This week, we are calling into question the ever-present dress code. Is it biased? Is it unbiased? Does it encourage the sexualization of the female body? How do students feel about it? How do staff members feel about it? Today, we have some answers.
Direct excerpts from the Chillicothe High School dress code:
* We’ve highlighted rules that may be considered biased towards the female student population:
“The mission of each school fosters the development of social skills, respect for all people, and understanding and respecting diverse viewpoints, all with the goal of providing a safe, friendly and productive learning environment for all students.
“... violates commonly accepted standards of modesty, such appearance is not acceptable” (Chillicothe Code of Conduct and Attendence Policy, pg. 5)
Clothing should be so constructed and worn in such a manner that it is not unduly revealing regardless of activity during academic hours, Shirts and blouses are to be buttoned/zipped as designed, Shoulders, back, cleavage, and midriff must be covered. Halter tops, tank tops, midriff tops, low-cut tops, sleeveless shirts, very short miniskirts, short shorts and other garments of this nature are not acceptable.
Shorts, skirts, dresses, or skorts may be worn if they are modest, of reasonable length, and in good taste. These items should not be see-through, should cover all areas of the body from a student’s waist to the bottoms of their fingertips, and a reasonable person should not be offended by the clothing worn.
All clothing shall be properly fitted. All trousers, including oversized or low-hanging trousers, must be worn and secured at waist level. A belt must be worn at waist level with oversized trousers. Leggings/Yoga pants must be covered by modest shorts, skirt, or dress.
Hair shall not be regulated unless and until it materially and substantially disturbs the educational process.
Coats, outerwear, hats, caps, head coverings, pajamas, and sunglasses are not to be worn in the building. This includes bandanas. Sweaters or sweatshirts may be worn to maintain comfort.
Shoes must be worn at all times. No house slippers are permitted. No shoes with wheels are to be worn.
No article of clothing shall be worn that distracts from the educational process. Articles of clothing associated with alcoholic beverages, tobacco, drugs, or violence are not to be worn. No gang related apparel shall be worn.
No article of clothing shall be worn which defames or demeans any person, school, community, entity, or nation.
No article of clothing shall be worn that contains or implies implies obscene, profane, or sex-related words or pictures.
Clothing that is obviously dirty, torn, ripped, cut, mutilated or unduly revealing is prohibited. This includes jeans with holes or tears above modest length.
Any jewelry that may cause injury including, but not limited to belts, bracelets, wallets, chains, collars with spikes, and heavy link chains are not allowed.
The writers of this article determined that a majority of the rules and regulations are catered to items of clothing that are traditionally worn by women. This is not to say that there are not rules that the males of our school are not affected by. There are rules and regulations regarding graphic t-shirts, which are traditionally worn as a unisex article of clothing.
The supposed bias of the dress code has caused many of the females in our student body to fear coming to school, afraid of being dress coded for wearing even modest clothing, such as leggings with a sweater or a cold-shouldered shirt.
We took a survey regarding how many females versus males were fearful of being dress coded at school. A shocking 100% of the female students we asked said they were fearful of being dress coded at school for their choice in clothing, modest or otherwise. The males, on the other hand, had 0% fear of coming to school and being dress coded.
One anonymous female student can be quoted as saying: “I shouldn’t have to be afraid that my shoulders will distract some boy in class. This is my body. I was born with this body and I should be able to choose what shows respect for my body. The dress code specifically targets women and it’s due to society sexualizing the female body. We are meat and bones just like boys; there’s no reason that I should be treated like a distraction for boys. Do you know what a real distraction is? Being pulled out of class, missing my education that I care about because my outfit is considered to be a distraction to the boys in class. This just caters to men who objectify women and it’s not right. I’m more than a sexual object and the fact that the dress code treats me as such is disgusting a disgraceful."
