dress code

Alice Baines

This was a few years ago when I was still at colleague. Because we didn’t have a uniform at the time, we got a new dress code and we had to sit in a special assembly whilst the head of post-16 went through it. Any rules that were aimed at a specific gender, were all aimed at girls. Girls couldn’t wear strappy tops. Girls couldn’t wear shorts, dresses or skirts that were a certain amount above the knee. There were no rules saying Boys couldn’t do this. Boys couldn’t wear that. I was fairly tall and fairly long legged. So most things looked shorter on me than other girls. One day I got pulled up for wearing shorts that were deemed ‘too-short’. I had thick tights on and the shorts were, oddly enough, a lot longer than most of the denim hot pants that were in the shops at the time. I mentioned to the teacher that several boys had been walking round with football shirt and trousers hanging halfway down their bums (two things not allowed) and I asked why they were allowed to wear those when I was being criticised for shorts I’d been wearing for years. I got told “we aren’t talking about them now. We are talking about your clothing.” I mentioned because of my height it was nearly impossible to find anything that met the length requirements and I didn’t have the money to re-buy my entire wardrobe which is what I would have to do to have clothes that were long enough. I just got told the dress code was there to ensure we dressed appropriately and didn’t distract anyone and that was it. Many of my girl friends got pulled up for their clothing. But, as far as we could tell, the boys never did.


So, I’m actually a middle schooler, and of course, we have a dress code. Last year we could wear whatever and no one cared. This year, the staff are always lecturing us about it. These are my experiences. So, I was hearing things about one of the assistant principals coming to our classrooms to talk about dress code. And I was ready to straight up fight someone out of my anger when she came. Excuse me? You guys are the ones who are always saying that we need to move faster and use our time wisely when you are interrupting with dress code CRAP. Anyway, she started off by giving a lecture mainly to the girls about leggings and yoga pants and how we couldn’t wear those without wearing a shirt that was mid-thigh. A “shirt” that is mid thigh, isn’t a shirt, it’s a DRESS. When she was done and asked if anyone had any questions, no one raised their hands except me because I wanted to speak up about the clearly sexist dress code. I asked if she had anything to say to the boys. I saw my teacher giving me dirty looks but at that point I didn’t really care. The principal diverted her attention and went on about how the dress code was mostly gender neutral which is not the case. At the end, she was talking about why we have a dress code. She said it was to start developing a sense of professionalism. MY TEACHER WAS WEARING A SHORT DRESS WITH A SWEATER THAT IF A STUDENT WERE TO WEAR, THEY WOULD WE DRESS CODED. Then, the principal said upfront that girls shouldn’t distract the boys. For a school always talking about self confidence, you sure know how to show a girl that a boy’s education is more important to hers. If I’m on my period, I want to wear leggings. Jeans make my legs look so bad and some pairs I own literally fit me in the weirdest ways that don’t make me feel good about myself. During her whole speech, I was rolling my eyes and mouthing to my friend over how stupid this was. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have been that rude, but the teacher called me out on it for disrespecting authority. There was a school dance I was going to that I knew would be super hot because everyone would be sweaty. Because of this, I wanted to wear my shorts that are probably 5 inches down my butt. They are pretty short. My parents forced me to change because I most likely would be dress coded. Recently I was wearing a shirt that had a zipper that showed a bit of my bra. I pulled it all the way down just because I wanted to rebel. I didn’t get attention, but all my friends told me to zip it up because of dress code, being too revealing, etc. I was hot so it was necessary to pull it down. We are living in a world where in school, if girls show a little skin, other are scared of her getting in trouble. Thanks for reading, let’s end everyday sexism!


The dress code at a recent employer, and I’ve seen it many times at many places of work, restricts men to wearing so-called business attire (collared shirt, dark pants,etc) while allowing women to wear pretty much what they want, short skirts, long skirts, pant suits, etc. The management are scared to pick up any women who transgress and wear “too little” for the office while the men have to sweat through hot days unable to wear even tailored short pants. In this day and age surely it is time to level things up.


I was in my second year of high school (I’d be about 15). The spring semester was ending and so it was getting very hot outside, so I dressed for the weather – tank top with thick straps, shorts that were mid thigh, which fit the school dress code. I make it all the way to lunch with no problem. Then I’m sitting at lunch with my friends when one of the female teachers came up to me and told me I needed to change my shirt. I argued my clothes fit dress code and that it was freaking hot but she wasn’t having it. Okay, I can play this game. I had worn a light sweatshirt that morning, since it’d been cooler and rainy, and I had it in my bag. So I pulled it out, put it on over my tank top, then pulled my arms inside both tops and pulled the tank top out of the bottom of my sweatshirt, much to my teacher’s horror. Remember, we’re in a crowded cafeteria, and god forbid if someone caught a glimpse of my stomach! She didn’t write me up but the look on her face was worth it, even if I was hot the rest of the day.


