Lately I’ve noticed that there has been a lot of discussion of school dress codes on social media, which I think is great, because I think this is an issue that needs to be addressed. Many people argue that schools need dress codes because there is certain attire approprriate for school, and some that is not. This is fair, but on the other hand, many of the dress code guidelines are very female-oriented because women’s bodies are more sexualized than men’s.

I’d like to point out some of the guidelines and why they are sexist in nature.

No visible undergarments

This includes bra straps. Now, one might assume that if a bra strap is showing the girl is wearing something inappropriate (a spaghetti strap tank top or halter top). First, I don’t understand WHY a spaghetti strap tank top is inappropriate. Shoulders showing is hardly sexual, and a bra strap? Well, if a girl has large breasts like I do, bra straps are thick and can sometimes peek out while wearing a t-shirt.

Additionally, boys are rarely held to the same standard. sagging pants were popular when I was in high school and still are, yet I never saw a single boy get told to change when his boxer shorts were showing. A girl wearing hip huggers whose panties peeked out when she sat down? Every time.

Skirts, dresses and shorts must extend below the fingertip

This rule is directed at girls only because it is not expected that a boy would wear a dress or skirt. However, girls of differing heights will yield different skirt lengths. For example, a shorter girl might wear a skirt that extends below her fingertips and all is well, but if a taller girl wears a skirt that extends below her fingertips, it might still be extremely short on her. Further, this policy is always given exception to cheerleaders as their skirts are almost always very short.

Chests and midriffs much be covered at all times

Again, directed primarily at female students. I get that they don’t want people showing their tummies all the time, but girls often get hit with violations because their shirt rode up and exposed her tummy on accident. And then there is the chests rule. What they mean is cleavage. They don’t want cleavage showing. This is not only sexist, but it targets a specific type of girl, and simultaneously body shames them. Busty girls have very little option. I was a DD in high school. Unless I wore uncomfortably high neck shirts, men’s shirts, clothing too big for me, or clothing out of fashion for my age group, cleavage was almost always visible. There was no escaping it. The school was basically saying that my breasts were shameful and I should hide them at all costs lest the boys get “distracted.” The only time boys were “distracted” by what I was wearing in high school was when another girl or a faculty member pointed it out.

I think instead of teaching girls that it’s their job to not distract boys, we should be teaching boys that they are human beings with willpower and self control and can choose not to be distracted by a woman’s attire. The mentality that shames women’s bodies and teaches women that their bodies are “distracting” in a learning (or working) environment is the kind of thinking that contributes to rape culture.