Dress Codes Are Bullsh*t, And We Need To Get Rid Of Them

by Sara Farrell Baker
ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock

Summer is here, and many parents are starting to take a huge sigh of relief as a break from PTA meetings and fights over homework is within reach.

While I hate to be a wet blanket, I would like to remind parents that as summer creeps closer and closer, a very real danger comes with it. It is robbing your sons of their education, and it needs to be stopped ASAP. Most schools have rules and protocols in place for handling this menace, but hypervigilance is needed to protect our precious boys.

Parents, I’m talking about bare female shoulders.

Just kidding.

I’m here to talk about school dress codes. As the weather gets warmer, girls are hanging up their cardigans and shopping in stores for things like shorts and tank tops and sundresses. And with the change in wardrobe comes a bunch of weird adults freaking out about how sexy young girls might be.

But, no.

Dress codes are sexist as hell, and it’s offensive.

One of the biggest problems with something like a dress codes is that they are entirely subjective. What one person deems appropriate might make another clutch her pearls so hard they turn to dust in her judgy fingers.

And while one outfit may meet certain standards for “appropriateness” on one girl, the same outfit on a taller, bustier or curvier girl would be deemed unacceptable. They punish girls for the bodies they had no hand in choosing.

Dress codes are about how society views the female body as a thing that is sexual in nature first and foremost, and a human body second. I have yet to come across a dress code that bans men from wearing pants that dive below their hairy butt cracks when they bend down or any anti-moose knuckle propaganda. Why? Because it isn’t about bodies or appropriateness.

Dress codes are about women.

The few times that men and boys are specifically addressed in dress codes for things like wearing their pants too low or tank tops with huge armholes cut out, it’s because they look like fools. These clothing choices aren’t included because a bunch of teenage girls are going to start ovulating at the sight of their male classmate wearing a shirt with his nipples poking out on either side. It’s because someone decided those boys look ridiculous.

I’m not excusing dress codes in these instances — my beef is with all dress codes — but I think this is a good example of how we treat boys and girls differently when it comes to policing what they can and cannot wear. I may think you dress like a moron, but I will defend your right to do it — sincerely, a woman who did all of her clothes shopping at Hot Topic in her youth.

Every time I get in this argument with someone, it doesn’t take long for the opposing side to start throwing their straw men left and right. Instead of discussing the actual issue at hand, like young girls being banned from wearing most of what is available to them in stores during the spring and summer months, they start hurling shit like, “Well, would you be okay with your daughter going to school topless,” or “So you think it’s alright for teenage boys and girls to just walk around naked?”

No, dipshit. No one is advocating for that, and you know it.

Shorts and tank tops for girls are not on the same level as leaving the house topless. Leggings as pants does not equal strutting around naked. That’s a stupid fucking argument. But you know what? It’s the only one they’ve got. Because they are dipshits. The only quasi-reasonable argument they could have against a tank top and shorts is “Gasp! Shoulders! Legs! In front of boys!” And quasi-reasonable is stretching it so you let me know the next time you walk in on your teenage son yanking it to shoulder porn.


When a girl is pulled out of her classroom to miss instruction time while an administrator talks down to her about her infraction and “respecting herself,” it’s often because school officials feel what the girl is wearing will be distracting for boys. Not that it is distracting. It’s not like boys are going to their teacher and complaining that they are being robbed of their right to an education because a female classmate is wearing a short dress. The reaction of the school and the consequences doled out are based on the mere possibility that a boy may become distracted. There is nothing said for how distracting it is to be pulled out of class and missing part of your educational instruction.

Educating our boys and the sheer possibility of any disruption to that is given higher priority than the education of our girls. Screw you, patriarchy.

The cherry on top is how much something like a dress code enforces rape culture. Male students are seen as incapable of doing something like using their neck to turn their head away from a scandalous décolletage. The responsibility is placed solely on a female student to not make boys look at her. If we aren’t giving our boys more credit when it comes to self-control and denying the existence of theirs completely, we set a precedent for boys and men to not be held responsible for their actions when it comes to women. And we can’t do that because that is dangerous.

We have too many Brock Turners in the world already, so let’s not increase that disgusting subset of our population.

How about we let parents decide what their children are allowed to wear? If I don’t have a problem with my daughter wearing something to school that she feels comfortable in, why should the adults who are not her guardians get a say in the matter? Or better yet, let’s trust children to make decisions about their clothing and give them some ownership over their bodies.

And most important of all, let’s stop pretending that a 14-year-old girl is going to anger the heavens with her skirt and get the whole school struck down by lightning. Keep the girls in class.