Gender Inequality, Education, and Dress Codes: A Reflection


After all, an exposed shoulder, collarbone, or knee is just so scandalous. Right?

Schools have dress codes in place to help create a safe environment so their students can focus more on their studies. Understandable. However, the real issue is that many schools are fueling gender inequality by teaching girls to cover up instead of teaching boys to not over sexualize girls.

The mother of a young girl in Kentucky recently posted about her daughter’s experience with violating the dress code. Although she’s wearing jeans and a tank top with a modest sweater, she’s still bearing the most inappropriate body part – her collarbones. Gasp.

So what’s the real reason her daughter was punished? Her principal was worried that her appearance might be distracting to her male classmates. Yeah, you read that right. Gender inequality could not be any more distinct in this case. So rather than risk a wandering eye by a teenage boy (imagine that), the school would rather have a female student miss out on class time to change her shirt.

Aren’t these educators supposed to help shape and protect your children instead of fueling gender inequality in cases like this? As Karen Mangiacotti said in this Huffington Post article,

“Girls are getting hazed and shamed. They are being kicked out of proms and are called skanks by those in authority – the same teachers and administrators we trust to take care of our girls.”

Mangiacotti goes on to say that while she does agree that clothing does send a message out into the world and we should all be aware about how we are being perceived, dress codes in schools are way off track. Why are girls told they need to “respect” themselves more if they’re wearing a short skirt while a boy in baggy shorts showing off his boxers is simply told to pick up his pants? Why are girls often punished and humiliated while their male classmate receives a verbal warning?

So what can be done to stop gender inequality in dress codes? Here are a few ideas.

1) Give boys some more credit. Believe it or not, teenage boys can control themselves. Just give it a try, they might not lose their minds over the thought of seeing a girl’s bare shoulder.

2) Stop holding girls responsible for boys’ thoughts. De Elizabeth has a point in her Thought Catalog article.

3) Stop blaming girls for making boys hormones run rampant in their teenage years. Throwing an oversized t-shirt on a girl will not solve the problem – hormones are pretty relentless.

Stand up for what’s right – #IAmMoreThanaDistraction. Don’t stand for unfair rules. Don’t support gender inequality. Why should girls lose out on an education just to make sure boys have a distraction free environment?

What are your thoughts on school dress codes? Do you think male and female students are subject to the same rules?