fuck the sexist dress code

A rant has been building up in my for quite some time, I don't really know why I haven't vented the burning rage before, but an article (this one, its very regional so probs not of much interest) re-ignited my fury.
source: here
It regards dress-code standards, specifically in schools. And fuck have I argued about this. Throughout my secondary school existence it was something I challenged: in year 8, when told every morning my skirt was too short, I would stretch it to my knees whilst I ran past the teachers then hoist it back up. In year 10, I gave up on fabricating a lengthened garment and just wore a tight, short skirt, exactly how I wanted to wear it. The same happened with tight trousers.
And every time, the same justification was brought to my attention: "because its inappropriate", " because it will attract unwanted attention", "because it isn't professional". But, on an impressionable 12 year old's mind, this was reinforcing, with great vengeance, that the avoidance of harassment, whether verbal or physical, and I've experienced both, came down to our clothing choices. That we had a duty to maintain an appearance that would mean that others wouldn't be provoked to cat call, to perv, to stare. Fundamentally, that harassment was our fault. In every assembly that addressed dress code, it was just girls. Only girls were asked to attend. Because the problem is only with girls, can't you see? They need to be chaste, covered, pure, innocent. It was never suggested that the perpetrators had a duty to control themselves, treat girls like people and that society, and thus school, had a duty to deconstruct the macho expectations of masculinity that teach boys that its okay to behave like that.

source: here
In sixth-from, a new dress code was introduced. Of the 6 rules, 5 were aimed, directly, at the stereotypical image of women. No crop tops, no short shorts, no short skirts, no low cut tops, no bare shoulders. And for guys? No offensive slogans–which is, as you may have gathered, a uni-sex issue. There rules reinforce that woman have to remain covered, subversive. And the same justification was given, to maintain a "professional environment", because its a place of "work", because its "inappropriate". Other issues occurred, people being sent home for mid-drifts being on show (which undermines the girls education and implies that her appearance, and thus the protection of male sexuality and their attention and focus, is more important than the girls FUcking A-LEVELS).
When I challenged the new regulations, accusing them of being sexist because they singled out girls, the head of sixth-form responded "well maybe if you strip it back, they are sexist, but that's just the society we live in"
"but shouldn't we be working to break down those boundaries" I retorted. If we just accept that that's the way it is, nothing will change.

The most concerning thing, in my eyes, is the idea of clothing "distracting teachers". And worryingly, this isn't the first, or second, time I've heard of this. I vividly remember a teacher at school justifying the sexist regulations by saying there had been "complaints" of male teacher who felt "uncomfortable" with the clothing of students.
Not only does this maintain the superiority of masculinity and male comfort but it also, frankly, fucking creeps me out. In my eyes, if a male teacher feels uncomfortable or is distracted by what a female student, who would most likely be under 18, thus a minor, is wearing, then they shouldn't be teaching. They are in a position of authority, of loco-parentis in fact, and it feels so sleazy and seedy that, when girls are there to learn, just like everyone else, teachers are distracted by their legs or chest, and thinking that this may have happened to me is kind of repulsive.
source: here

There is so much wrong with the regulatory dress code enforced in many schools. Whilst a level of professionalism does need to be maintained, its teaching girls, and reinforcing the belief, that we are subordinate. That our preliminary role is to ensure that we don't distract men from achieving.  Because a girls education appears less important than the sexual tendencies of someone getting turned on by a shoulder (which doesn't actually happen, does it?) As well as being immensely heteronormative, it presents guys as sexual beasts that cannot tame their impulses nor exist beyond their sexual desires. Which isn't true, for the most part. This furthers the destructive image of masculinity that both perpetuates this issue and has many other disastrous consequences.  It also teaches that the female body is inherently sexual and is an object for which other people can dictate rules and regulations.
It cultivates the attitude that a girl's clothing invites attention, that rape is the victims fault if they happened to show some skin, that our bodies are not our own and that they need to be covered up.
Schools are supposed to be progressive, fostering the next generation to move our society on, but if they maintain the belief that dress code is superior to education, our society is screwed.

And I wish I could offer some advice on how to break down these boundaries. But I too am sort of stuck. And find myself succumbing to it, even now I've left school.

