In middle school, the dress code never seemed important to me. As a boy, I always had many options of clothes to wear, so a dress code never really applied to me and I was never afraid of being “Prunked” - the term everyone used to describe being caught by the vice principal, Mrs. Prunk. It was and is a different story for girls though, and recently, my sister Charlie’s experience made me question not only whether or not the dress code is right, but also whether the dress code is especially unfair to girls.
The dress code at my old middle school lays out the requirements for certain clothing, especially when the weather is warm. The dress code states that shorts that are worn must approach the knee or be mid-thigh or lower. Halter tops and spaghetti straps are not permitted. Tank tops must have straps that are two inches wide. Any pants worn must not have excessive holes or rips in them. Clothing that has a picture or words about drugs, violence or alcohol is also not allowed because it is inappropriate for school. Many coed and all boy or all girl schools and camps have dress codes. A benefit of having a dress code is that there are: less distractions. When kids dress mostly the same, everybody can concentrate because nobody stands out. Also, if no revealing clothing is allowed, then kids will not spend time staring at who is wearing the revealing clothing. Kids may also be less competitive if they all have to wear the same things because they will not try to outdo each other, such as who has the most expensive sneakers or the trendiest brands. When everyone is dressed the same, everyone is seemingly equally.
Many girls have to wear long pants all year because they can’t wear cut off shorts or skirts. Although girls also like to wear tank tops, unless they are 2 inches in width they can’t wear them. None of these sort of rules apply to boys because most of them wear long athletic shorts and rarely wear tank tops. When girls are “caught” wearing clothes that are believed to violate the dress code policy, they are sent to the vice principal’s office where, in some cases, they are told to turn around, bend over and stick their arms out. Parents are called and alternative clothing is requested to be brought to school. More often than not, girls go through a higher level of inspection than boys and the way they are judged seems inappropriate.
My sister Charlie is a very conscientious student who cares a lot about succeeding at school. She doesn’t like to draw attention to herself. She is also a rule follower and having two older sisters, is well aware of the dress code, but she is also very fashionable and dresses in the current trends. She is very careful that what she wears follows the guidelines. One day, she was sent to the vice principal’s office to be “inspected” and they told her that her shorts were too short. We thought that they were mid-thigh. Charlie and my parents were surprised that she was called out at all and wrote an email objecting to it, since my mom thought to herself that on that particular day, Charlie’s outfit adhered to all the rules.
Charlie’s experience made me question whether the dress code policy was fair to girls. If one of the reasons why there is a dress code is because revealing or short skirts are distracting, doesn’t that in some way draw more attention to girls? Why should it be the problem of the girl wearing the clothing and not the person who is distracted by it? Shouldn’t girls have the right to wear what they want? Besides, these girls are at most 13-14 years old. My sister was 11 when she was “Prunked”. At that age many girls wouldn’t even understand why the school would consider certain outfits distracting. What are the schools teaching girls at such a young age? That they shouldn’t be free to wear what they want and express their ideas? That they deserve whatever they get because of what they are wearing? Shouldn’t it be like freedom of speech? The trend and styles nowadays is also ripped clothing. How are girls supposed to feel good about themselves and on trend, if they cannot wear the latest styles? Clothes and fashion have a direct impact on making someone feel good. There is a reason why the styles of early America have come and gone. It would be impractical for the dress code not to come up with the times.
I now question whether or not the dress code is fair and modern, particularly to girls. As a boy, I took the dress code in stride because it didn’t affect me, but as I witness my younger sister struggling with it on a daily basis I wonder whether it treats boys and girls equally. The next time I encounter a rule, whether or not it directly applies to me, I will stop and think how it may affect others. We should be more critical before blindly following a rule that may not only be impractical but may also be unfair.