The Unintended Consequences of High School Dress Codes

EVIEMost people agree that rape is a horrible crime, and most people express dissatisfaction with their high school dress codes, but not enough people recognize the connection between the two.

Keeping female students out of class because of dress code violations doesn’t just place a low value on education or limit the options available during back-to-school shopping, it encourages objectification, victim blaming and shaming, and ultimately rape culture.

Ask an administrator the reason for all of the restrictions on student dress and you will most likely get one, worn-out answer: Violations to the dress code disrupt the class environment by distracting male students.

What about the female students, who are not only being kept from class just because they had the audacity to wear leggings to school, but who are also being told that any unwanted attention they get from boys is entirely their fault and their responsibility to prevent?

There are countless problems, like this one, associated with teaching young women that any undesired male attention that they happen to attract is their responsibility. Firstly, there is the idea that men are animalistic and at the mercy of their temptations, and that women are only objects to be stared at and talked about.

The primal, uncontrollable male archetype has resulted in unfair rulings in rape cases many times before. According to the “LA Times,” a rape case regarding the sexual assault of a 5-year-old girl by an adolescent boy resulted in a shortened sentence for the accused. When the victim’s mother questioned the decision, the judge told her that the boy could not be held entirely responsible for his behavior, since “boys will be boys.”

The mistake of making excuses for offenders in rape cases is no different than the blaming of female students that occurs when male students are supposedly distracted by certain attire and therefore kept from the education that they deserve. Just as we should be telling young men not to rape, younger boys should be taught not to assume that exposed skin is there for them to stare at.

Not only is blaming women for sexual assault based on their attire sexist and inappropriate, its been proven that attire often has nothing to do with sexual assault. According to Utah State University, the majority of sexual predators can’t even recall the clothing that their victims were wearing at the time of the assault. Similarly, when a student’s mind is on something other than their class work, it probably isn’t on the exposed shoulder in front of them.

Another problem with the association of clothing or behavior and sexual assault occurs when women are deemed as ‘sluts’ or ‘whores’ based on the way that they dress or the sexual experiences that they’ve had. According to “Dallas News,” a 20-year-old man accused of raping a 14-year-old girl was granted probation with no other consequences on the grounds that the victim had been sexually active prior to the assault, and therefore had probably invited the attack.

Teaching young people that sexual experience or behavior not only lowers the value of women, but that it also holds them accountable for any unwanted sexual advances that they experience, is neither valid nor tolerable.

Some people argue that it is easier to control the clothing choices of female students than the thoughts of male students, but thoughts are not the problem in this situation. The real action that needs controlling is the inappropriate behavior that occurs in male students when certain articles of clothing are present. Students cannot be blamed for badly behaved classmates.

The ideas that it is impossible to keep boys focused when a girl’s skin is exposed, that the responsibility to keep the attention and malignant actions of male classmates is that of female students, and that clothing is an accurate judge of dignity are obviously not acceptable. So how do schools prevent these concepts from making their way into the minds of young people?

It’s simple: ditch the dress code. Instead of punishing girls for coming to school in clothes that may be appealing to male classmates, punish students who make inappropriate sexual comments or gestures toward other students, regardless of gender or apparel. Stopping inappropriate behavior and concepts at the source will not only eliminate the indirect encouragement of rape culture in schools, but also teach students that they are in a safe place, where they are held responsible for their own actions, not the actions that other students direct toward them.

The sooner the decision to revoke the dress code is made, the sooner young people will be taught the respect for others and the responsibility for themselves that they are expected to learn while in high school. The sooner that decision is made, the sooner the destruction of rape culture and sexism in ‘the real world’ may begin.

One response to “The Unintended Consequences of High School Dress Codes

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s