My A-Level maths class is 80% male, the teacher is an older/middle aged male, he made sexist ‘jokes’ every lesson, about how women were stupid, or talked too much. I was working up the courage to confront him, when one lesson he pointed out that I apparently glared at him every time he made a sexist comment. I wasn’t aware I was doing this. He pointed out that I didn’t find this amusing, and paused like he was waiting for me to explain why. I couldn’t find a way to explain something that obvious in a way that wouldn’t get me expelled. The boys all started laughing. After this, I considered approaching sixth form management about it, but the very next day, the people we are all supposed to to turn to if we have a problem, declared that there would be a female-only dress code assembly. This angered, annoyed, and terrified everyone, but there’s no one we can go to about it. It was exactly what we’d expected. “Pull your skirt down, the fact that you;re treated like an object and not a person is inconveniencing us.” I’m hoping to study engineering, and I’m perfectly okay with any gender or sex, unless they cause the problem. So the fact that there are far more males than females are engineering events is annoying, but does not affect the way I live my life. But when the Dean of a university I went to a three day course on stood up at the end and said “Look at all these girls.” we all stared at him, refusing to respond to or applaud anything he said. The ratio of the group was 51% female, exactly as it should be, progress is perfect, being surprised by progress says you weren’t trying for it. Perhaps he could have mentioned the things we’d done, the things we’d learnt, the fact that this residential course was our first taste of university, the fact that he was trying to convince us to go to his university. But no, the shock of the mythical female in STEM must have completely fried his brain.


After lunch he school dean held back all the girls in my grade and seventh grade (who are all around twelve or thirteen) about the school dress code. We were told our shorts must be mid thigh in length and to never fucking dare to show shoulders. Shoulders are just way too sexy I guess. Everybody thought it was all bullshit including me.


Some people don’t think this counts as sexism but this frustrates me. I am 14 years old and lover of athletics and sports. I wore a flowy crop top with another floral crop top underneath just in case the flowy top flew up if we were doing something like the high jump (which was one of my favourites to do as we don’t get to do it often). So after one of my jumps over the high jump on my way back to the line my female teacher stopped me and told me that my top was Innapropriate so I should wear a different too next PE lesson. I got annoyed and glared but didn’t say anything just attempted to explain that I was wearing something else underneath but she just shrugged and repeated herself. I wore a hoody the rest of that period. The next period I decided not to get in my teachers bad books so I changed my top to a thick material black top that went down to my elbows and had a high neck that didn’t even show my collar bones, the only skin you could see was a slit between the bottom of my top and the top of my Joggy bottoms. The teacher stopped me again and told me again that my top was Innapropriate not explaining why. I thought this was ridiculous as the top didn’t even show my belly button. That was a while ago, I haven’t worn a crop top to gym since. I still get annoyed as the boys in my class wore baggy shorts that you can practically see up, and not a word was breathed to them. Is this sexism?


Today, my friends and I performed a dance to the song Single Ladies by Beyonce. We all loved the song and were so happy to perform it. After performance, which was so much fun, a teacher told another teacher “This is a christian school not a strip club”. We were all fully clothed and wore gold hoops. Beside what does it matter what we were wearing? A thought came to me after school today, if we were all boys wearing that and dancing to Beyonce we would’ve been thought of as funny and not sexual. Just because I have a woman’s body doesn’t mean it is inherently sexual. A woman shouldn’t have to be modest to be respected. Another teacher last year said that she could name the girls who were going to be raped in the future by the way they act and dress. This is just some of the sexism that exists in schools. There is so much more. It is a sad world we live in where we have to fight for equality. All of this is such a travesty. We need to change this.


I am a university student working weekends at a night club in a city, so I am no stranger to harassment. However, one night in particular saw two consecutive incidents that made me feel genuinely worthless. First of all (not that it matters) I was covered from head to toe in black clothing, the only skin visible was my head in which I had a pair of large dark headphones. To say I was not provocatively dressed is an understatement. At about 2am I began was walking towards my bus stop when a man walked towards me, grabbed me, lifted me off my feet and proceeded to bring me over to a group of his friends. He told me he loved me and that I was the most beautiful thing he had seen. Not only did I feel out of control I just felt generally powerless and unsafe. I did not find it as funny and jovial as he or his friends did and once he had put me down he tried to reason with me and shake my hand. As I reached forward with me hand he attempted to pull me in for a hug and subsequent kiss. About 10 minutes later as I stood waiting for the bus another man similarly about 15-10 years older came over to me and asked for a lighter. I responded politely that no I couldn’t help him, all the while leaving my headphones on. This man was evidently intoxicated and stood inches from my face. He showed no regard for my disinterest in talking to him and he stayed for a long time questioning me. He asked me from what part of the country I was from and acted surprised when I told him because he ‘didn’t think there were good looking girls’ from where I was from. During these two incidents not one person batted an eye or intercepted. I mean, what was I to expect as a female teenager walking the streets late at night on my own? I understand that a lot worse has happened to young women but I think that over years of feeling objectified and having these things happen completely out of my control scared me greatly.


My school requires that a girls bra straps are not showing at school. Shortly after the rule was instituted, boys began going around telling girls they could see their bra straps and they were “distracting” during class. It would appear the only thing “distracting” was the dress code.