8 Good Reasons Your School Should Ban Dress Codes Next Semester

Over the past few years, Gurl has covered countless school dress code controversies. From plus sized girls getting kicked out of prom for uncontrollable cleavage to honor students facing expulsion for showing a sliver of shoulder, we’ve racked up countless posts about dress codes gone mad, and it’s safe to say that it’s all getting out of control. Wearing shorts in hot weather is seen as an act of defiance, rocking leggings when it’s cold out is met with slut shaming, and both are subject to over bearing discipline and scorn by school officials. And for what?

The more students are sharing their school dress code horror stories with the world via social media, the more ridiculous all these rigid rules and regulations appear. At what point do students (and even, perhaps, parents) say enough is enough? I have a bold suggestion: Ban school dress codes entirely.

Of course, perhaps there should be a rule against wearing clothes that blatantly offend a demographic or group with offensive language or imagery, but other than that? Anything goes! My high school didn’t have a school dress code, and nobody’s education suffered because of it; everyone graduated, all but a handful  went straight to college, and nobody is thinking about that one time whatsherface dared to wear a mini skirt in 10th grade…because it literally doesn’t matter. Super strict dress codes just feel like rules for the sake of rules, punishment for the sake of punishment. And that’s why you need to check out these seven reasons why your school should ban dress codes. If you agree with enough of these points, consider starting a campaign that’ll put your school’s figurative feet to the fire.

They're Sexist

Anyone who has ever been to a school with a strict school dress code knows that the rules go to extreme lengths to single out feminine clothing. Sure, maybe there's a rule about making sure your pants aren't sagging, which is definitely aimed toward boys. But girls? God forbid they show a sliver of skin, rock a skirt that's half an inch shorter than your math teacher's liking, or wear a top that reveals even a sliver of tummy. Oh, and if a boy decides to wear feminine clothing to school? All hell breaks loose, even if a guy was wearing a long sleeved floor length gown. It's not always about how much skin is showing, it's about the fact that feminine clothing is seen as inherently sexual and, thus, inappropriate.


They Body Shame Girls For The Most Harmless Reasons

The teen girl pictured was threatened with expulsion for wearing this top, and that should make you absolutely infuriated. School dress codes aimed at girls and femmes are rooted in sexist body shaming. Leggings are against the rules because they leave little to the imagination (as if skinny jeans don't). Spaghetti strap tops might reveal a bra strap, and bras are for boobs, and boobs are...bad or something. Let's not even get started on shorts and skirts: school administrators would be happier if girls didn't have legs, what with the way female students are sexualized for daring to show some leg, even on the hottest days of the year.

These dress codes teach girls at an early age that their bodies are sex objects, not just limbs, or fat, or muscle, or skin. No, they're instruments of lust, and they must be suppressed. Why? Because how will male classmates ever learn about the periodic table if they're oggling a girl's legs throughout chemistry? It's ridiculous that, instead of teaching boys to have better focus, to keep their hands to themselves, to mind their own business...we live in a society that would rather shame women into making themselves invisible in the presence of men. It's absurd.

NBC News

They're Racist

My blood absolutely boils when I find out stories about black women who are breaking school dress codes just for daring to wear their natural afro-styled hair (like the teen girl above) or rocking braids. To be frank, school dress codes are riddled in a strict sense of decorum, one which deems Eurocentric styles more acceptable than others. That's why an afro is seen as too unruly and disrputive in some schools, while hair extensions like braids--a popular style for countless black girls--are seen as ghetto. All of this, coupled with the fact that black girls are expelled at a higher rate than their peers? Yikes.

We can even skip hair for a second and discuss how racism makes strict school dress codes particularly harmful for black students. A new study has shown that adults view black girls as more sexual than white girls. That means that if a black girl and a white girl are both wearing mini skirts, you can bet that the black girl has a higher chance of getting in trouble for it, because she will be perceived as the "sluttier" one. Strict school dress codes are likely disproportionately harming young black students than anyone else.


Previous Generations Seemed To Fare Just Fine With Lax Dress Codes

I think that people forget that school dress codes had a long period of being lax AF. Sure, girls weren't even allowed to wear pants at many schools up until the 50s and early '60s. But once that changed? Oh man, the sky was the limit. I love showing the photographs above, from a 1969 LIFE Magazine feature about high school fashion. It proves that there was a time--not so long ago--when girls were able to show off everything from their thighs to their midriff without being threatened with detention or expulsion. Now, I'm sure there were some schools that were more strict than others, but for the most part? School dress codes were pretty lax for a good 30 to 40 years. WTF happened? I assure you that if you look at photos of your mom or grandmother from back in the day, you'll see them rocking outfits that would immediately get you sent to the principal's office today.

Arthur Schatz/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

They Diminish Girls' Education

"When girls show all that skin, it distracts their classmates!" You know what? Yeah, maybe Jimmy stares at Monica's leggings clad bottom when he should be staring at his math test. But do you know whose education is really going to be disrupted? Monica's, when her teacher sends her to the principal's office for wearing leggings, making her miss her test. Monica, when she wears shorts on a 90 degree day and is threatened with suspension for daring to keep cool. Monica, who planned to meet up with an SAT tutor after school, but has to serve detention instead because her tank top showed too much shoulder.

So, who's really having their education disrupted? It's definitely not Jimmy. When schools are threatening female students with expulsion because their top shows off too much clavicle, girls lose, period. Is enforcing a silly rule really worth disrupting a teenage girl's education? No.

Freaks and Geeks

Strict Rules Probably Don't Actually Help Students

While there are studies that there are benefits to making students wear school uniforms, I've yet to see a study confirming that suspending Amanda from AP Lit for wearing high waisted shorts last May improved test scores, or boosted confidence in the classroom, or made school a better place. These rules are enforced because they can be enforced, not because they actually help anyone. These strict dress codes allow teachers and school administrators to be their most power hungry selves, and it's hard to see how that actually benefits anything other than their egos.

Dazed and Confused

Schools Are Better Off Implementing Uniforms Than Operating On Ridiculous, Arbitrary Dress Codes

Uniforms aren't a bad alternative to strict school dress codes. You're probably thinking, "Uh, uniforms are a strict dress code." Sure, but at least they're easier to follow than arbitrary rules about the appropriateness of a top or how long a pair of shorts should be. Don't get me wrong, I'd rather people wear whatever they want than to be stuck in a bland button down blouse and a pair of pants all day, but at least students won't have to second guess what they're wearing or worry that the wrong teacher will see them wearing the wrong thing on the wrong day. Plus, there's less of a chance of students being competitive over who has the newest or priciest clothes, which is great for students who can't afford a whole new wardrobe every semester. Oh, and getting dressed in the morning? A hell of a lot easier.

Honestly, given how oppressive school dress codes are these days, students might as well just wear the same thing so that they're less likely to be shamed and singled out for daring to show their kneecaps.

Some Girls

Do you think high schools should ban school dress codes? Tell us in the comments!

You can follow the author, Ashley Reese, on Twitter or Instagram. Don’t worry, she doesn’t bite!

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