EDITORIAL: Dress code reminds girls they live in man’s world

Adrianna Miller, Features Editor

Junior Emma Ramos was leaving the cafeteria alongside a large group of friends when she felt someone tap her arm. She glanced up and noticed it was an AP. Because there was no warning beforehand, Ramos was confused. She immediately asked what was wrong. The AP simply mouthed the dreaded phrase “dress code.” 

Although outsiders would suggest students in secondary schools have more control in their choice of clothing, the students themselves beg to differ. Rather than being able to individually express themselves, it would appear that girls specifically must cover certain areas of their bodies while the boys must not. This poses the question of whether girls are forced to cover up to protect their dignity, or the dignity of “hormonal” teenage boys. 

In 1969 the first dress code law was enacted by the U.S Supreme Court from the Tinker vs. Des Moines Independent School District. Four years prior, a group of students in Des Moines decided to wear black armbands in protest of the Vietnam War. 

Administration learned of this plan and created a policy that stated any student wearing an armband would have to remove it, and if they refused then they would face suspension. Students Mary Beth Tinker and Christopher Eckhardt wore black armbands and were sent home. The following day, another student did the same and also received the same punishment.

The students decided to sue the school district for violating their right to freedom of speech and expression. The District Court sided with the school, and believed their actions were reasonable in order to keep a disciplined environment. Later the U.S of Appeals of the Eighth Circuit validated the District Court’s decision. 

According to FindLaw, “Today, most states have laws that allow school boards to make dress code rules for students within their district to promote a safe, disciplined school environment, prevent interference with schoolwork and discipline, and to encourage uniformity of student dress.”

However, instead of promoting a “safe and disciplined environment” for students, the dress code policies today seem to instead promote sexism and insecurities. Students around the globe have conveyed their disapproval of these policies through protests, surveys, and marches.

In October 2020, 16-year-old Zachary Paulin decided to protest dress codes he considered to be sexist at his Gatineau Que., high school. He told about 30 other friends of his plans to wear a skirt to school later that week. When he arrived at school, he noticed that 100 other male classmates were wearing skirts as well. This protest was shared on social media in which it reached a plethora of users. Many other students worldwide commended the efforts of these young boys. This protest even inspired other male students to stand up in solidarity with their female classmates as well. 

As stated in CBC News, “…boys at a number of Montreal-schools wore skirts to school saying policies requiring skirts to be maximum of 10 centimeters above the knee was sexist and unfair. There are no equivalent restrictions on clothing generally worn by boys such as shorts.”

As a result of these protests, many school administrators have and continue to meet with students in hopes to quell any sort of sexism or discrimination. 

Unlike other schools attempting to make a change for the well-being of their students, PBC continues to defend the dress code policy.  

We hold all male, female and non-binary students to the same standards,” noted AP Samantha Butler.

However, plenty of students plead the contrary. A survey of 100 students was conducted in which a selective amount of students were asked if and why they thought the dress code was sexist. From that representative survey 78 percent of students agreed the dress policies at PBC were sexist, while 22 percent disagreed. 

“I don’t think the school dress code is particularly sexist as the school is attempting to maintain a sense of modesty by not allowing certain types of clothing worn by women,” explained junior Christina Pappach. “Women are most likely to wear revealing clothes to school compared to men which is probably the reason that people think it is sexist.”

Other students used the argument that the school’s dress code is “perfect the way it is” because they feel that the school is trying to prepare its students for their future. Naturally, one would not wear ripped jeans or a cropped top in a business environment because there is a set level of professionalism. That level is what the school is trying to engrave in their students.

While some do respect and thank the school for their commitment to elevate the school, 78 percent of students are still hoping that administrators will make a change to their questionable ways.

“I know a lot of girls who have been dress coded for wearing skirts, dresses, or shorts that were too short so the school deemed it as distracting,” said junior Griffin Dale. “The guys can come in wearing shorter shorts than girls and the administration will look at them and say nothing, and that is why I think that it is sexist.”

Dale is obviously not alone because many individuals who voted used that as their reasoning in agreement. The majority of students either gave their own experiences or what they have witnessed on campus when girls get called on dress code violations while boys walked by.  

“I feel that even the female administrators on campus have it instilled in their minds to prevent girls from expressing their fashion opinions in order to protect the boys, and make sure the boys are not distracted,” explained senior Zion Jackson. “Instead they should attack the root of the problem: making sure that boys learn women are not sexual objects.”

As much as the administration may claim that they hold everyone to the same standards, their actions seem to be speaking louder than their words.  At least 15 of the high schoolers in our poll explained how they were told to change by an AP for displaying shoulders, while boys were walking around with muscle-showing T-shirts. 

As many have already pointed out, the main issue is the administration sexualizing students. There is absolutely nothing sexual about shoulders. Everyone has them, and they are not even sexual body parts–they are bones. While there are some men out there who get turned on by shoulders, that is not a woman’s problem. Students believe that administration should not be teaching girls to hide their body head-to-toe in order to protect themselves from a hormonal teenage boy. 

Perhaps our focus should be less on the girls’ fashion choices and more on the boys’ lack of respect towards women. 

“It is not even about what someone wears,” said a sophomore who chose not to use her name for fear of retaliation. “I pretty much wear bigger sweatpants and sweatshirts everyday, and my body is rather curvy. I go to such an extent to cover it up. Yet, I have had guys slap my butt, or put their hands on me when I did not ask for that. The same things happen to my friends who also wear bigger clothing as well.”

Furthermore, when the administration decides to only call out their female students, it causes them to feel insecure about their bodies which American culture continues to define and belittle. But some girls just naturally are curvy.  No matter how much they attempt to cover it up, their shapes will still be seen.  Ask any female that has tried on a dress with a friend.  Depending on the size of the girl, the dress is going to look different, so it is also not fair to curvier girls that they have to change. 

Forcing a shapely girl to change just increases her insecurities. She cannot control how large her breasts or curves are. One anonymous student explained that she wants to wear similar things to girls who are skinny, yet her curves are stopping her. Because of this, she feels insecure and disgusted about her body.  And when that same girl gets on the body positivity bandwagon being broadcasted over social media as well as in school and she decides to wear what makes her feel confident, she is told by a school administrator to change.  Dress codes seem a little contradictory when they force girls to change clothing just because it shows too much and will distract the boys.  

“I got called out about my skirt and I felt so insecure about it,” explained junior Emily Plank. “It was mid-thigh, and another girl had a mid-thigh skirt but she did not get called out. It does not matter what I do shirts and bottoms will not fit me the same as a skinnier girl. I cannot control that, yet I am being punished.”

Similarly to the principals in Montreal schools working with their students to overcome these discriminatory issues, PBC students are counting on their principal and his team to do the same.

To find out more information on the District’s dress code policies, check out the following link: