Our brains’ worst enemy.
In the Merriam-Webster's dictionary, it is defined as “an object that directs one's attention away from something else.”
At various high schools around the country, it is the justification in student handbooks for clothing restrictions to the female student body.
Just recently, Sydney Smith, a senior at Glen Allen High School located in Henrico County Virginia, started a petition to abolish her school’s dress code. The Henrico Citizen wrote an article on Smith showcasing her efforts to get rid of the school’s dress code that she feels “objectifies women and targets people of color” in her school.
Smith created a survey that gained “more than 1,150 signatures as of Oct. 4.” Her research showed that of the 250+ people who participated in the study “female students were three times as likely to get dress-coded.”
This example is just one of many that show how girls everywhere are told to cover up in order to avoid disrupting the educational environment.
They are told that the outfits they felt comfortable enough to leave their houses in are inappropriate.
Shoulders are inappropriate; collar bones are disconcerting; exposed midriffs and stomachs immodest, and legs are far too scandalous.
The list goes on, naming every piece of clothing girls are not allowed to bring to school. Skirts, shorts and dresses must reach the mid-thigh. Shirts must be full lengthed, and jeans cannot have too many rips in them.
As I read the many rules and items written specifically for the female students across many student handbooks, I find it funny to see that the only real restriction the male students have is profanity or abusive language on their shirts and no sagging pants.
It is evident that the dress code in its entirety is written strictly for girls, however, the underlying problem is with how outdated it truly is.
In the summer girls are prohibited from wearing shorts, skirts, tank tops, or strapless tops because it is seen as “unprofessional” and will direct student and staff attention away from their day-to-day tasks. Rather than making girls “cover-up” we should be teaching male faculty and students to not over-sexualize female body parts.
If the purpose of a dress code is to minimize distractions in the classroom and make a learning environment that is ideal for all students, then the real question is where do the distractions truthfully come from?
Is it a stomach that is disrupting the class or is the time it takes for someone to come into the room and pull a student out to change into a new shirt?
Do shoulders direct focus off of the lesson and onto a body, or is it the teacher putting the class on pause to write a pass and call out my choice of clothing?
Our thighs, legs, stomachs, bra straps, and shoulders should not be distracting.
It is sad that we are teaching young women to be uncomfortable in their own skin. We are raising generations of girls to feel as if it is their responsibility to conform to society’s ideals of modesty and ensure they are covering up their bodies in order to prevent their male classmates from being uncomfortable or distracted.
Rather than empowering young women and making them feel comfortable in a space where they come to learn, schools across the country are shaming them for having disruptive bodies.
If something as simple as a collarbone is causing students to be so disoriented that they cannot focus on the material being taught to them, I believe the real problem lies far beyond what a girl chooses to wear that day.
What a girl chooses to wear to school should not be a reflection of her intelligence, self-respect, or potential in the real world. No student should feel like she must overthink what she chooses to wear to school in the mornings, for the fear of being told that it is inappropriate and will disrupt her classmates.
If the dress code is teaching students anything, it is that rather than putting limitations on the clothing the female student body can wear, we should be teaching our male students and any students basic social skills such as proper etiquette and respect.
We should not be forced to follow rules that encourage slut-shaming and keep our sexist society alive along with our outdated dress code and idea of professionalism.
It is time to re-write and replace the outdated dress code and give our female students a chance to feel comfortable and safe in their own skin.