The Mess That Follows Dress Codes

This image shows the small differences that lead to being dress coded. Source:

A sunny 90-degree day in Georgia. A seven-year-old girl runs around the playground with a tank top and a matching skort. As her mom comes to pick her up, the teacher stops her. 

“I guess since it’s field day, I can let it slide but your daughter should not be wearing spaghetti straps to school,” she said. This was in second grade. 

A few years later, in the gym on a scorching April day, my PE teacher forced all the girls from two classrooms to stand up, making sure their shorts were as long as where their fingertips reached. 

“I see a few of you are not dressed appropriately,” she said. I was in the fourth grade. 

That kind of constant back and forth between teachers and young girls directly contributes to the trend of internalized misogyny and is detrimental to the mental health of young girls. 

Internalized misogyny is simply described as women buying into the common stereotypes and ideas that are sexist. For example, the idea that girls are not as strong as boys, so instead of asking for volunteers, my third-grade teacher asks for “four strong boys” to help her carry books. This not only impacts the girls, who feel useless, and wonder why they cannot help, but it also impacts boys, who will begin to live a life based on what they not only hear about but that girls exude unknowingly. 

For as long as I remember, my teachers have been making comments about the dress code, whether my shorts were too short or if I had a sweater to cover my shoulders. A trend that begins at such a young age carries girls through a lifetime of the common accusation that it is inappropriate and distracting. Personally I believe that spaghetti straps are always appropriate, “distracting” is the most infuriating way to describe all of this. Why is it a girl’s fault that someone is distracted by her? They must learn to control themselves. 

When a classmate’s pencil tapping on the desk is distracting, my teacher does not stop class to ensure that they stop immediately, I control myself and deal with it. Why is it any different if my shoulders weirdly distract someone? Not only do dress codes create a sexist environment, but dress codes also teach women to be ashamed of their bodies. Girls are being humiliated for having skirts that show one more inch of their legs than the school allows. This causes the girl to think that showing any shape is repulsive and creates the idea that it is not a messed up system but an issue with the girl herself. Not to mention, the event of being dress coded is more distracting than any shoulder could be. It is embarrassing to be sent out of class and put into baggy shorts or a baggy shirt.  

Lambert is very accepting of individual style dress, but other students at different schools are not as fortunate. The need for readdressing the subconscious sexist ideas is urgent, these ideas cannot continue to the generations to come. We need to stop holding girls accountable for the education of others and start ensuring that they are getting an education they deserve. Schools should not be a place of shame and a source of body image issues. It is a place to learn and interact as a community. Let’s make it that way.