Opinion: Dress code sends wrong message


Public school dress codes have been a topic of controversy over the past couple of years. They have been accused of disproportionately targeting girls and young women, as the number of rules regarding what males can wear is considerably smaller than the number of rules regarding what females can wear.

School dress codes have been considered by many to help foster a “rape culture” in schools, an environment in which the consensus is that girls should avoid rape by changing how they act, rather than authorities targeting would-be sexual abusers.

In the Gloucester High School Compass, the dress code prohibits 12 different types of clothing. 6 of those articles of clothing are typically female-exclusive attire, while another 5 are typically gender neutral. 1 out of the 12 listed items, the “muscle shirts” can be considered male-exclusive.

Approximately 50 percent of the student body at GHS are males, yet only 8 percent of the dress code exclusively and explicitly affects them. The fact that the dress code is so targeted towards the young women in our school reflects a disturbing undercurrent of misogyny in our school system and society.

The disturbing message that a controlling dress code sends is that young women must change the way they act and dress to shield themselves from unwanted attention.

The message that girls must alter their behavior to allow men to feel comfortable clearly shows girls, and young women, that their education takes a backseat to the comfort of privileged men.

By telling young women to cover up shoulders and bra straps and stomachs, you are showing them that their bodies will always be sexualized by authorities and those in control. By telling young women to hide their bodily features, you are implying that they should hide from the unwanted attention of predatory men and allow their more revealed peers to be harassed, scrutinized, and abused.

Instead of forcing girls and women to cover body parts that are unnecessarily sexualized, we should teach men and boys to keep their eyes and hands to themselves. Women are disproportionately affected by a dress code that promotes a disturbing undercurrent of misogyny in our school.

If females are truly equal with males, then the dress code should be lightened so that girls can feel comfortable and not have their freedom of expression restricted.