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The Problem with Dress Coding

by Freya Constable

Dress codes have become normality in many schools around the world, in response to the removal of school uniforms. Such regulations may seem like they are providing more freedom for students. However, that is not always the case as many students feel that it can be too restrictive. Not only does it infringe on the way that students express themselves, but it can also criminalize males and sexualise females. Even though such codes have been implemented since the beginning of their schooling years, students and especially girls still find it extremely difficult to navigate. 

The point that certain clothing items “distract others” should not be put to blame on those simply expressing their style. If someone is distracted, that should be their problem. The point that it is “taking away from other student’s learning” has the same provocations. Taking a student out of class to have a lecture, to find another item of clothing to cover up or to send them home is what really disturbs the class’s learning. 

When a student is wearing a crop top or jeans with a rip above the knee, why must we deem that as ‘inappropriate’? Especially during younger years, such as in primary school, it can have a greatly negative impact on how someone views themselves and their decisions. Instead of teaching kids to ‘not wear this’ and ‘not wear that’, we should educate other’s to respect all bodies and the clothes they bear. 

Even with the same codes, many students see that when boys have broken such code, they are not brought up about it as much as girls are. The use of social media has allowed students who feel that the dress codes are unfair and sexist, to come together to bring up the issue and have conversations. It allows them to spread the message so that more action can be taken. For example, it has sparked a movement of school walkouts, petitions and protests. Such protests criticize schools for their sexist dress codes and for blaming and body-shaming girls. 

Transgender and gender non-conforming students have also had their share of incidents with the dress codes. Many cases have seen such students having to change into a separate set of clothes that fits biologically given sex. Male students who wear more feminine clothing choices or accessories also get heavily criticized.

Not only are many dress codes an infringement on the way students express themselves, but it is also completely targeted.