I have been debating for a while about weighing in on the rise of suspensions due to dress codes in Canada and the United States. When I was younger I saw nothing wrong with teachers telling girls to change and giving them baggy t-shirts from the lost and found to wear, now I think the complete opposite, its humiliating for the girl that they would be put through that and that they are being looked at by teachers and administrators.
In recent news stories girls have been sent home for wearing maxi dresses, leggings with long shirts, dresses with jean jackets, and perfectly acceptable shorts. They are all sent home for the same reasons, wearing something that exposes their shoulders, wearing something that makes a teacher or administrator uncomfortable and is deemed a distraction. All girls were kicked out of school due to complaints from teachers and administrators, not other students. One girl was suspended for insubordination and her diploma is withheld.
The dress code for my high school was similar to the ones that are responsible for these girls getting kicked out of school. No bra straps, shorts when standing must be reach the end of your fingertips, no spaghetti strap tank tops, no short dresses, baggy clothing, hats etc. I mean this wasn’t enforced to the extent of the girls mentioned above, but then again, people still dressed relatively well. For boys the rules seemed pretty simple, not hats or baggy clothing, which I understand is also limiting in terms of trends but lets be real they have a lot less choice when it comes to fashion than us gals. The dress codes however, are also demeaning to boys because it assumes they can’t control themselves around women and that they don’t know how to take responsibilities for their actions (thank you CBC article for that little tidbit, couldn’t have said it better myself)
Personally, I think it’s distasteful that teachers are uncomfortable with what girls are wearing at all, like why are you even looking at them? THEY ARE CHILDREN. Teachers are the grown adults in this situation and should not have to/be policing girls bodies. I get that the system wants to prepare us for “the real world”. Let me tell you something, when there is no dress code enforcement people dress normally. In my university/college experience, sure there have been a lot of yoga pants, sweatpants, but also jeans, t-shirts, dresses, nice tops, nothing that I or any of my friends (some boys, I know shocker) found to be too sexual or too inappropriate. Yup, sorry my 15 year old shoulder was so damn alluring. I do think the shorts thing and uber low tops are valid in terms of a school setting (then again I don’t know a male student that would complain), I mean if your hoo-ha and boobs are hanging out then possibly get some longer shorts and a higher top, but my main issue is administrators and teachers are monitoring and policing girls bodies. In fact Guelph Principal Scot Bishop advised students at Centennial Collegiate Vocational Institute to keep it “scholarly, not skanky” aca-scuse me? Aca believe it. This coming from a principle is just plain disgusting and objectifying females and is perpetuating rape culture.
As with anything, there is a time and place, but school, though supposed to be a business like place is where we spend so much of our time and develop our personal school style, so if the system could just let this flourish and teach dress codes more in terms of fashion to both genders then maybe we wouldn’t have such an issue. Yes crop tops and bathing suits should be reserved for the beach, but are any of these girls wearing those? NO, so why are they being kicked out of school for perfectly acceptable clothing?
I understand that the education system strives for excellence, a business like place where students come to learn life skills like adhering to dress codes. I think the big issue here is that we are sexualizing 14 year olds, the age when policing of bodies generally begins. My first issue, why are you as a teacher concerned if a 15 year old has a tank top on, yes there is a line of appropriateness that we should follow a human beings, but if we could just teach what is appropriate rather than enforcing rules that objectives girls the world would be so much better. If its summer a bra strap is going to show, so what? They also say its to prepare us for university or a job, A: in university most people don’t care what you think, they are going wear what they want when they want, B: in the working world, you are more likely to dress like everyone at the office to fit in, something we all want in life whether we admit it or not. There are places of fashion and schools are a medium of socialization, there is school fashion, home fashion, work fashion, why can’t we just teach that rather than suspend girls for wearing shorts or a tank top? When I have children I frankly don’t want to get a call saying there cute sundress is distracting boys, because we should also be teaching boys not to objectify women. Ugh, the struggle of solving the world’s issues, my day job continues.