Sunday, September 14, 2014

Dress Codes and Shaming

When I was in high school, only the girls had a uniform. The boys had a flexible dress code that forbade jeans and sneakers, but everything else was allowed as long as you could make a case that those were indeed "dress pants" and "dress shoes."

Whenever we tried to challenge the uniform, we were always met with "girls need it more." (Because we're shallow and superficial) and we might dress to sexy and "distract the boys." (Because our education was essentially meaningless and we'd probably just slut up the joint given the freedom to wear our own clothes.)

The uniform itself didn't bother me, but the dsiparity between what was appropriate for boys and what was appropriate for girls still does.  I wish the boys had been assigned a uniform too. At least we would have looked like we attended the same school. But dress codes tend to be ambiguous and are frequently used to police girls' sexuality.

Amel Ahmed from Al Jazeera America wrote a great piece on some of the more incidous ways schools enforce girls' dress codes through slut shaming. In one Florida high school, students who fail to meet the standards are scarlet-lettered with sweats emblazoned with the words "dress code violation." On the surface, it may not seem so harsh, but forced humilation and the message that girls' bodies are shameful and need to be properly covered are sadly acceptable ways to punish those who fail to meet someone else's arbitrary (and sexist) standards.

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