(Female) Dress Code Violators Beware…


As the temperature starts to rise above negative 10 degrees Fahrenheit our minds inevitably wander to the essence of warm spring and summer days. It seems that the dreaded dress code will soon be here to haunt us again. Every girl that has ever attended Nashoba has felt the impact of this infamous set of rules, whether it’s watching a fellow female being taken out of class and told to put on something more modest, or actually being that girl that has to change into her gym shorts because those super-cute cutoffs “show too much skin.” However, the real kicker is that the dress code is actually more than just a daily challenge for those of us who wish to maintain a comfortable temperature while not getting a detention. It is a harmful set of antiquated rules geared towards the sexualization of young women at the expense of their education. For those of you snorting at such an extreme statement, let me explain using actual excerpts from the only text less read by white teenagers in Massachusetts than the Bible; the Nashoba Student Handbook

“Any fashion (dress, accessory, hairstyle or grooming habit) that is a danger to student health and/or safety, obscene or offensive, and/or disruptive to the learning environment may not be permitted” (Nashoba Student Handbook).

Now this seems reasonable enough. Don’t be offensive or dangerous or distracting in your clothing choice is in fact a very decent rule to dress by. What follows is the legitimate list of specific clothes that are not allowed:

“Prohibited Attire/Protocols:

  1. Hoods, sunglasses, bandanas and any other head/face covering
  2. Trench coats
  3. Articles which display drug, alcohol, or tobacco logos or depict use of the same
  4. Articles which display messages, illustrations or symbols that are lewd, indecent, offensive or vulgar
  5. Clothing which exposes midriffs, buttocks and/or backs
  6. Clothing with low necklines that expose cleavage
  7. Clothing that is ripped, transparent or reveals undergarments
  8. Tank tops must have a one inch strap; no strapless dresses/tops
  9. Pants must be secured at the waist and worn no lower than the hip
  10. Shorts, skirts, and dresses must be mid-thigh in length and cannot be excessively form fitting
  11. Chains and studded jewelry/belts
  12. Bare feet” (Nashoba Student Handbook).

Given this list I could go on for days about how the dress code itself is an innately sexist system which targets young women for not dressing like nuns, however this would bore most people to tears as this argument has become worn out over the years (but no less true mind you). The most significant issue with the dress code as I see it is the way that it is enforced and the subsequent effect it has on impressionable teenagers. I have to say not once in my entire high school career have I ever seen someone in clothing that is ripped, sagging below the waist, or displaying the ever popular cannabis leaf graphic, detained and told to change. However, enforcing these rules when it comes to cleavage, exposed midriff, strappy tank tops, or shorts is entirely commonplace. In fact, a Nashoba Junior recently reflected on his time spent in high school and concluded that “the dress code is a blatant double standard. Honestly the only time I’ve seen the dress code enforced is on girls, never once on boys with sagging pants or tank tops with armholes down to their waists.”

Cherry picking when the dress code should be enforced almost always results in the punishment of young women for violating a dress code that young men violate all the time. This is misogynistic in the extreme, as it creates a culture in which women are held accountable for creating a distraction-free learning environment for men. Keep in mind this is occurring while the males of our school traipse around, flashing their boxers, constantly waddling so that they aren’t pantsed by gravity.

Targeting women for violating a code that men also ignore is just perpetuating the idea that women need to dress conservatively to be respected and conduct their business as usual. It normalizes the idea that women must exist in the background, not free to express themselves through edgy clothing because – God forbid – they cause a scene and distract someone of the opposite sex. It is time that all people are held to the same rules, regardless of their gender.

Stop furthering the ‘boys will be boys’ mentality. Fight the glorification of meek, mild, rule-following women. Help create a truly safe learning environment by eschewing the toxic, ingrained and unrealized idea that women deserve bigger punishments than men for the same violations.

Photo Courtesy of DC Clothesline