The Issues With Dress Coding

JANE KROL

Summer ‘16 entailed a series of heat waves and high temperatures, and changes in the weather coincide with changes in wardrobe. The summer weather certainly influences back-to-school attire as well, since students must endure this heat in classrooms now, suffering the consequences of no air conditioning. Clothing and stylistic presentation often serve as a way to voice individuality and identity. Unfortunately, this freedom of expression is limited for students who attend OHS, specifically, for girls.

In fact, beginning around this time of year, security guards, teachers, and other adults, intensely monitor the length of shorts, skirts, and dresses, writing up students who expose ‘too much skin’. In addition, tank tops that display bare shoulders are prohibited from being worn even though it averages about 5-10 degrees higher in a classroom setting. However, the majority of boys are permitted to wear their pants to their knees exposing boxers and underwear, or even low-cut tank tops that show bare stomachs and shoulders without reprimand. Does anyone see the issue in this unequal surveillance of dress code rules among the sexes?

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Being an OHS student, and victim to these restrictions, it has become apparent that I must follow the school rules, or face shaming for what I wear on my body to express myself. At such a young age, it is morally wrong that the school expects female students to abide by strict codes that prohibit weather-appropriate clothing. Additionally, many people find confidence and identity in the power of choice, being the creator of their own style without limitations. Many factors come into play, however, and the shaming of students who are thick or thin in body shape starts here with the narrow-minded dress code. The ultimate problem is not students sexualizing themselves, but the fact that the adults, strongly sexualize these young students of OHS by assuming that showing skin is always sexual. There are many cultures worldwide in which exposed-skin style dress is appropriate, accepted and admired, and I don’t see why OHS can’t be one of them.

So why are the length of my shorts more valued than my education? I come to school to learn, not to feel discriminated by something I can’t control. To ingrain an idea that girls are initiating boys’ glances and stares is detrimental to one’s self-esteem and confidence. Perhaps instead of teaching girls to feel ashamed and humiliated over their choice to wear shorts on a hot day, we should teach boys to not view girls as sexual objects.