THE BLOG

Why Sexist Dress Codes Have to Go

04/27/2015 02:27 pm ET | Updated Jun 27, 2015

I recently read a viral article about a high school student in Texas who was sent home from school for wearing leggings and an oversized baseball shirt that covered up her entire body. This angered me. While dress codes are important so that students aren't wearing anything offensive, inappropriate or containing profanity, it is wrong for public schools to set strict restrictions, especially those of which unfairly target young ladies.

In middle school I was targeted on several occasions for breaking the dress code. On one occasion it was a tank top that didn't follow the "four finger" wide rule, and on another it was shorts, which didn't follow the "fingertips" rule. Our angry security guard would approach me and demand that I go put on my PE tee shirt and basketball shorts. She would also include some not-so-subtle remarks about how appalling and slutty my seemingly conservative outfits were. I would then have to shamefully finish my school day in a baggy blue outfit, with the judgmental eyes of my classmates following my every move.

I am now a freshman at USC, and no dress code is enforced, that I am aware of. Students wear everything from tank tops, to leggings, to short shorts, to superhero costumes; all of which are often deemed inappropriate by many public grade schools. And no, students are not running around naked, and no the academia is not compromised. I know this may sound shocking, but everyone is able to focus just fine with bare shoulders in plain view.

These excessive dress codes need to be banished. The main rationale behind most dress restrictions in schools is to prevent young ladies from being distractions or temptations to the young men. This principle is overtly sexist and wrong. It perpetuates rape culture by telling girls that when they dress scantily, they are sluts. It says that when they wear short-shorts of low cut shirts, they warrant men's attention and sexual advances. And the boys aren't held to the same standard. I witnessed many boys wearing tank tops in middle school and high school without any repercussion. Dress codes allow girls to be over-sexualized. If less emphasis were placed on women's dress, slut shaming and rape culture would begin to diminish.

Public schools are public places. There is no dress code when you go to the DMV or when you go to a state park, so why should schools be any different. Students are at school to learn, and attire has very little to do with that. Some argue that the purpose of schools is to prepare students for the work force, so they should be expected to dress professionally. However, kids are by law required to be at school so they should at least have the freedom to dress how they please. Others argue that it is a matter of principle, and kids should be required to follow the rules simply because they are set in place by an authoritative figure. Conversely, I see it as our civil duties to reject rules when they are pointless and unfair. I'm not claiming to get rid of dress codes entirely. Students should still be expected to have reasonable body coverage, and they should also be banned from wearing profanity and anything offensive. However, many current dress codes are excessive, sexist and unnecessary.