Imagine being pulled out of your classroom and missing valuable class time and assigned work just because of your clothes.
Well, that’s what girls across the country are subject to on a daily basis. With dress codes that are largely ambiguous and that specifically target girls, more and more people are standing up to these unfair policies.
Just some of those people include four middle-school girls who stood up in front of the Portland Public School Board to challenge these practices. The girls told several stories about the kinds of problems they had witnessed regarding dress codes at their schools. Most of them included girls being pulled out of their classrooms for hours at a time after being humiliated in front of their classmates.
AnaLuzia, one of the girls who spoke to the board, said, “The only reason I go to school is to get my education.”
“When I get dressed in the morning, my intention is not to provoke or be sexualized. My intention is to feel comfortable in my own skin.”
This is a point that many policymakers seem to miss. Girls in middle and high school should not be sexualized by staff members – they are minors, and they are at school to learn. The issues with dress codes are just a symptom of a wider issue of how society view’s women and their intentions.
Sophia, another one of the girls who spoke to the board, said:
“My problem with the dress code is that 100% of the students that get sent home are female… In a way, you’re telling [a girl] that boys are more entitled to their education than she is. And I don’t think that’s acceptable.”
Sophia is right. And not only that, it shows girls that they should be ashamed of their bodies that they are made to cover up.
And if they don’t, that their bodies are inherently and primarily sexual. And this is happening in learning institutions. Don’t we want girls to be valued for their kindness, their intelligence, and their prowess in sports or the arts? That’s not the message most schools are currently sending girls.
For example, the girl in the below picture, Stephanie, was sent home because this outfit sometimes showed her collarbone.
But because these brave girls stood up and spoke out, parents, students, and policy makers came together to create a newer and fairer dress code.
Sophia, one of the girls from the board meeting, was a part of this committee, as was Lisa Frack, the Oregon chapter president of the National Organization of Women.
There were a lot of disagreements when it came to deciding on a new dress code. Though things like spaghetti straps were okayed quickly, others, like short shorts and cleavage, prompted more of a fight. The committee also paid special attention to dress code policies that unfairly targeted students of color. These included restrictions on hairstyles often worn by young black girls, such as the one pictured below.
While some of the committee members wanted the dress code to reflect that schools are learning institutions, Frack found this sort of mindset to be a major issue.
“We don’t want to link clothing and learning… You can’t learn math better or worse whether you have a tie on or a collared shirt or a tank top.”
Now, the new dress code for Portland schools just states that students must wear a top and a bottom or a dress and that clothing should refrain from featuring profanity or drug references. It is much more gender neutral and refrains from using phrases like “sexually suggestive” and “plunging necklines” that clearly target girls.
While this is only one small step in the fight for women’s equality, it is an essential step.
Girls should grow up being able to spend their time at school learning, not worrying about what boys or staff members think of their outfits. Hopefully, Portland’s new dress code can become a blueprint for dress codes across the nation.
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