But I think I would say don't give in. Wear what you like, show as much leg, stomach, shoulder as you wish–I did, despite relentless protest, and it didnt hamper my education (because dress code doesn't actually affect your ability to learn!!). And challenge the status quo–if someone enforces sexist rules on you, ask why: why just girls? why do we need them? what are you doing to alter male dress code (e.g. pants on show)? instead why don't we tackle the issues surrounding the expectations of masculinity?

Let me know your thoughts and any advice you have to deconstruct these bullshit boundaries.

9 comments

  1. I read this in the morning and have only gotten around to commenting now! Honestly, everything you have said is so so accurate and I think the idea of "professionalism" is definitely a coverup for much more deeper rooted issues surrounding the status of the woman in our society and the ultimate machoism that prevails. I was wearing a denim skirt WITH TIGHTS but the tights had laddered (as they do) and my head of year said that it was inappropriate- I told him that if he had a girlfriend or any other female friend, he would know that tights laddering is a common inconvenience...he couldn't respond after that! ALSO, SHOULDERS...I'm sorry how are they "sexy" or "provocative" it drives me crazy. The idea of some male teachers feeling uncomfortable by the clothing of their female students sends shudders down my spine...seriously wtf. anYWAY this was such a good post and you unpeeled all the layers around the dress code and whole concept of professionalism in such an effective and concise way!

    Dalal // monochromedaisies.blogspot.com

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    1. thank you!!!!!honestly it has driven me nuts for years, their justifications were such bullshit. I will NEVER understand why you can't show shoulders, everyone has shoulders they are literally the most un-sexy thing. Concise is never a word I associate with myself (lol) so thank you!!! xx

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  2. Omd, this was SUCH a problem back in secondary school. And i went to an all girls school, so it was just like every year the skirts just got shorter and shorter. And our skirts weren't pleated either. Every single day we were told to pull down our skirts it just became hilarious - and i totally agree with the dodgy victim-blaming implications of this. My school didnt even offer trousers until we did yet another petition to get trousers added to the uniform set only about 4 years ago! Great post, such an important message!!! X

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    1. jeeeez thats ridic not being allowed to wear trousers!!! we had a pretty lax uniform so I mean you could really push the boundaries but thats fab that you did petitions! thank you so much!!!x

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  3. Yess! This is soo well written Katie!! I got sent home from sixth from last year for wearing a crop top, and it makes me so angry because just as you said, it makes me feel as if my education is secondary to men. That being said, at my sixth form boys weren't allowed to wear shorts in summer. The year above really blew it up as an issue and it made the news etc, I think they called it "Free the Knee" lol. Still, we hear about that on the news and not the million dress code rules we had targetted at us ladiess. x x

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    1. thats so ridiculous, it undermines the whole prospect of education and its importance. Hahah i love that, so good that they advocated for it but also ridiculous that it takes the restriction of men for it to even be recognised. Thank u my love xxx

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  4. Loved this post Katie, so well written! I wish I challenged it when I was told off for having too short a skirt- it's just so humiliating and at my school the only teachers that seemed to care were female ones. I don't understand how women back it up. SO DUMB. Makes me feel sick that a male teacher said it was distracting and I can't believe that was counted as a justification of the dress code when he should have got in trouble for being a perv? At the sixth-form college I went to there were no regulations, my friend had her tits out half the time and nothing was said (besides jokes from us) and my sixth form was labelled the best sixth-form college in the UK- probably because no one was being sent home for dressing inappropriately! (or am I just including that to show off about my sixth form haha)(I'm not)(don't worry) but it just shows how little dress code matters aH, too young to be sexualised!! no need to be sexualised!!

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    1. hahahah made me laugh about you showing off about your sixth form BUT ITS SO TRUE LIKE dress code has NO implications on education and if it does, its the perpetrators fault NOT the victims. Ours was probably pretty relaxed compared to most, i mean beyond the above there were no restrictions really but its the justification thats wrong. Thank you and we should work to empower young girls so they feel they can challenge the status quo because I didnt really know why it was wrong other than I hated being told that my skirt was inappropriate when I was wearing what I wanted ughgh society xx

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  5. Hi! This post is appealing to read and the personal connection regarding dress code just makes this whole post welcoming.
    The last photo is a beauty btw! good choice!

    - Karl-lo :.)

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Katie