How dress codes play into rape culture

AnnaBeth Crittenden, Campus Carrier Assistant Features Editor

With fall weather rapidly descending on Berry, many girls are breaking out their cool weather attire, which includes oversized sweaters, scarves, boots and leggings. While this outfit would be appropriate and expected at Berry, at many high schools in New York, Utah, Florida and Oklahoma, a girl in this attire would be sent home for a dress code violation.

Many high schools have been in the news recently for their decisions to ban leggings and yoga pants on the grounds that the clothing is too distracting for male students.  According to an article published by the Guardian on Sept. 17, 200 high school girls have been given detention in the last few weeks at Tottenville High School in Staten Island, N.Y for breaking their school’s dress code.

Now, I have nothing against dress codes in theory. They allow a school to appear professional and put together, while allowing the students to be a good representation of the school. Therefore, the dress code is not the problem. The administration is the problem.

Dress codes are slowly becoming an excuse for sexism and “slut shaming.” According an article published in TIME on March 25, teachers discipline girls in their classrooms by demanding they cover up their bodies, allowing room for mockery from male students. This “slut-shaming” practice ends up embarrassing the girl in question, who becomes hyper aware of her body, looking at herself with shame rather than pride.

But this is all in high school. How does this relate to college life where dress codes do not exist?

While the dress code is left behind in high school, the implication is not. Dress codes have become a part of rape culture. High schools are teaching girls that they are the distractions for men, therefore implying that the men must be protected because of their lack of control. When schools do this, they are teaching students their place in rape culture: girls are at fault, while men are out of control and must act on their natural instincts.

In the end, what’s disruptive in the classrooms is not the clothing that girls are wearing but their bodies.

“Slut shaming” happens in colleges as well. Both males and females call articles of clothing “slutty” and the girls who wear them “sluts.” When we do this, we are further objectifying this girl and stripping away her personality to leave only her body behind. According to the Huffington Post from Oct. 2, 2014, “Young men are going to school way too comfortable expressing themselves in exploitative, sexist ways that denigrate their female, [while] young women … are taught very early to have low expectations and to compete for male attention.”

According to the previously mentioned TIME article, “We tell women to cover themselves from the male gaze, but we neglect to tell the boys to look at something else.” Tulane University campus minister Morgan Guyton states “men have been socialized to view sex as entitled consumers. Women’s bodies are products made for our consumption.”

When these dress codes are created for and directed at females, when punishments are given because an outfit is “distracting,” we are telling these young girls that boys cannot control themselves and that it is the girl’s responsibility to protect herself from rape. At about 15 years old, they are taught that women are somehow at fault for crimes such as sexual abuse and rape.

Some clothes are acceptable at school while others are not. However, schools can make these rules without objectifying the girl in the clothing. Remove the “distraction,” remove the sexual implications. Bring dress codes back to the way they used to be, showing respect and pride for the school you attend. Integrate equality into the dress code.

And in college, respect women, the bodies they have and the clothes they choose to wear. Stop “slut shaming” women who may just want to feel beautiful.

Rape culture cannot end in one day or with one article, but every person can help end the misconceptions. Rape culture can fade into a culture where women are made to feel beautiful inside and out. But for now, dress to impress yourself because every woman is beautiful.  

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