From a young age, girls are taught that showing too much skin is inherently wrong. Back in 2015, “A 5-year-old Houston girl was reprimanded for wearing a spaghetti-strap sundress to public school because it was deemed too revealing,” explained People magazine (5-year-olds-dress-deemed-too-risqu-for-school-in-houston). That day, the kindergarten girl learned that wearing dresses that reveal her shoulders and arms is inappropriate and unflattering. Given how impressionable young children are, resulting from similar situations, they’ll either grow up to be hyper-conscious and insecure of their clothing or become entirely opposed to this form of authority and dress father out of compliance than they ever would have. Not only this, but by teaching young girls they need to conform to their lifestyle to make it supposedly easier for boys to focus at school, you’re instilling them with ideas that directly contradict feminism and equality of the sexes.
The dress code is a remnant of historic sexism that begs women to appease the male eye, but only when they deem it okay. Other than that, we ladies are expected to cross our legs and conceal our collarbones just in case one of our male peers is more in the mood to get undressed than taking notes in class.
Further, I think a distinction needs to be made between what people wear and how they act. When a straight-A student who plays a varsity sport and volunteers on the weekend gets pulled out of class by a teacher accosting their outfit, you minimize every other aspect of that person and ensure they feel self-conscious and unnerved despite their academic efforts. That’s not to say anyone should be treated differently based on their grades, my point is that it’s a little dehumanizing when you work hard at school yet manage to get in trouble for your outfit.
I asked some fellow and former Raptors about their feelings on our dress code- general, specific, or personal, and intentionally spoke with an equal amount of girls and guys. I inquired as to how often they’d been directly or indirectly impacted by our dress code, as well as if it had a noticeable impact on their academic experience. With some variation, this survey concludes with an overarching consensus that the dress code is inherently sexist, needs adjustment, and often makes people feel targeted and objectified in what’s supposed to be their neutral learning environment.
Here are some of their answers:
“I’ve been called out a few times in class by one teacher and brought outside by another. Sometimes I can understand where they’re coming from, but I do think it has to do with the clothes your wearing, mores the type of body that’s wearing them. Also, I feel like teachers could go about it in a better way than calling you out in front of the class because that can be embarrassing for the student and draws needed attention. I think this year it has been more strictly enforced than last.”
“I am thankful it is not as strict as other schools, but as a taller girl, I find it frustrating to see girls of shorter heights be able to wear the same outfits- especially with shorts and skirts- that I will get comments about from my teachers, without having anyone remark, just because I have long legs. That goes for other clothing items too on different people with different body types. I think it’s hard to accommodate different body types and if it just looks “inappropriate” on you, they say something, but they might not deem the same outfit “inappropriate” on others. Maybe that idea could be revisited.”
“I think it should be less strict. I understand dress codes to a point, but when I’m told as a girl that I need to make sure I “minimize the amount of skin showing” in summer, and when my whole class receives a passive-aggressive speech noticeably targeted at me after I walked from the back of the classroom to the front while wearing shorts, I don’t. The same teacher also sent me to Mrs. Spencer for an exposed shoulder on toga day.”
“My two biggest complaints are probably: 1) Inconsistency. Different teachers enforce it with differing levels of severity, and I see some girls wear shirts all the time with midriff, but then some barely show midriff and they get in trouble. I just don’t understand the inconsistency or the pattern. 2) I just don’t agree with the idea that girls should regulate what they wear so that they don’t distract guys. It’s backward thinking and guys have every capability of just teaching themselves to be respectful and not look at girls’ bodies all of the class if someone is wearing more revealing clothes. It’s unfair that the responsibility is placed so heavily on the girls, but not the guys.”
“I feel like I’ve never had any super bad problems with the dress code and I get having to look “professional for school”, but the guys can wear athletic shorts and chill clothing, and it’s defiantly targeted towards the girls for wearing “short” shorts when that’s our only option if it’s 90 degrees outside.”
“It’s way too strict. I had a teacher reprimand me for wearing a t-shirt that didn’t fully cover my butt when I lifted my arms all the way up while wearing leggings. The dress code acts like more of a distraction than the clothing itself. Teachers that are super strict about dress code also come off as unapproachable, which leads to a hostile learning environment. Also, male teachers who strictly enforced the dress code made me feel extremely uncomfortable and violated as I felt that they were looking too closely at what I was wearing to notice whether or not my shorts were fingertip length. In short, the dress code made me feel sexualized, humiliated, and distracted in a place that was supposed to encourage acceptance and learning.”
“I feel like it’s very inconsistent and tends to target women. I also feel that the people who tend to get dress coded are bigger girls, have bigger thighs/butts, or have bigger boobs. If I wear a tank top you sure as heck can guarantee I would get dress coded, but my friends wouldn’t.”
“It’s negative and condescending on how they treat both women and men and how they dress. They do it for the comfort of the teachers and not because they can conform to being comfortable with people expressing themselves.”
