When high school girls turn to feminism to decry rape culture, that should be a good thing, but lately it seems more like fashionistas looking for the limelight become feministas. The problem: school dress codes.
Some dress codes are vague. Many are not and are available online. The trend is to protest rape culture that sexualizes the bodies of women and girls and to do it at one’s high school.
High schools of the 2010s have a lot more to contend with than the high schools of the 1950s. Except, there were those boys who wore muscle shirts and what used to be underwear and blue jeans and girls who wore tight pants before the benefit of lycra spandex. Girls had to learn when to wear bras and girdles. There was also that problem of women in sports that was resolved by a one-piece Lucy Bloomer influenced gym clothes.
I am glad that in most places girls and women can wear shorts and pants to high school. There are some things I wore to school that I now regret–for both style and exposure. Nothing I wore resulted in me being sent home. Coming from a poor family, I wish we had uniforms because I was never one of the cool kids and much of what I wore had either been made by my mother, my older sister (hand-me-downs) or myself.
My mother worked in the office and I remember her remarking about some of the inappropriate things that boys wore–T-shirts that objectified women.
Now the fad seems to be white girls who have plenty of money protesting by wearing something that is too short, too thin (as in spaghetti straps) or something that doesn’t provide adequate coverage.
- Cameron Boland, 17, of Fort Myers attended a school function in a spaghetti strap dress and lost the office of historian for the National Honor Society.
- Jef Rouner’s 5-year-old daughter, Katy, was forced to wear a T-shirt when he allowed to her attend school in a spaghetti strap dress.
- Macy Edgerly, 18, wore a too-short baseball shirt over leggings.
- West Side High School senior Evette Reay, 18, wore a shift dress that violated the school’s dress code.
- In Toronto, Alexi Halket of the Etobicoke School of the Arts, organized crop top day to protest sexism.
Katy was too young to write or protest herself. At 5, she is too young to read the dress code. That would have been the responsibility of her father.
A representative of the Cypress Fairbanks Independent School District issued the following statement to ABC News: “As part of district policy, parents sign the Student Handbook at the beginning of each school year. This is an acknowledgement that they have read and understand the guidelines within. Dress code is not determined by the age of the student. The teacher visited with the student about the dress code. The student had a change of clothes in her backpack and offered to change. The outfit she decided on was her choice. The parent involved has made no attempt to contact the teacher or administrators to express any concerns or ask questions regarding the dress code.”
Instead the father decided to celebrate his failure as a father by writing about the school’s unfair treatment of his daughter.
“I certainly didn’t go out and buy the dress to challenge it,” he said. “I would say that, in general, the only way a boy can violate the dress code other than wear a t-shirt with an offensive logo is by messing up their clothes. A girl can break the dress code just from buying her clothes.”
This is not true. If you read the Student Code of Conduct, it clearly requires that boys cover up as well.
- Students are not to wear clothing that is tight, loose, sagging, baggy, revealing, spaghetti-strap, backless, low cut or short.
- Pants– must be worn at the waist or upper hip and must not reveal underclothing
- Shorts and Skirts – must be fitted at the waist or upper hip, must not reveal underclothing, and must be mid-thigh in length or longer Tops, Shirts and Blouses – must not reveal underclothing, midsection, torso, back, chest, breasts or cleavage
Rouner might be surprised to know that even men (and boys) can wear spaghetti straps. He could have easily have found images by doing a web search, but it seems more likely that he’s attempting to save face by covering up a parental failure.
Rouner also fails to consider that a dress with spaghetti straps is not appropriate for a gym class and it was a gym day. A dress that is so long his daughter must, as he described it, lift the skirt up when the lawn is wet to prevent the him from getting damp, is also not a good choice for a gym day. Anyone who has worn a long skirt and run up stair or tried to catch something above or below the waist can attest to this.
In the case of Macy Edgerly, her offense it outlined on page 23 in the Orangefield High School student handbook (TX), where the dress code is outlined. It states that leggings are allowed, but only if a garment worn over them meets the “fingertip” rule. The dress, skirt — or shirt, in this case — must be “below fingertips when hands are held straight down at your side.
Edgerly’s sister, Erica said, “Why is it OK for men to run around without a shirt, but a woman in a sports bra is scandalous?” she said. “You’ve seen baseball players’ pants — they’re tight! But it’s not OK for women to wear leggings because women are seen as sexual beings. That’s such an issue. Women are seen as sexual beings and schools are reiterating that with their dress codes.”
That’s a bit disingenuous. Sports classes do make exceptions to the dress code. Certainly if the school district has swimming classes or a swim team, one would expect exceptions to be made for girls and boys.
Erica neglects to mention that while the school does not have a girls gymnastics team, the school does have girls volleyball and the shorts do not conform to the school dress code. The school’s website displayed the girls volleyball team and their shorts are definitely too short and too tight to fit within the regular dress code.
West Side High School has an online handbook.
Skirts, dresses, or other similar attire must extend at least to the top of the knee cap, from the front and from the back.
Boys are not allowed to wear earrings or body piercings during school hours or while participating in any school sponsored activity. The only piercings allowed for girls are in the ears during school hours or while participating in any school sponsored activity.
“Female students are getting taken into the office because they are wearing a shirt that resembles a sports bra, but there are males in gym class and on the back fields running around shirtless and that double standard is not OK,” Halket told the Global News. People magazine reported that male students showed up sporting crop tops to support Halket
Halket has a discussion with principal Rob Mackinnon and missed a class due to her lengthy discussion. MacKinnon said the school has a purposely vague dress code, but some students have suggested codifying what is and isn’t appropriate. Halket remained defiant, bristling at the principal’s suggestion students should be more professional.
“He said ‘this is a professional environment,’ so I said, ‘yes, but the word professional comes from profession, meaning job, and this is your job, so I understand if you have to be professional, but I have to go to school and I’m going to wear whatever makes me comfortable.”‘
Halket doesn’t understand that different environments means different things are acceptable. In a performance school, places where the rules are different are again in sports classes as well as in performance classes.
I wish someone had taken me by the hand and explained about power dressing when I was in high school. I had to wait until college when a friend suggested I read a book about women and dressing for business. That was a helpful insight, but at times, regional and company culture issues have come up. Those that quickly pick up the signs and signals will advance and I haven’t always been quick to read the signs correctly, but hopefully, high school students won’t miss time out from their free education to concern themselves with faux fashion issues. At this point, I’m convinced that uniforms are the answer to the many possible arguments about dress codes in schools and uniforms could make it easier for teachers and students to concentrate on reading, writing and science skills.