Your shirt doesn’t cover your collarbone. Your skirt is an inch too high above your knees. Your tank top is distracting the boys. Dress codes across the country are targeting female students, taking them out of the classroom during lessons to change, making them feel out of place and uncomfortable, and causing girls to feel as though it is their fault what others think about their bodies, further perpetuating rape culture.
Girls younger than eleven are facing punishment, embarrassment and institutionalized sexualization because their shoulders are exposed or their shorts don’t fall below their fingertips. But at the same time, girls younger than eleven are fighting back, standing up for their bodies, equality and the right to comfort.
While it is common and powerful to call schools out for sexist dress codes via social media, there are many modes of disruption. For example, when thirteen year-old Grace Villegas was shamed and forced to change by teachers for wearing an off-the-shoulder top, her sister, Isabella, made her a shirt that seamlessly exposes the injustice of dress coding.
Other girls chose to address the issue with humor. Tori Dipaolo was tired of the enforcement of her school’s dress code which bans “halters, half-shirts, shorts, or sweaters and blouses that expose breasts or stomachs.” In response, Dipaolo wrote her senior yearbook quote with the intent to retaliate.
In contrast to Dipaolo, middle schoolers took to a more serious approach in their battle. Eighth grader Frankie Lindsay and a group of her friends organized meetings with their school’s principle, arguing that their “school’s policy is one of the reasons why the U.S. has the 6th highest rate of rape in the world,” and formed the group #IAmMoreThanADistraction to spread awareness about the institutionalized sexism enforced by dress code.
To the same effect, when Molly Neuner, sixth grader, was dress coded for wearing a tank top with thin straps during snack time, she intentionally wore a tank top of the same style the next day. To send a message, she wrote the hashtag #IAmNotADistraction on her arm, along with twenty other girls who broke the code with her for support.
Regardless of how girls are going about fighting for equality in schools, dress codes and the problems associated with them are becoming increasingly prominent in the national conversation. More and more dress-coding horror stories are coming to light, and the movement to establish true equality in schools is gaining momentum, but there is still a ways to go. Donald Trump himself has implemented a dress code of his own, enforcing his female staff to “dress like a woman.” However, in response, the hashtag #DressLikeAWoman blew up in twitter, which depicts women in all sorts of fashion just being women–badass and not willing to be told how to dress.
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