“Dress codes are just another way for men to keep women “in check”. It is no secret that dress codes are targeted towards women. Why is it that women have to cover up so that boys don’t look when parents should just teach their kids that they shouldn’t be sexualizing shoulders in the first place? It is incredibly hot in South Carolina and if I want to wear a tank top and shorts, I can’t??? What logic is it that my shoulders are so incredibly distracting to boys that it would inhibit them from learning properly? Shorts and tank tops for girls are what we wear when it gets hot. It’s not like girls are coming to school with everything hanging out, we simply would rather not have a heat stroke. At least that is how I feel especially considering I was dress-coded on a day we didn’t even have school… Was that necessary? No, no it was not. Screw the dress code, screw the patriarchy.”
“I feel like our dress code is relatively lax compared to how it could be, but they constantly IMPLY that they’re going to dress code us. Like when male teachers say they “hope the wind doesn’t come because our butts will be showing” to girls wearing skirts. Yes, this stuff happens all the time. And I’ve been walking down the hallway with fingertip-length shorts or non-exposing pants and teachers will make negative comments to me and instead of feeling like I broke a rule, I feel insecure or think I just look really bad. It’s just an uncomfortable situation especially since every Magnet student has common sense and knows not to wear booty shorts to school. The times are changing and I don’t think I’m distracting anyone with short shorts in class especially when I’m sitting on them… And the spaghetti strap rule is also screwed- nobody gives a damn about my shoulders especially since my hair’s long enough to cover them. We force a code of clothing rules onto girls to try and combat the male gaze, instead of focusing on the male gaze…”
“I think our dress code is fine other than the spaghetti strap rule. But with that said, how some teachers and administrators go about dress coding us is extremely unprofessional and embarrassing for students. I have been very publicly dress-coded more than once, and I know several other students that have been as well. As adults, it is the responsibility to take care of the dress code privately and politely.”
“All of the dress code comments I’ve gotten have been something about my spaghetti straps or jean shorts were not “professional” or “scholarly” and it’s always bothered me that the way I look trumps the way I work or act. I work my butt off at school, but that could all be diminished if you can see my shoulder or stomach.”
“Honestly, I feel like Magnet students have it better than those at most public schools. I know a few cases of people who have been dress-coded, but I could probably count it on two hands. I enjoy the freedom of being able to wear practically 80% of my closet to school, because I know a lot of kids at others schools with dress codes way stricter than ours. The only problem being that the times I have seen people dress coded, their outfits were still not “too revealing” at all. I remember at the beginning of the year my friend got dress coded and her shirt wasn’t even cropped, and honestly, I don’t even know why there was an issue- I’d worn things more revealing than that.”
“Never once have I thought that someone’s dress code was justified.”
“I think it’s annoying that the whole dress code is built around the idea that showing certain amounts of skin is distracting, especially for girls. I understand that girls probably shouldn’t be wearing clothes that are super revealing, but I don’t think that tank tops or crop tops should be a huge issue, especially if they aren’t tiny. Ultimately, I just think that girls should not have to compensate for the guy’s supposed inability to control themselves, which isn’t all that much of a problem. The whole dress code situation seems to be based on this outdated concept and idealization of modesty.”
“I do not think the dress code should be so strict and that students should be able to express themselves more. Everyone sees each other outside of school anyway, so I’m not sure why they’re so concerned about how we see each other at school. I did notice people breaking the dress code and I broke it myself (although I don’t think I dressed inappropriately at all). I just think freedom of expression is very important for young people, and stricter rules often cause people to want to break them more often. That being said, certain rules around political paraphernalia, hate speech, offensive clothing, etc. is important to have, and I think that if a student is dressing overly provocative, it should be handled on a case-by-case basis with guidance in a safe environment rather than being a stigmatized punishment in front of your peers.”
“In general over the past four years, the dress code hasn’t crossed my mind. I’ve had one teacher comment on my shorts once, but nothing too severe. However, last week I was dress-coded for spaghetti straps when I was wearing jeans. No stomach was showing and it was a conservative tank top. I was taken to Mrs. Vogel’s office where she gave me a t-shirt to wear, wrote down my name, and yelled at me for “knowing better” because I’m a senior. It took me off guard because it was the most conservative thing I had worn that week, and I think it’s a little ridiculous how concerned she was that my shoulders were showing given the “stressful year” admin has had.”
“Honestly, I think the dress code at Magnet is pretty relaxed and there are only a few teachers that you have to watch out for. I will say that taller students or those with larger breasts are disproportionally targeted for violating the dress code. It feels like girls who are more petite are the only ones who can always wear whatever they want.”
“Dress codes are dumb. Self-expression should never be hindered in my opinion.”
“I wear tank tops all the time and I’ve never really had an issue with it before. Maybe at the beginning of this year because the admin was suddenly getting strict about it, though it quickly died down. But actually, a few weeks ago Mrs. Vogel dress coded me for wearing something that had spaghetti straps although I wear them so often. It honestly made me so self-conscious for some reason and I think about it every time I put on that outfit now, so it sucks.”
