New Year; New Dress Code?

The continued debate over school dress code gets tossed around every school year – in one state or another, a girl is inevitably sent to the office for a minor infraction, and the story goes national. As the new school year begins, we’re again subjected to the announcement of our dress code at Henderson. The biggest existing problem in our system is, unfortunately, the underlying sexism of its dress code. We’re told that girls cannot wear certain things because they could be a distraction to male peers and even teachers. This is innate female objectification, and the fact that teachers have ever been included in this statement is blatantly wrong.

In the ubiquitous welcome-to-school-PowerPoint, the dress code for girls was listed as “A.B.C” – abdomen; buttocks; cleavage – crossed out. For boys, this image was crossed out. The image below is the exact one used in the PowerPoint, sourced from a New York Times Article. Both male and female ‘banned’ clothing items were marked over with a cartoonish, red, “x“ symbol. The infractions listed for boys are few and far between in 2018, and they generally pertain to a comparatively small area of the male body. However, the majority of the female torso and legs are prohibited. Even though the finger-length skirt/shorts rule isn’t widely enforced in high school, it’s been enforced in our schools before then. The difference between what’s prohibited between the two school-recognized groups is marked. The larger problem, however, is how blatantly sexualized those three listed areas are, considering they’re being applied to a group of largely underage girls.

In addition to these gender-based inequalities, there is another problem – the lack of available information. Neither the PowerPoint nor the official dress code were immediately apparent on the Henderson High School webpage. One would think that if we’re being told to conform to a list of vague rules, the administration could at least provide us with the information. Without an immediate, universal source, nearly any adaptation of these rules could be applied by any authority figure, and any argument or backlash from the student in question could be easily dismissed. Our bodies are being governed by a set of rules we are not given a copy of. It’s difficult to not see the flaws in a system that apparently would allow one to wear pajamas to school, but wouldn’t allow an off-the-shoulder or cropped top.

This must change, not only because of the impact it has on our learning environment, but also because of the long term social repercussions that can occur from shaming teenage girls for their clothing and their bodies, and while the stigma seen in many schools nationwide is largely absent from our own, a fact we should count ourselves lucky for, it still exists. There should be no shaming of anyone, regardless of gender or sex, for wearing clothes they’re comfortable in.  And if that’s distracting, then we should teach our student body to value their education; instead of sexualizing their classmates.

This piece is part of an ongoing series on high school based social issues – and is entirely opinion based. This opinion is not endorsed by the administration, and is entirely student generated and researched. In the next issue – the student body on the dress code.



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