Opinion: Dress codes discriminate against girls

Zoe Niketas, Correspondent

In the United States, the school dress code has been around in various forms for nearly one hundred years. 

In the 1920s, women began asserting their fashion independence by ditching the much-hated Victorian corset. The first school dress code was imposed on teen girls in response, requiring the corset to flatten their chests.  

Similarly in the 1950s, necklines in women’s fashion began to drop, so the dress codes were amended to require high necklines, mandating modesty. These reactions and attempts to maintain decency in the classroom have continued until now, but society is finally starting to realize that dress codes are not only outdated but sexist as well. 

The majority of dress codes typically target women. While there are usually some rules for men like “no profanity or inappropriate images on clothing,” these rules have nothing to do with their physical body. In contrast, rules for women typically target their bodies, like “no exposed midriff,” “no exposed shoulders,” and “no tank tops”.  Why is it that only women have a strict dress code about their bodies? At both of Naperville Central’s homecoming assemblies, one of the boys lifted up his shirt in excitement. Would the reaction be different if a girl did this?

Sophomore Ben Crowley lifts his shirt as the stands cheer. (Cameron Rozek)

If a girl is dress-coded, it is much more of a distraction for her learning environment, as the teacher would be going out of their way to send the girl home or change into modest clothing, taking time out of the student’s day to deal with an inconsequential formality.

Dress codes are teaching women that their bodies are distractions and objects  that need to be hidden from men and to create “a comfortable learning environment”. Schools routinely sexualize certain aspects of female bodies that aren’t inherently sexual, like stomachs and shoulders. This is shaming women to be embarrassed of their bodies. A much fairer approach would be to let people wear what they want whether it be tank tops, crop tops, shorts, skirts or hoodies.

While not all men are the problem, there are quite a few who are part of the sexualization of girls. Young men should be taught to respect women, instead of women being taught to hide their bodies. This would help women feel safer and more comfortable at school. 

There was recently a protest against the dress code at Naperville North because of the large number of girls getting dress coded and sent home from school. Girls at North were standing up for what they believe is right and to achieve the equality they deserve. Each person should wear what they think is appropriate for themselves. Who is defining “modesty,” anyway? Dress codes are outdated, subjective and sexist. This is something that needs to change. My message to the adults in charge is this: rather than continue with the old way of doing things, why not trust your student population to simply wear what works for them?