School dress codes a part of education
By Kelly Running
It’s a topic that’s been in the news a little bit lately. Should schools have dress codes and what should the rules be if a school does have a dress code?
A popular idea going around from many female students lately, is that the school dress code is outdated and depicts girls as sexual objects that need to dress in a certain way so as not to distract boys.
However, the other side of that coin, and the one I’m arguing in this column, is that dress codes at public schools, so no uniform, but rules on how to dress should remain.
While researching this topic, the majority of rules at schools are the same: no bra straps showing, no shorts/dresses shorter than the ends of your fingertips if standing straight with your arms down, and to not show a lot of cleavage.
Yes, girls should be able to dress how they like, however, school is a different atmosphere than just being at home or hanging out. School is much like a place of work for youth, and it’s a way to teach young people about business dress codes, which work much the same way.
I actually remember coming to work, last year I think it was, dressed for Boogie Fest, so like a biker with a bandana on, I think my jeans were ripped, but when I walked in my boss looked at me like “Oh, heck no.” She didn’t have to say a word for me to know what she was thinking, so I just said, “It’s dress like a biker day for Boogie Fest.”
She smiled and laughed, explaining she had forgotten what day it was. She liked that I had gotten into the spirit to cover the event, but had initially felt it was inappropriate dress for a regular day, which it would have been.
School dress codes run the same way and are meant to teach youth that there are certain ways they will be expected to dress. I personally dress very casually to work, however, I’m not going to wear a dress to take pictures at a rodeo on a long weekend. So dressing practically, in jeans (no holes) and that, is more appropriate. If I’m covering something a little dressier, I do dress appropriately.
School dress codes should actually be expanded for this reason to include no sweat pants unless it’s part of your sports uniform, dressing like a team before heading to the big game or tournament, but it’s not everyday wear.
While looking into the dress code as well, it doesn’t say girls have to dress a certain way it just says no shorts, shorter than this, no crop tops, etc… Which we automatically think is directed to girls. Yet, I found an argument from a guy online, that I also think makes sense.
Paraphrasing him, he wrote that he had worn a crop top to school. Instantly he became the centre of attention and was a distraction to other students and to teachers. He was eventually told to either change or he would be sent home. So, the rules apply to guys as well, they’re not just “woe is me because I’m a girl” rules, they do apply to everyone, it just so happens most guys don’t wear clothing of that nature as a usual occurrence.
The hat rule is one that typically applies to mostly guys. Someone explained that in a school they had been to, hats were allowed in the hallways, but not during class. In class you could write notes on the brim or fall asleep with your face covered, there are reasons for not wearing them in class. But they were allowed to wear them in the hallway, initially he couldn’t put his finger on why it looked “redneck” but came to realize it was because kids were wearing hats.
Hats too aren’t acceptable everyday wear in most schools because school is a place of learning and the dress code includes learning how to dress appropriately once graduated and looking for a job.
Give students credit when it comes to dress codes
With the school year underway across Canada, the age-old argument regarding the rules of student dress codes has predictably resurfaced-and fortunately, not locally-with a new twist. That is, do the intentions behind school dress codes insult both female and male students?
I think they do. And while I'm not arguing for the abolition of dress codes, I think the rules need to be re-examined regarding the way they are created and enforced.
The arguments against: spaghetti straps, midriff-baring tops, short-shorts and skirt lengths (complete with measurable guidelines) refer to female fashion. And depending on trends, male dress code restrictions usually address clothing choices that display signs of disrespect-such as offensive messages on T-shirts or wearing baseball caps while in class-rather than how revealing an item of clothing is (with the possible exception of low-hanging pants...).
While dress codes are meant to keep visual distractions at bay-and to keep the focus on learning-in schools, I would respectfully argue that they at worst, teach students very little, and at best, treat young adults like children, instead of allowing them to become thinking, independent adults.
The rules for girls paint them only as possible distractions; while their male classmates are viewed as incapable of seeing their female counterparts as anything but objects.
Ironically, the crackdown on female fashion isn't strictly dependent on how much skin is showing. In the 1950s, the dress codes of many North American schools outlawed jeans for girls. Skirts were seen as more ladylike, even though they revealed more of a young woman's leg than jeans.
However, I'm not arguing in favour of a Miley Cyrus-inspired free-for-all in the closets and classrooms of our country's high-schoolers. Courtesy, common sense and respect for oneself and others should certainly dictate a student's choice of classroom attire, whether one is male or female.
What I am saying is that having been fortunate enough to meet a lot of high school students via my job, I believe that most of them are more than capable of making appropriate choices regarding what they will wear and why they will wear it.
To treat young women as nothing more than unthinking, unwitting distractions and young men as aggressors who see their female classmates only as objects is unfair to students of both genders. The underlying message seems to come from a place of fear and mistrust, and places students of both genders in narrow, limiting and frankly, insulting roles.
Instead of sending such a negative message to these young adults, dress code rules and the reinforcement of these rules should give them credit for the character, intelligence and common sense that most of them possess.
The majority of the students I've been fortunate enough to meet are people of character, compassion and intelligence. Like most of us, if they make a mistake, they will do their best to rectify it, learn from it, and move on. School dress codes should reflect this.
However, don't get me started on Miley Cyrus...