Taking on 2013 and hoping to revitalize my life

My 13 year old is constantly complaining about the dress code at school. I feel a sense of conflict about the whole thing.

On the one hand, it’s another way that we teach our children that it is up to the girl to dress in a manner that will not distract boys. The onus is on the girl. This sets the stage for the idea that:

  • women that dress provocatively or in a manner that is considered provocative deserve to be raped
  • men cannot control themselves when they see a woman they consider to look sexy
  • women bring sexual harassment upon themselves based on the manner that they dress
  • the way a woman dresses defines what type of person she is
  • there is something wrong or inappropriate with women dressing sexy
  • women cannot be trusted to make their own choices
  • and so on and so forth

This and thoughts like this are RIDICULOUS and WRONG.

Clothes do not determine who the person is. And dress codes should not be used as a way to oppress women even further.

Men are civilized human beings and should act that way.

One of the things that distinguishes people from animals is our ability to make choices rather than just run on instinct. When men walk down the streets with no shirt on women manage to restrain themselves. No one thinks any less of a man with no shirt on. And yet some men in this world think that women owe them something. Women owe them sex. And apparently that thought is even more prevalent when women wear short skirts or tight tops. (I know it is not all men, but it is too many.)

Does it all start with the dress codes at school? Probably not. The conditioning that ‘women deserve less respect than men’ probably starts way before that. But the dress codes do not help.

My sense of conflict comes with the clothes being designed today. Why do the styles out there push girls to grow up faster than ever? Why are clothes so sexy for your pre-teen and teen? Why do 13 year olds need push up bras?

My oldest and I went shopping for bras and a bathing suit last night. I almost had a stroke. The selection of bras without some type of padding was super limited. Why do we need to tell women in the bra store that they are inadequate without padding? Because really, that is what all of those bras and bra designers are telling women. Your breasts are not big enough, perky enough, adequate enough but we can fix you. No wonder women have self-image issues.

And then in addition to the bras and bathing suits, everything is so tight and low-cut and short. I guess it is me as a mother wanting to protect her daughter that I see some benefit to the dress code. I don’t like what the dress code stands for but it is a very small way to fight against the designers that constantly sexualize our girls.

I agree with my daughter that the dress code is misogynistic. But so are the clothes that are produced today.

Is there a happy medium? I don’t know what it is yet. But I hope it has to do with teaching your children self-respect and respect for one another. I hope that one day every person (not just some people) can see that women are not a commodity nor are they an object. They are people with brains and feelings and bodies and muscles, just like men. No one gender is better or more powerful than the other. We complement each other and that is a positive thing.


Comments on: "Dress Codes: Are they Oppressive?" (5)

  1. I agree with my daughter that the dress code is misogynistic. But so are the clothes that are produced today.

    How else would we groom women into accepting the virgin/whore dichotomy?

    • It does seem like a type of grooming. It’s so ingrained into society, how do we fix it?

      • @Gwen

        Sorry for the poor formatting. I never know which WP themes support blockquotes until I make a comment.

        G: “It does seem like a type of grooming.”

        So very right you are.

        ” It’s so ingrained into society, how do we fix it?”


        1. Dismantle Patriarchal structures/norms in society(!!).
        2. Thus, all people in society are treated like people.
        3. …
        4. …
        5. Profit! [And the Largest Sangria Party Ever!].

        Err… on a more serious note – the question you ask lies near the very heart of feminist theory and praxis.

        The first step to any social change is raising awareness and consciousness of yourself and those around you.

        I am unaware of your level of familiarity with feminist theory and practice, I would suggest starting at Finally, A Feminism 101. It is a great site and very informative, the sections most relevant to your question would the articles under the topic of slut-shamming and the male gaze.

        G:”Why are clothes so sexy for your pre-teen and teen? Why do 13 year olds need push up bras?”

        For the transition from child to sex object of course. This phase of development is where the oppression of the Patriarchy really kicks into high gear and doesn’t stop till you ‘disappear’ off of men’s boner-radar by aging out of the “hot girl I want to *f**k” phase.


        I wish I had better news for you.

  2. Good post Gwen… I totally feel this conflict too (and I don’t have kids!). I feel like there’s a certain level of professionalism that should be adhered to in attire at school. We should be working to teach kids what’s appropriate clothing depending on the situation.

    I absolutely loathe and am disgusted by the rationale for any dress code being that it distracts the boys. Ugh. Makes me absolutely sick. Honestly, I do judge a guy without a shirt on unless it’s in a very specific setting. That setting is a beach/ the pool (where I have no problem with topless women either). But when men, for example, try to go into a store, etc. sans shirt I find it inappropriate.

    Both genders should be focused on ensuring that they’re learning how to present themselves in a professional way. I see that transition a lot in higher ed when students need to learn that “bar clothes” (both for men and women) or lounging clothes are not what get worn to the office. Can’t dress codes focus on professionalism instead of this ludicrous and unfair focus on girls. And we need to raise our sons to be respectful and educated on how to treat women, to understand consent, and that what a woman wears has nothing to do with temptation/ asking for it/ consent.


    • Good comment in return Jess. I much prefer the idea of professionalism as opposed to oppression. But we’ve gotten so far away from that that students graduating from higher ed barely know how to dress for a job interview.

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