Ah, high school dress codes, remember those?
Ostensibly meant to ensure a safe and distraction-free school environment, high school dress codes have proven themselves time and again to be anachronistic, offensive methods of perpetuating sexism.
Now, this is not to say they aren’t entirely unnecessary. No one wants to see crowds of teenagers sauntering to school in their PJs (and you know they would if they could), and perish the thought of ultra low-rise jeans (both male and female) hanging off the edge of myriad and varied teenage buttocks.
They’re meant to ensure that the sartorial choices of teenagers do not descend into a hedonistic free-for-all, rife with unfortunate and eye-searing fashion choices that even their wearers will regret in later years.
Instead of teaching boys (and indeed, grown men) that they should learn to control their lusts and treat girls and women like equal human beings, dress codes teach girls that it’s their responsibility to account for male lust.
Instead, it’s “Hey, Rachel, you should put some more clothes on so you don’t tempt Timmy with your sinful body.”
Unfortunately, many dress codes reinforce the narrative that girls’ bodies are seductive in nature and boys and grown men need to be protected from them.
And this dynamic more apparent than ever at a California high school recently…
According to her friend Kaitlyn, Remy is a “top-notch 4.4 GPA student.”
One of her outfit choices, however, was eye-raising to certain members of her school’s faculty.
She had gone through most of the day with no comment on the outfit from teachers or the officers that patrolled the hallways looking for dress violations.
That is, until she went to her school office to get a paper signed.
“She said that my shirt was low cut; then she asked if I was wearing a bra,” Altuna said to Yahoo News.
“She went on to say that because I wasn’t wearing a bra, she didn’t want people to think anything bad of me or talk inappropriately or have anything bad to say.”
And if she had in fact worn one, she would have then been subject to the dress code, which does not say anything about bras, but has this to say of shirts “Tops must cover all parts of undergarments and shall not be low cut or revealing.”
And later, “If Mrs. Weber is concerned about people talking about my appearance she should focus on dealing with the students behaving inappropriately.”
“This year it just seems like they’re really out for blood, looking for anything,” she said, further noting that girls were always being censured while boys’ violations, like ripped jeans, were overlooked.
In an email to Yahoo, Christina Pierce, principal of Beaumont High School, explained the reasoning behind Altuna’s dress code warning.
In a school with 2,800 students, we acknowledge that enforcing the dress code is not a perfect process; administrators diligently work to ensure all students are following the dress code. Our goal is to establish a school culture that supports a productive academic atmosphere and safe environment. We provide ongoing training for administrators and staff, who educate students in identifying sexual harassment, and hold regular discussions with students about respectful behavior at school and in the classroom.
Blaming girls for their bodies sets up a misogynistic dynamic where women are to blame for being sexually assaulted.
Again, it’s not, “this person assaulted me, they’re to blame,” it’s “she was wearing a dress and seduced me, so she’s to blame.”
Not all dress code incidents are one-sided, however.
When girls in San Benito High School in Hollister, California found themselves being cited for wearing off-the-shoulder tops, boys stepped up with a very unique protest.
Shoutout to Brody and Adryan for supporting our protest pic.twitter.com/abkC5pJsQU— yenny (@ocean__avenue_) August 15, 2017