or something. Unfortunately, the sexualization of today’s youth is a much-too-common phenomena.

The WJCC Dress Code consists of many rules, including, but not limited to: the prohibition of cropped shirts, hats and head scarves, tank tops, and any bottoms which do not reach one’s fingertips. These exact restrictions have been in place for many years, and each year students express their thoughts. One of the most controversial topics is tank/crop tops, and what I will call the “Shoulder Scandal.”

The illusive Madame X painting by John Singer Sargent.

The Shoulder Scandal has existed since the 19th century, according to an article on BlossomDIY, when the Puritan ideals became popular. A portrait of the illusive Madame X, at the time, was scandalous because her sleeve had slipped down, revealing that all-too sensual shoulder. In fact, the artist even had to repaint the beautiful portrait because of the controversy surrounding it. Despite these ideas being so old and outdated, school systems still keep the covering-your-shoulders rule in place.

Last year, I was dress-coded by a teacher I will keep anonymous, as I was wearing a tank top, outside, in the warm spring weather. This teacher had me put on a sweatshirt, which as one can imagine, was less than ideal in the heat. They also gave the reason that my bra straps were visible, which brings me to my next point on the subject.

Many female and assigned-female-at-birth students are reprimanded for the visibility of their bra straps. Schools enforce the wearing of a bra, yet are horrified when proof of such is seen. Both staff and students alike are shocked when a strap is visible, as if they didn’t know that a bra is practically a necessity in an AFAB person’s dress, as they get in more trouble for the not wearing of one.

Adding to this, there is a clear double standard between male and female students at schools when it comes to the dress code. I, along with many other students, can testify that with the uprising of the pulled-down-pants trend, there have been many male students seen with their pants pulled down to their thighs with no reprimand. While female students are getting in trouble for the sight of their shoulders and midriffs, male students walk around participating in such trends without a single person raising an eyebrow.

Despite being otherwise fully covered, this girl would be dress coded in a school setting. Any ideas why?

These dress code restrictions are, by many students, labeled as sexualization of the student body. The labeling of revealed skin as “distracting” is the assumption that skin is inherently sexual. Skin, of course, is a natural part of the human body. By the logic of the immediate sexuality of a teenager’s skin, does that mean a baby’s skin is only used for sex as well?

The dress code being so against the showing of skin, especially with female students, is essentially labeling a teenager’s skin as a sex object with the claim that is “distracts the learning environment.” While I do believe that there is a line in appropriate clothing, there is also room for lenience with what people can wear. We are all individual people, and what we wear is our business, not anyone else’s. Bodies are natural. Whether or not you’re a boy, girl, or something in between, we all have skin, shoulders, stomachs, and thighs. A common student complaint is the wonder of how shoulders “distract the boys,” but I think what should really be asked is “Why are you looking?