School Dress Codes Police Teen Girls’ Sexuality

School dress codes are part of establishing a set of societal rules women are expected to follow. These rules are developed from misogynist ideas around protecting young women from their own sexuality, while promoting middle-class respectability, and victim blaming. Young people are taught gender roles such as: girls are to be submissive and boys are to be conquerors. In connection to this, the education system dictates what is deemed proper conduct and dress. Girls clothing is expected to be modest and the rules are expected to be unquestioned. Immodest clothing can hint to a girl owning her own sexuality and not giving in to patriarchal narratives. Though dress codes are meant for both girls and boys, it is girls clothing that is targeted most. There does not seem to be any likewise vigilance in teaching the importance of sexual consent or how gender equity is not only a woman’s issue. The idea that a girl’s clothing choice determines whether or not she is victimized, without any consideration of our socially normalized rape culture is steadily reinforced in institutions that are supposed to be preparing young people for the “real” world. The education system places importance on a girl’s respectability while ignoring the absence of boy’s engagement and co-responsibility with issues of women’s rights, and perpetuating rape culture.

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