I always knew that the dress code was sexist. As a feminist, it makes me infuriated. Because I have never gotten dress-coded until now, I never really spoke on the topic because it wasn’t my place. But now, things just got personal.
I am a senior in high school. I am a bigger girl with a bigger chest so it is quite surprising that no one cared enough to dress code me. I’ve worn things that have showcased cleavage lots of times. I never wore those kinds of clothes to seem slutty, I just wore them because of either the heat or the fact that not many clothes cater to bigger chested women. I won’t lie, it has been such a struggle to find tops that fit with my chest, but that is not my fault. This also ties into industries not making versatile clothing, but that’s a whole other story.
. . .
My second day of senior year was going all good and well until around 12:30 pm. I was wearing the Lululemon Align Tank size 14 because it was nearly 100 degrees. There was cleavage showing, but not an excessive amount. With a big chest, cleavage is almost inevitable. Not a single thought when I put it on that morning made me think that I was going to be dress-coded, but I guess I was wrong.
As this top is very popular (exactly why I bought it), I see many girls wearing it. My district just got rid of the spaghetti strap rule which is definitely a step forward. My school has one avid dress coder who is an old male and there are many rumors that circulate our school about him. I never really thought it was okay to have a male dress code females, but what do I know? He has never bothered me, but he has bothered so many other girls to an extremely uncomfortable extent. I didn’t know how bad it really was until he grabbed my arm while I tried to get lunch and stared at my chest.
He said, “I don’t know how you ever thought you could come to school wearing this thinking it was appropriate.” I was not expecting this so I bit back. I told him I’d like to know how it was “inappropriate” and he took me to the dean’s office. I have never felt so uncomfortable in my life. I immediately started a voice recording on my phone because I wanted to be sure of my safety. As I waited for the dean to call me in, I took a picture of my shirt right there and sent it to my mom. I was shaking and my entire body was filled with an excessive amount of anger and anxiety, which is not a good mix for me. I immediately broke down and cried as soon as the dean called me in and I told her every single thing on my mind.
Everything was just an excuse. I tried to explain to the dean how I felt uncomfortable and disrespected. She repeatedly said “it’s his job” and “you are showing more than half of your chest” which simply wasn’t true at all. She told me that the reason I got dress-coded was that my shirt was “too low-cut.” I thought as a woman that she would understand, but she clearly didn’t. I wasn’t going to go without a fight, though.
. . .
I went home and changed but as I was driving, I realized that I was being treated unfairly and I needed to do something about it. Not only is the dress code largely targeted at women, but people with different bodies as well. I can promise you I have seen that shirt worn several times around school but no one ever cared because their body was not like mine. If you are going to dress code me because of only my shirt, then every other person wearing the shirt should be dress-coded as well. The shirt wasn’t just low-cut for me, it was low-cut for everyone because that is literally how the shirt was made. This just proves my theory that dress code also targets certain bodies.
I went back to the school and tried to fight it, but all they told me was that I needed to write a letter to the superintendent. I tried, but I knew that it wouldn’t do anything. I know people who have already tried it, so I started brainstorming for another to fix this.
. . .
I’m not the only woman with this issue. This year, especially, has been really bad regarding the dress code. People have protested at least 3 times now, and still nothing. We need to do something to make our voices heard. I’ve seen several men at my school wearing literal crop tops and muscle tanks with entire side cut-outs, and the dress coder has not said one thing. I’ve seen smaller and thinner girls wearing bralettes and not getting dress-coded.
Women have been taught from such a young age that we can’t wear this or that because the boys will get distracted, but how about people just teach their sons to mind their own damn business? Anyone who denies that we still live in a sexist world is clearly wrong. Many schools have been having this problem, and no one is gonna let it slide.
Someone has set up a petition to minimize the dress code for my district. I, as well as many others, have gladly signed it. If you would like to take a step closer to get rid of sexism, please sign it. This may be the only thing that can get the superintendent’s attention.
This post was previously published on Equality Includes You.
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