My Eyes Are Up Here

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Written by: Narrisa Hampton, Reporter

Feminism at high school doesn’t stop with just equal representation or equal opportunity. There is another issue that needs to be addressed; sexism in the dress code. From the systematic objectification to the implication of these rules, teen girls ages 14-18 are being oversexualized in their learning environment. Arguably, these rules have been proven to not solve any major distraction-related issues as they only further distract students by pulling them out of classes and disrupting valuable time. They only further perpetuate a victim-blaming mindset onto young students. 

The systematic sexism stems from the dress code rules. As summer gets closer, students start to dress to fit the weather comfortably. Muscle T-shirts, tight compression shirts and sagging pants, frequently worn by male students, are not banned nor addressed in the handbook. On the other hand, short shorts/skirts, spaghetti strap tank tops and open back/halter tops worn by female students are banned, according to the handbook. Other trends, seen as ‘risky’ like fishnets and plaid skirts, are coming back into the alternative scene popularized by Pinterest and TikTok. The school forces students to change or punishes them by detention if seen wearing popular trends, yet continues to say, “As the styles of dress and grooming change, so will the items that are and are not appropriate for school,” according to the 2020-2021 Student Handbook. The unfair and gender-biased rules are an issue long overdue for a change. This teaches youth that girls are ‘asking for attention’ and are responsible for a boy’s ability to keep his eyes and hands to himself. Our current school’s dress code gives the idea to children that women should not ‘invite’ unwanted males’ attention with their outfits. As stated in the 2020-2021 Student handbook, ‘Many of the extremes in dress can cause embarrassment to other students and staff’. To change this mindset, the punishment and ‘embarrassment’ should not be placed onto the child wearing shorts or tank tops, but the staff or students who can’t seem to focus around them. 

Five teachers were asked about the rules outlined in the student handbook about dress code and all five either did not have a guess or answered incorrectly. Four teachers stated they were unaware of the current dress code policy all together and three teachers failed to identify what clothing items were currently prohibited. The staff has not been properly educated on the dress code, and therefore can’t enforce it properly. Lack of distinction in rules leaves it up to teachers’ opinion, unfair and biased implications that single out students and furthers the idea of clothing on teenagers being a distraction. 

Dress code was established as a way to teach young adults how to dress professionally and keep dress appropriate to an educational setting. Rather than promoting professional dress to youth, the dress code depends on how obvious or showy a minor’s skin is to faculty and peers. Although this may be a disturbance to wandering and inappropriate eyes, it is perfectly within reason for a student to wear tank tops or shorts if that’s what makes them feel comfortable while learning. Students don’t and shouldn’t need to give any more of a reason to how they dress. It should not matter whether it’s 90 degrees or freezing, a student dressing the way they feel comfortable representing themself does not give staff any more right to call childrens’ bodies a distraction. 

A solution to prevent a victim-blaming mindset early on is to make an equal dress code with measurable standards. As a replacement to vague lists of women’s clothing, the school handbook should keep the rules on jewelry used as weapons, looking neat and well-groomed and clothing that shows or advertised things already banned from a school setting. This alternative removes the idea that women’s skin or body is a disturbance, removes the vague rules that let staff have a judgment on what is classified as inappropriate and opens up the opportunity for students to not feel embarrassed or objectified unfairly by a sexist handbook.