“This isn’t an experience from Magnet, but at J.I. I was reported and had to be observed (where I was told to bend over, jump, and spin) by two elderly female teachers and one elderly male teacher. I know that Magnet is better than some schools with the dress code, however, I believe that any critique on how distracting an outfit is directly contradicting feminism and equal rights. Self-expression and confidence should not be less important than distracted students and/or teachers. Further, distracted students and teachers should never receive the kind of validation that punishing the girl doing exactly what feminism is promoting would engage.”
“Well, there is no dude dress code (which I like of course), but I feel like the girls’ could be a bit less strict just based on hearing people talk about it.”
“I think the dress code is perfect as it is, although I have to say there barely is a dress code, I think that’s how it should be. I think that by not having a strict dress code, a lot of people can feel more comfortable in what they wear and don’t have to worry about the administration making comments about their clothing when doing to school. I don’t think that’s sintering we should have to worry about coming to school; you should be able to wear what makes you feel the best so that you can learn eh best. I have only been dress coded once and I feel like it was very out of line considering the top I was wearing was far less revealing than other tops I’d worn to school before. I don’t think it’s the administration’s place to be calling students out on their clothing; that is not a school’s job. Not to mention, it can be uncomfortable for the students and make their learning experience far less enjoyable due to feelings of embarrassment for being called out on what some may deem appropriate clothing.”
“I generally don’t mind it, but it bothers me when teachers call me out in front of the class. I’ve had several teachers do this and it’s humiliating.”
“I think it’s dumb that CCSD implemented a dress code because certain clothing is considered a “distraction” to other students especially because it targets girls. I don’t think I’ve EVER seen a dude get dress coded because it’s almost impossible for me to walk into school wearing something that violates it. But on the other hand, girls break dress code a lot and I feel as if it’s just because modern-day society has shifted fashion into being more centered around items like crop tops that were not generally worn by older generations. The administration deems certain articles “scandalous” when they’re just clothes. I mean as long as you aren’t seeing somewhere the light doesn’t shine, I feel like you should be able to express yourself however you want. The short shorts rule is dumb unless your butt is genuinely visible. But even then, it really should be up to the person wearing it because it’s how you choose to express yourself and in school. You’re a young adult. You should be able to make that decision JUST as the boys should be able to focus on the lesson rather than so-and-so’s Adidas shorts that show some of her thighs.”
“The dress code is way too strict. Clothing should be used as a way to express yourself and the dress code completely undermines that. Of course, the dress code is necessary for some things, but it is completely targeted towards girls and perpetuates the idea that girls cannot express themselves or have to cover themselves up because guys cannot control themselves. Like a lot of issues affecting school, it reflects an outdated look on our generation’s current lifestyle and needs to be updated and reflect student individuality and fairness. CCSD needs to enact change and look at this issue closely.”
“I think that the dress code could be a little less strict but it depends on teachers. I had a friend who got told by a teacher that her shorts were way too short and that she needed to go see Mrs. Vogel, but Mrs. Vogel told her they were fine. Other teachers have made comments about how they’ve noticed people who have had their bottoms way too short, or other similar remarks. I agree that some things should not be worn to school, but there are some things Magnet says are not allowed that I think are fine. I also think there’s a big difference in how it’s enforced on girls compared with guys because I have seen guys wear things that I would deem questionable, but if a girl wears the same thing they are way more likely to get called out for it.”
“I think that it has gotten a lot less strict since freshman year, but that might just be because of the teachers in each grade level that enforce it. I am glad that they don’t enforce the dress code as much anymore because you should be able to wear what makes you feel confident without being criticized for it!”
“Comparing it to Wando’s it’s less strict, but the teachers at Magnet sometimes make inappropriate comments on the clothes rather than just asking you to change. While at Wando, instead of getting a snarky comment, you just have to change.”
“I honestly think it should be way less strict. I got dress coded for having a sliver of my back showing.”
“I think it should be less strict because worrying about being dress-coded shouldn’t need to be part of daily life at school for girls since a lot of their clothes don’t comply with the, in my opinion, strange and outdated dress code rules. I haven’t had any personal experience, but I have seen others get dress coded for very little things. Sometimes I’ll notice if someone isn’t in dress code, but I do so more in a way that pokes fun at the dress code itself, like ‘Oh that girl’s shoulders are exposed- what a horrible sin’. If guys are being distracted by girls specifically because of the way girls are dressing which violates the dress code, then it should be the guy’s problem, not the girls who then has to change.”
“I’ve noticed that it isn’t usually enforced, but when it is, it’s only girls being reprimanded and it’s by the same three teachers. I’d want to change it, but I think it’s mainly CCSD protocol and not AMHS.”
“There are way more important problems they should be working on, and the reasoning to justify the dress code is disgusting.”
Digest this article as you will- I hope it made you question your preexisting beliefs about the dress code.
Fellow Raptors, continue to stand up for yourselves next year and if you feel that you are not being treated fairly, seek out help. If that person dismisses you, keep searching until you find someone that will listen. Your concerns and issues that make you uncomfortable are valid. If worst comes to worse and everyone rejects you, search me up and I will fight for you. Much love.