Student views: Dress code meeting raises issues

Ansley Vanderpool, Class of 2016

On Wednesday, August 13th, over 400 girls were called into the auditorium to be chastised for their clothing. We were told that, “the way we dress is how men perceive us,” and that “we need to wear non distracting clothing.” The female students were told that certain clothing is not allowed because it is “distracting” to the male students. In my opinion, there is not a problem with our dress code. I dress for school in what I view as modest and appropriate, and in line with our school rules. I do, however, have a problem with the information presented to me in our all female assembly on the dress code.

The female students were told that certain clothing is not allowed because it is “distracting” to the male students. The human body is not itself vulgar, inappropriate, or sexual. By stating that the male students in our school are unable to control themselves, several things happen: the male students in our school are essentially being condemned by being called perverts, or perhaps they are being excused if they do show inappropriate behavior because they blame the female and her clothing, and the female students are being taught to be responsible for the males’ thoughts, beliefs, and actions. I believe that men are rational human beings, not mindless beasts enslaved by their own sex drives. Females should not have to restrict what they wear because, “boys will be boys.”

Even from a young age, girls are taught to be ashamed of their bodies. Society tells them that by being born female, they are already guilty of something. These lessons of shame are why girls grow up to be women who stay in abusive relationships-because they have swallowed the lie that others’ behavior is their responsibility. Again, my concern is not with the dress code itself. The Shelby County Handbook states that the student’s, “attire should give him or her respect for self, fellow students, and teachers.” I completely agree with this statement. However, my issue is about WHY I was told it is unacceptable to wear certain things and about the standards that I am held to that others are not. Instead of shaming girls for their body, guys should be taught that girls are not sexual objects.

In our society, the clothes a woman wears is a more valid form of consent than the words she says. This concept is absolutely ridiculous and needs to be addressed. By removing a female from class because her clothing is “distracting,” you are telling her that the male students’ education is more important than hers. What is more distracting- a guy glancing at a girl’s legs in a pair of shorts or a girl being pulled from class, humiliated, and forced to change outfits before being allowed to learn? Why should a teacher waste valuable class time singling out a student for something as innocent as their shoulders showing?

I feel dress code should be enforced in a positive rather than punitive manner. The very name “Dress Code Squad” creates a negative environment. The dress code approved by our county should be presented, explained clearly, questions answered, and expected to be followed. Teachers should be responsible for enforcing the dress code, but this should not be the focus of their day.

As stated by a faculty member at Chelsea High School, this is how society is and I would be dumb to think I could change it. Although I, myself, may not be able to change society, I am not satisfied with this inequality and the misconstrued theory that men are unable to control themselves and that it is women’s responsibility to conform to that. I am not buying the lie that I control another person’s thoughts by my appearance. My clothes are not the problem.