“Did You Hear Them Loud Enough?” Is there a relevance of dress codes in 2021?

“In the wake of feminie based movements and social changes is there still significant relevance within the dress code policies?”  

As the sun has risen and the house is still, the mirror is greeted by a presence. Having seen two pairs of jeans and one “trendy” pair of pants, it stares back at a hoodie-clad figure. Slumped over in dissatisfaction, the gloomy entity leaves the comfort of its room. Left in the dark, the reflective surface stares at the discarded clothes scattered across the floor. Shorts, tank tops, and leggings are all items left until the presence returns for the day. Having seen all the secrets within the room, the mirror understands the emotional toll that the presence has been through. It’s self worth has been crushed under the foot of an inevitable policy of distress; dress code.

For over ten years Da Vinci Schools has offered amazing educational and social experiences for all students, families, and admin that have been welcomed on each campus. While the 2020-2021 school year was strained for most students due to COVID-19, the continuation of learning the following year was a relief. Many familiar students were excited to be back and some unknown. Although, while pursuing their education, the last six weeks have not been as easy for some of the female students. A conversion almost as old as education itself has once again arisen; discrimination within dress code. 

As summarized by the University of Middle Tennessee, “Dress codes are typically implemented by school districts and employers to promote learning, safety, and image.” Dress code policies are rules set in place to uphold professionalism and maturity amongst students. In most schools, basic dress code bans like hats, see-through tops/pants, and even open-toed shoes. While there is always a possibility these things could be prohibited for cautionary reasons, many of the people establishing these policies don’t understand the long term effects these rules carry. 

Diversity plays a huge role in the decisive process of policies and things alike. According to the National School Boards Association, over 75% of the board members across the nation are white majority. In the lower ranked categories are where multiracial and minorities are placed. Unfortunately, women are still significantly outnumbered on the school board, though their numbers are steadily increasing. This collection of people does not promote equality and by default produces biased policies. Furthermore, as documented by the NSBA as well as most people positioned on the school board are over 50 years of age. 

Neither one of these facts serve true relevance to the diversity that the majority of United States- specifically California- schools serve. The average diversity score for an American high school is 0.64. While California’s average diversity score is noticeably higher at 0.68. Based on California’s demographics alone, there are many students with minority backgrounds that aren’t correctly represented in school-based decision making. What does the white male majority have in common with a young minority woman? Well the answer is simple: Nothing. The perspective some of these over middle aged men have is setting rules that are completely out of touch with the students their rules effect. This specifically is shown within dress code policies. 

Banning clothing items and accessories such as bandanas, graphic shirts, and protective headwear such as durags is an easy way to target minority students. Targeting students mostly in the male demographic based on the way they are dressed could also be counted as profiling. The three items listed all are of importance amongst many minority’s culture. Some students carry great pride with expressing themselves and their cultures through the way they dress and accessorize. Many young students don’t aspire to dress according to one’s rules in order to gain professional acceptance. They dress visually confident to physically express their individuality and values. Having said that, these prejudiced narratives are equally targeting both genders, there are some technicalities that feed into the oversexualization of young female students. 

With the awareness of female-based movements such as “Reproductive Rights” and “Me Too,” there has been more conversation about the allowance of male hypersexualization towards women. As young women go through puberty, the natural changes to their body does not contribute to the difference in their education. Young men and women are by law required to attend the grades K-12 to better their intelligence for the remainder of their lives. Nowhere in the curriculum of American schools does it state that the way female students are dressed interferes with their learning. 

Fortunately, in most school environments, they try their best to make their students safe and feel comfortable. How can a young female student feel comfortable if they are humiliated by adults in positions of power for the way they dress? How does a female student continue to be strong and secure in themselves if they get penalized for their shirt being a little tighter than the next girl’s? How does that skew the relationship between young female students and those people in positions of authority? 

The enabling of the humiliation of style and fashion within young women is what perpetuates the enablement of sexual harassment against women of all ages. The representation that at young ages women should “dress modestly according to their body type” is what fuels and ignites the fire for the dismissive comment, “she was asking for it.” This conversation alone damages the esteem of women no matter their age or ethnicity and is drilled into their brains by the twelve years of schooling. Throughout these unethical policies, the most important members of society are left out. 

The controversy of vaccinations has been one of the most discussed topics since 2020. While divisions are rippling throughout the country of who’s being vaccinated and who is against it, many parents are left the freedom to personally decide for themselves and their children. Granted, under the federal law as of right now, all persons under 18 years of age will comply with their parents choice of vaccination status. If parents are granted the control over their children’s vaccination status, why aren’t they granted the control to what their child can or can not wear to school. Just as there aren’t any third-party groups making decisions for children’s welfare including vaccinations, the same energy should be reciprocated with dress code. 

While the conversation regarding what is and isn’t okay attire within schools will not be going away anytime soon. All parents should be more involved and heard with their concerns for the way their children choose to dress. There should not be only a certain gender or racial background dictating what’s best for children they don’t even have. All guardians should be united in the conversation of clothing and accessory allowance within school grounds. 

If we fix these injustices within the nation’s school board policies we could put an end to the enablement of victim shaming. More importantly, we could put an end to the alarming accounts of sexual harassment towards women of all ages. No woman is ever “asking for it,” and the way she dresses is not a sign for men to unwantedly invite themselves to her body. No man is gang affiliated just because he is wearing a suspicious hat or shirt. No student is any different when it comes to their education just because of the way they are dressed. And it is not an admin’s place to perpetuate profiling amongst students just because they are visually confident. 

To learn more about the effects dress code has on DVC students specifically, watch this short video on the Vitruvian Post called “Did You Hear Them Loud Enough?: Dress Code at DVC.”