Let the shoulders be free

Emeline Kuether (Photo by Lexie Crawford)

It’s humiliating. Being singled out in front of your peers, pulled out of class, and reprimanded for expressing your style. Not to mention going home and standing in front of the mirror, noticing every imperfection, and growing more self-conscious by the second. Forever wondering why your body is a distraction, but knowing that you’ll never be able to change it.

For some girls, this is a constant struggle. According to Health Research Funding, 42% of teenage girls struggle with body image. This problem is only exemplified through the use of dress codes in public schools. Dress codes are put in place to maintain a sense of professionalism in a learning environment. However, many dress codes limit female students and blame them for distracting males with inappropriate clothing.

Teenage girls believing that their body is a distraction will only further their insecurities. The question is, does the dress code at Highlands contribute to this problem?

The current dress code at Highlands limits female students in three statements:

  1. “Shorts or skirts should be kept to a length that is not distracting and/or inappropriate.”
  2. “Clothing that is designed or worn to expose the midriff or underwear is not acceptable.”
  3. “Clothing that is designed to be strapless or spaghetti straps are not acceptable.”

While these guidelines do not literally single out females, these items of clothing are most often worn by females, rather than males.

The key word: distracting. Girls are often punished for “distracting” the boys in their class from learning because of nothing more than an exposed shoulder.

According to CNN, the mother of a 13-year-old girl, Catherine Pearlman, described how her daughter had been told that she couldn’t wear yoga pants by a teacher, because “boys would get turned on.”

Even at Highlands, during the hotter months of the school year, many girls wear spaghetti strap shirts so they can stay cool. However, by doing this, they risk being told by teachers to cover up their shoulders to “prevent distractions in the classroom.” Why is it the job of a teenage girl to control the distraction of a teenage boy or male staff member?

It’s easy to dismiss the behavior of boys, by saying, “boys will be boys.” How about instead of teaching girls that their body is distracting and that they need to change their appearance for boys to have a “better learning environment,” teach them to love their body and to feel comfortable in it.

This can be achieved through a more flexible dress code. A school district in Alameda, California created a more accepting dress code policy for this school year that they are calling an “Anti-Dress Code.” The policy states, “Students must wear: bottoms, tops, shoes, and clothing that covers genitals.”

This policy is simple, reasonable, and most importantly does not unfairly limit or target female students. If HHS implemented a dress code of this sort, every student, including females, would be able to feel more comfortable in their own skin at school and in everyday life.