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The Rise of Discriminatory Dress Codes

I had to wear a school uniform throughout junior high and absolutely hated it. My mother, who was single at the time, was very happy about this because it meant she’d save money by buying me fewer clothes because I’d be using my uniform most days of the year. I imagine many parents felt the same way. Growing up in Huntington Park, CA most conversations about dress codes involved reducing the visibility of gangs and creating an environment with less distractions. Many prep schools require uniforms as well, and now that I’m older I can see that at least back in the day dress codes had what I now consider to be reasonable and good intentions.

Were there ever any sexist dress code rules when I was growing up? Maybe. But back then I was in an environment when boys who wore sports team paraphernalia and bandanas were also told their clothing choices were inappropriate and both boys and girls could expect the same types of punishment for breaking a minor rule—usually something like detention, writing an essay, a phone call home or even a meeting with the principal. Things are changing for the worse though. Many dress codes police young women and contribute to the sexualization of young women at an age in which they should focus on growing up and studying.

This isn’t a rant against schools that say, forbid sensible things such as strapless shirts or miniskirts, but the problem isn’t just what schools expressly forbid. Schools also deal with dress code infractions in humiliating ways as well. A Kentucky school sent a young woman home for exposing her collarbone. A Connecticut high school angered students when announcements were made about changes to the prom dress code with only one week before prom. All the announcements were regarding dresses. But hey, it’s one thing to check the clothing one can see, but a California principal once lined up young women during a dance and checked to make sure they’re wearing appropriate underwear.  Girls wearing a thong were  home, and this principal subjected young girls to stares by male students while this underwear check was conducted.

Ingrid Cruz

Ingrid Cruz

Ingrid Cruz is a freelance writer and designer raised in Los Angeles. She's currently backpacking South America and hopes to return to the USA free of her fear of heights.

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