Dress CodesWhy Overly Enforcing Girls' Dress Codes is Problematic 

Why Overly Enforcing Girls’ Dress Codes is Problematic 

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By Loan Smith

Author and editor Loan Smith discusses the imbalance in the school’s dress codes and how some are unfairly aimed at girls.

Netflix recently released a movie called Moxie, Based on the novel for young people of the same name. The plot revolves around a group of high school girls, inspired by the past of their mothers Riot Grrrl, who are fighting against the sexist dress code at their school. This is a contemporary and topical story as high schools across the country cling to ancient laws on how children should dress – rules that are often unfairly aimed at girls.

The gender language of dress codes

Dress codes that use gender language impose an obligation on girls to become “purple” paragons and not to attract

Photo by Burgess Milner On Unsplash

Attention of the “wrong” type of male students. A language like “girls should not wear spaghetti straps” blatantly places the expectation that only girls should think of modesty when dressing.

The reason many schools give to the use of language that calls girls exclusively is that girls’ bodies are a distraction to the male population. They may not immediately come out and say it, but it is very implicit. After all, you’ll probably never read “Boys should not show too much breasts.”

Boys’ actions and girl responsibility

The biggest problem with unfair enforcement of girls’ dress codes is that the wrong group gets punished. When boys do not fit in with girls, many people are quick to point out what the girl is wearing, as if it explains the boy’s behavior. Girls are taught from a young age that they should dress in a certain way so that they are not labeled as light, “loose” or, as one respondent to National Education Association page Claim, “whore”.

Boys are not held to the same standards in dress or behavior. It is an approach that sustains patriarchy and seeks to condition women to take on the burden of controlling boys’ behavior.

Although many schools in the United States adhere to dress codes that are unfairly aimed at girls, in recent years there has been a marked shift toward more gender-neutral and egalitarian attitudes. The lesson that some schools try to drive home to students is: “I am responsible for my own behavior.”

The perfect girl

dress code
Photo by Rome Wilkerson On Unsplash

The school’s dress codes are also based on a very narrow view of what is “right and normal” for girls’ clothes. Often, dress codes distinguish clothing that is not what the school considers “appropriate gender,” and unfairly distinguish LGBTQ + students. Reports have also shown that some dress codes are disproportionately targeted at colored students with racist dress codes and tougher enforcement on black and brown students.

The dress codes seem to be based on an outdated and white female ideal, making the rules even more problematic.

Lost time and message

Enforcing problematic dress codes causes problems for girls in school. Consistent discipline for violations of the dress code results in loss of lesson time and negative social focus. Consistent discipline directed at female students also sends a message to students, courtesy of the administration, that their comforts and needs far exceed those of their peers. It is considered okay to distract a female student with discipline because she shows too much skin, all in the name of not distracting male students.

Student education is a top priority, while student education is only given if they stand up and promise not to interfere with males.

finding solutions

Correcting this imbalance requires innovative and advanced thinking on the part of school principals. Sometimes, the change comes only following a push from the students themselves. Dress codes in schools across the country have all changed following student protests.

Involving children in developing a dress code is a way to avoid problems of inequality. Students can better talk about fashion trends, how old dress codes make them feel, and how to best enforce the new guidelines.

Schools have also focused on making dress codes gender neutral. The days of male male students being painted as wild, sex-obsessed meat heads, unable to control themselves, are coming to an end. It seems that schools are ready to open a new era of consideration for a fair dress code.

The more society learns about behavior, responsibility, and gender equality, the more schools will make dress codes fair and applicable to modern students. Whether they are willing to make a difference or not, the ultimate goal of all schools should be learning and driving a healthy learning environment. If principals seem unwilling to change their point of view, we hope female students will continue to take up the issue and fight for equal treatment.


Loan Smith He is an editor and writer with a background in higher education who teaches creative writing and film. Smith has published literary literature and poetry in journals and continues to write her own works. Currently, Smith is compiling a series of crude anthologies focusing on the reality of injustice: escape, Taboos and Offenses: Stories of Injustice, And Muddy Backroads: Stories from Off the Beaten Path. Smith is drawn to realism and advocates writers who are often criticized for dealing with darker issues in fiction.

Material Link Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above are “Affiliate Links”. This means that if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services that I personally use and believe will add value to my readers. I disclose this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Recommendations and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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