Now, that we’ve discussed the feelings of the students towards the dress code, it is only reasonable that we give Chillicothe High School staff members a chance to voice their opinion. The crew members working on this story were especially nervous to see how teachers would react when asked questions regarding to the dress code. We promised to leave their identity, gender, and age anonymous, due to the controversy surrounding the topic at hand.
Here are two separate interviews with two different teachers with two different opinions on the subject.
Q: Do you feel as though the dress-code is biased towards any specific gender? If so, which one?
A: I believe that the dress code is biased in that it mainly refers to fashions that are traditionally worn by women. (i.e. spaghetti straps, shorts length, etc).
Q: Do you believe that the bias of the dress-code is caused by the sexualization of women’s bodies through society and the general media?
A: The sexualization of women's bodies plays a key role here and most people making these rules don't even realize it. We see short shorts on a woman and it immediately conjures a sexualized idea thanks to how those outfits (and the women who wear them) are portrayed in popular culture and then demonized in society. And heaven forbid you don't have the socially acceptable body type to go along with those shorts.
Q: Do you feel female students should be able to decide what shows respect for themselves and their bodies?
A: I think that female students should be granted more autonomy in choosing their clothes; however, a standard of dress does need to be maintained in order to ensure that someone won't try to take the slackened rules too far. There should be a line drawn between appropriate dress for any public situation featuring a diverse group of people and an outfit that is maybe more appropriate for a specialized setting with close friends, a significant other, etc. Shorts cut at the current fashion standard are fine, but shorts that leave little to be imagined regarding a girl's groin or buttocks should still be considered out of line. Exposed shoulders should be fine, but a top that is designed to show off a bra strap or a lot (and I mean a lot) of cleavage should be considered a fashion don't.
Q: Do you, as a teacher, hope to see any change in the dress code within the next few years?
A: I would very much enjoy seeing changes to the dress code that reflect this country's growing concern over the sexualization of women's bodies, lack of female bodily autonomy, and the education of young men to not sexualize a woman's body to the point of being made uncomfortable for her to actually be seen using it in public. Girls miss more class time over dress code issues than boys do and they are taught that their education isn't as important as what they wear and how they look. Boys are taught that it's okay to be distracted by a girl's thigh or shoulder and even to be aroused by it and also that it is okay to shame the girl for causing this reaction. These things lead to lower self-esteem in young women and contribute to rape culture in men. Our schools need to be better preparing young men and women to go into the world and to treat each other with mutual respect. Updating our dress code is one way to do that and our new diversity classes are another.
Q: What are your personal feelings in regards to the dress code?
A: I think the dress code is a good thing, because many times, clothing choices are a distraction to the learning environment, not to mention that not all clothing is acceptable for school wear. There have to be guidelines, let's face it, because teenagers always want to push the envelope.
Q: Do you feel like women are specifically targeted in the dress code?
A: Women are more targeted, but it is mostly because there are more choices available to women, and many of these choices are not necessarily acceptable in all situations. Men don't have cleavage to display, and their clothing is not made in such a way as to highlight features that are also a distraction in the learning environment. Men don't usually wear booty shorts or a low cut shirt. Few of them would even consider leggings, which are revealing. Men's clothes aren't sheer. Most of their clothing is not constructed to be tight. But, in their defense, women also don't wear their pants hanging off their tailbone with baggy boxers on display, either.
Q: How many people have you dress code since 2017-2018 school year started?
A: I have stopped at least a dozen people since the beginning of the year, from short shorts to cleavage display (which wasn't even addressed in the fashion show, but happens to be my pet peeve, because apparently, some girls think their goodies need to be on display at all times) to sagging pants (for the love of all that is holy, WEAR A BELT AND BUY PANTS IN THE RIGHT SIZE).
Q: Any personal feelings or thoughts about the dress code?
A: I think the dress code is an excellent idea, and a better alternative than uniforms. Everyone needs guidelines. That is what keeps order and insures focus.
Both staff members and students made good points, which were clearly well thought out, but ultimately the decision lies in the hands of those who created the dress code: administration.