Decoding the Degrading Dress Code

How the Dress Code is Sexist Towards Female Students

Riley Rohrenbach, Journalist

A female student at Western Branch High was blocked by a male administrator in the hallway because her clothes were ‘too distracting’. Another female student was sent to ISS because her jeans had rips and she didn’t have a pair of pants to change into. 

All of these rules and regulations in the Dress Code at Western Branch High School (page 19) are more restrictive towards female students rather than other students. All of this because instead of teaching young boys to control themselves, they force the female students to bear the responsibility of not ‘being a distraction’.

“It’s just natural and if men think that it’s distracting then it shouldn’t be to put the rules on us [female students], it should be on [male students] to not think that way that they think,” said Hunter Clarke, 11. “You’re not here to look at people’s bodies, you’re here to learn. It’s like [the school board] is more strict on the dress code than they are your grades.”

The Dress Code was originally established because of the protest students were having during the Vietnam War in 1969, but throughout the years it’s been controlling women’s freedom of what they can wear.

“It’s not 1980. We should change the dress code because it’s not old fashion style anymore, it’s 2021,” said Madison Campos, 9.

Styles are constantly changing as the years go on, styles become more ‘revealing’ therefore making the dress code even stricter. Not only that but it makes finding clothes within the dress code much harder for girls. 

“I can’t wear this cute crop top that’s not even that short and it shows just a little bit of stomach, because of the dress code,’” said Campos. 

Many students not only think that the dress code targets women, but that it also has a big effect on more physically mature students. Bigger, taller students are constantly being compared to small, thin students; thinner students can get away with more things because it looks cute on them or people think there is nothing to look at while bigger students have more areas for people to talk to about. 

“I think [the school board] feels like there’s more for people to look at or get distracted by,” said an anonymous student, 11. “I still feel like it’s more discriminatory for them because they didn’t ask to be that way.”

Many students would agree that female students with more mature bodies are often punished more than their smaller/shorter peers.

“I saw a girl get dress-coded that was of a larger size the first week of school because her skirt was too short,” said Emma Ricks, 11. “I saw another girl that was very skinny and very small not get dress-coded for wearing a very short skirt.” 

Protests have been taking place throughout the U.S. about the dress code. One protest started by Kaitlyn Sgroi, a Sophomore at Salem High School in Virginia Beach, has been blowing up on social media after creating the  ‘I Can Dress Myself’ movement. 

“I ordinarily started putting little stickies with empowering sayings and things of that nature, for example, ‘stop the sexist dress code’ or ‘if you’re working with minors and you find something deeming inappropriate, you should not be working with minors’, things of that nature,” said Sgroi.

Like all movements, it takes just one person to stand up to something and others will begin to follow. 

“I started noticing that other girls would catch on and put up sticky notes themselves. When I noticed that, I decided to start the ‘I Can Dress Myself’ movement, which in turn was the paper flyer that I put in bathrooms. That speared very easily, everyone saw it in the bathrooms and it got carried on,” Sgroi said. 

Soon after that Sgroi and other students at Salem High School would write ‘Is this distracting?’, ‘Why are you looking?’, ‘I should be able to dress myself’ and other powerful quotes on their body while wearing clothing outside of the dress code. 

Kaitlyn Sgrio

Most people might think that students are just complaining about the dress code and how it does not allow them to wear whatever they want, but it is more about taking a stand against the sexism that exists in these policies.

“The point of the movement is so that girls, and even males if they feel, can be comfortable with what they’re wearing at school because I feel personally that if I have to sit in a classroom for 6-7 hours every single day with no choice… and listen to  [the teachers] that I feel like I should feel comfortable with what I’m wearing,” said Sgroi. 

Sgroi wants this movement to be a powerful message towards the students who feel as if the dress code targets them. 

“Wear what you’re comfortable in and if you get penalized for it, just know that’s what I’m fighting for. I’m fighting for everyone to be comfortable in what they’re wearing in the learning environment. Keep your heads up because hopefully, we’re gonna win this,” said Sgroi.