Every day students everywhere wake up and go to school where they are taught important values about the world and about society. In school, we learn valuable lessons in class, such as effectively working in a group, working hard to get into a good college and, of course, the dangers of students wearing shoulder-revealing clothing in the classroom environment.
This assertion may seem rabble-rousing, but the sad fact is that this claim is not over exaggerated at all. And female students face the worst of it. Schools around the nation have sent and continued to send messages that girls’ bodies are a dangerous distraction and that they should be chastised for the harassment and jeering that they receive.
Recent data shows that in the past five years at Center Grove High School the number of discipline referrals for dress code was vastly different between males and females. Only 49 men were disciplined for dress code violations in the past five years, while an alarming 288 women were disciplined in the same time span–a staggering 142 percent difference.
“I have seen boys wearing jorts that obviously aren’t fingertip length, but they never get dress coded,” junior Bailee Leathers said. “I don’t have a problem with “jorts”, its just the idea that they can get away with breaking dress code because they are guys.”
Schools throughout the nation have put bans on yoga pants, leggings, skirts and tank tops. Schools have even pulled female students out of class because their collarbones were too revealing. According to TIME magazine, a UK school plans to ban skirts all together.
But what is the main purpose of dress code? Why does it seem to affect women more than it does men?
“The dress code is to make sure that students are dressed appropriately so they won’t cause a distraction,” Deborah Bellian, an administrative assistant, said. “If it were a girl, especially, it would be a distraction to a boy because of hormones.”
Many schools have had similar responses concerning the dress code. On numerous occasions, girls are told that their attire is too “sexualized” or “provocative” and that it may excite male classmates or cause male classmates to harm or intimidate them.
“During my freshman year of high school, I still remember what a teacher said to me when I wore leggings to class,” junior Mckenzie French said.‘”Do you really want boys to look at you like that?’ When she asked me that question, I felt guilty and ashamed for something as simple as wearing leggings for comfort.”
This sends a serious message to not only students but also to society. It teaches children and the world, in general, that it is conventional for women to be objectified and sexualized and that it is acceptable male behavior to harass and intimidate women, that the victim is partially at fault.
This mentality in high school carries on to colleges where one in five women are sexually assaulted. According to a study from WFYI, Indiana ranks second worst in the nation in rape of high school girls.
“A major cause is a lack of education,” says IUPUI professor John Parrish-Sprowl, who led a study on the underreporting of sexual assault in Indiana. “The state can’t rely on that education to happen solely at home.”
Many shrug off dress code inequalities as trivial or unimportant, but it creates great problems within society. By pulling girls out of class because they are too distracting to a male student’s education, one is insinuating that a boy’s education is more important than a girl’s. It also creates a world in which women are seen more for their bodies than their character or intellect.
In a world that punishes the victim of crude comments and harassment rather than the culprit, sexual violence will continue to become more rampant and destroy more lives in the future.