“I’m Sorry, Are My Shoulders Distracting You?”

Since 1969, dress codes have been a focal point among schools around the world. Administration deciding what students can wear and cannot wear. Female students are often “dress-coded” if their skirts/shorts aren’t at a finger-tips length. Off-the-shoulder tops and spaghetti strapped tops are frowned upon due to “excessive” skin exposure. Although these dress codes are set in place for both male and female students, in most cases, it seems to be that the rules inforced are aimed more towards the female students.

After the momentous Tinker vs. Des Moines Independent School District case, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the school district deciding that schools may limit student expression if there is a legitimate concern that such expression will be disruptive to the learning environment or violate the rights of others. The case involved three students who were suspended from their school because they each chose to wear black armbands to school in protest of the Vietnam War. This case consequently led to the creation of the extremely sexist dress codes seen in today’s school systems.

Since then, dress codes have become a usual rule that must be followed by students at most schools in the country, but many young women struggle to follow the strict, womanizing dress codes that are set in place.

In 2014, close to a dozen young women at Bingham High School in Utah were informed that they would not be allowed to attend their high school homecoming dance upon arrival because the administration had deemed that they were showing “too much skin”. Although students were informed of the dress code weeks before the dance, which stated that dresses should cover the chest and back at the top of the armpit, and hemlines shouldn’t rise higher than midthigh when sitting, it is almost impossible to find dresses that meet within these requirements.

More recently in 2018, Marcus High School in Flower Mound, Texas received an abundance of backlash from not only students but also parents after reportedly showing students a dress-code violation video that mainly focused on female students’ school dress code violations. It is so sad that although both genders violate school dress codes, that many schools mainly focus on the female students’ violations over the males’. In most cases, males get dress coded for inappropriate mobilia on their t-shirts, but not for their sagging pants that are revealing their underwear.

When schools enforce dress codes that target female students, enforcing how much leg, chest, stomach, and shoulder can be shown naturally creates a body-shaming environment that surrounds the young women simply trying to figure out who they are. In today’s society, it is practically impossible to find shorts/skirts that reach the knee and dresses that cover as much skin as wanted.

Telling young women that they are revealing too much of their chests or shoulders and it is becoming distracting to fellow male students is considered our fault, not theirs. As women, we cannot control where the male gaze wonders or views as sexual visual pleasure. Instead, maybe schools should teach male students how to respect women instead of enforcing a sexist dress code.