Slut-Shaming: School Dress Codes Are Biased Against Women

ThinkProgress recently published an article discussing how aspects of so-called "slut shaming" have been crafted into school dress codes. And it's true. For those unfamiliar with the term, it refers to the guilt placed upon women for their perceived deviation away from expected gender and sexual norms. It’s a topic that often comes up with cases of rape and sexual assault. “She was dressed in a revealing outfit, so she deserved it. She was asking for it,” is the disturbing thought process that often plays out in these instances. Reading the ThinkProgress piece made me recall my own brushes against school code, especially during elementary school.

School dress codes really are biased against women. It's no wonder boys and girls are growing up with different perceptions of themselves. For example, I attended a private, Roman Catholic school with grades PK-8 all housed in one building. From my teachers, I always heard that I needed to make sure my shirts were buttoned up to my neck. We wore tights with our uniform skirts, and goodness forbid you were caught rolling your skirt up to make it look shorter. It was a fashion choice that many of the older girls actively engaged in that the 4th and 5th grade students (like myself) imitated to be “cool,” without really grasping the implications. What I did notice was that the boys never had as many restrictions as we did. Pants not sagging below your knees? They were more or less good to go. When I gained the sense to ask why the dress code was the way it was, my mother told me it was so "the boys won’t look and get distracted." And I thought to myself, "Well, good," because I was young and still in that stage where boys had cooties. I didn’t want them looking at me or getting distracted on my behalf anyway.

But therein lies the problem—the idea that women need to take it upon themselves to cover up because it’s their responsibility alone, and not men'sresponsibility not to gawk. The ThinkProgress piece summarizes it like this:

"That approach to gender roles simply encourages our youth to assume that sexual crimes must have something to do with women’s ‘suggestive’ clothes or behavior, rather than teaching them that every individual is responsible for respecting others’ bodily autonomy.”

That isn’t to say that within a school environment, I believe students (male or female) should dress how they want with disregard for the rules. Contrary to popular belief, educational settings are essentially pre-professional settings and I do think people ought to dress with that mentality in mind. By the same token, I don’t think high school girls should be punished for wearing strapless dresses at school dances, chastised for wearing a shirt that happens to show the curve of their breasts, or forbidden from wearing leggings and yoga pants altogether. That is ridiculous and unnecessary. Women are born with breasts, butts, thighs and hips. They are natural, and technically speaking, are accumulations of fat, not sinful temptations to be rigorously censored. 

These sorts of silly dress codes are not only sexist towards women, but demeaning towards men, as if they’re incapable of seeing females as anything other than sexual objects.